Why I say YES! To urban yamadori

I have been doing bonsai under the guidance of Ryan Neil and Mirai for about four years now. The first half year through YouTube, and then after my thirst for more knowledge I joined the Mirai tier three group to accumulate all the knowledge that I could about bonsai. It has paid off ten fold.
When I began, I looked for bonsai everywhere and was not shy about asking neighbors and businesses if they would allow me to remove their old “ugly” trees or woody shrubs. I did this with getting better at tree removal in mind, so I could feel better about removing yamadori from the mountain in the future. Ryan suggested that somewhere on the live q&a.
This suggestion worked very well and I have now collected successfully out of the mountains nearby with little impact on the terrain. Before I could do that though, I needed to have success from my urban collections the unknown consequence of those removals was how much I was going to value the trees I collected from the urban environment. Here are a few examples:

The first is a shrub that my nursery employer allowed me to remove from a large steel planter with several other plants in it. It had been growing there for twenty years and looked pretty bad as no one had trimmed it or removed its old berries for quite some time. Is is a coral berry and should be shown with berries in the last photo if I did this right.
The second is a very large and old Norwegian maple I was allowed to take from a lot. I call this one Marlin. This tree may have some historical value here in Reno. I’ll get back to you all on that.
The third one was a twig of wisteria growth popping out of the ground at a friends house. I asked him if I could remove it before they demoed the yard. I just wanted a wisteria and I didn’t know what I was getting into. It had be flat cut year after year to prevent it from destroying the old home it sat next to. Underneath the soil emerged this amazingly knarled base that took two days to remove. I excavated it like an archeologist would with a toothbrush. I found a 1917 mercury dime inside the roots. It could be and indicator of its age.
Needless to say, I felt this process to be encouraging and rewarding and mostly, educational. I could not have even imagined doing this without Ryan, The Mirai team and some added help of Randy Knight whom I met through Ryan at a class at Mirai. So I say, go out and get ‘em! For those of you who have followed a similar or even completely different process, post some photos of your favorite urban yamadori.


Awesome trees! I love that Wisteria! Well done on all of these.

I’ve done a bunch of urban yamadori - here are a few!

Big Jade (Crassula Ovata) - Spent 25 years on a lady’s porch in San Francisco. I cut it down from almost 7’ tall

Bougainvillea on a neighbors property.

Blue Potato Bush - Removed from neighbors yard before hse put in a new patio. It was 17’ tall and leggy initially


Beautiful work and man could I use some photo lessons from you! Lol