Make your own free website on


How to Become an Afghan Bazaar Queen
Debunking the Myths of Bonsai
BONSAI Past and Present
Dealing with Difficult Roots
Escapees! Get em!

Name: #2 / Ashley Barnes
Country: Australia
Credits: None
Category: Non-Fiction
Submission Date: 04/21/2008

  My bonsai buddy Ray suggested we should visit his local supermarket for trees that might be good for bonsai. As I  had only been involved with the 'magnificent obsession' for a few months and had little in the way of stock to work on I readily agreed.
 He suggested we go the following Sunday and I told him I would meet him there. He smiled and said I would never find it because only he knew the way, explaining that it wasn't any of the local supermarkets, we were going on a dig.
Ray asked me to bring a sharp bladed shovel, saw, axe, secateurs and some plastic garbage bags. Now my take on collecting trees in the wild at that time was that you climbed high mountainous peaks, hung off ropes and absailing (rapelling) down the mountain to reach those little stunted trees. 
Imagine my surprise when he pulled up along this quiet little farm road and parked his car and said "We're here". Ray told me, as it was early Spring the time was perfect as the leaves were just about to burst open. The area in which we were going to be liberating trees was about fifteen feet wide and half a mile long on state owned land which he had got permission to take as much as he wanted. The trees were oaks, English elms and cherry plums which were not classified as native. Ray and I entered the supermarket and I noticed it was a bit boggy underfoot and he said much easier to dig. Ray then told me we would take a few trees and select others for next Spring by undercutting, sawing them down to a manageable size and tagging them.
I noticed a few cherry plums growing at the fence line which were very old and stunted and Ray explained they had been cattle cropped over many years so they became my first victims. He then showed me how to undercut the root system in a bowl shape and in some cases used an axe to chop the tap root. The oaks proved the hardest to dig but they eventually yielded. We collected around twelve trees each bagged them and put them in his car.
Ray then told me we could select next years trees, so we looked at a lot of interesting trunks and nebari and proceeded to chop/saw the trunks to the right height then undercut and tape loosely round the lower trunk for easy recognition next Spring. Within five minutes we were back at my place getting the trees into grow boxes and giving them plenty of water and placing them in the shade. We had a quick beer (well deserved) and Ray took his trees back to his home to give them the same nurturing.
 Ray explained just after my first dig what we should be looking for in yamadori, in this case deciduous trees, are those with good trunks and nebari. We are trunk collectors he would say. We always back filled after digging trees, although we were the only people to set foot in the supermarket and we would only select the best quality stock and we had plenty to choose from. People would often ask where the trees came from and were always given a vague answer. I guess most folks would do the same thing if they had a treasure trove to protect. 
We went back to the supermarket for quite a few years and we never lost a tree except through bad management, many years after they were dug. I will never forget my first dig and the feeling of fulfillment getting decent material to work with. No mountains to climb and coming home to a smiling wife seeing my 'free' trees.   

Return to Bonsai Vault

Bonsai Vault Article Contest Prize Sponsors



Whistling Fish
Shady Side Bonsai