A whole bunch of new barberry!

I worked on a barberry bush earlier this year and started the training process of it becoming a bonsai. You can check out that earlier post by clicking here. I also did a follow-up post on the same barberry here. I really fell in love with the species for a couple of reasons. They can get very old, thick looking trunks/bark, tiny leaves, tiny flowers, very resilient to the elements and pruning, plus are hardy in my area’s climate. The only thing that I do not like is all those darn thorns! But you get use to them…….. sort of. LOL. Earlier this summer I obtained 2 more barberry plants at a very low-cost. I have not done any work on them other than feeding and watering at this point. I decided not to work on them until next spring so remember to check back for that update 🙂

The other day I was speaking with my brother and he told me that he was planning on selling his home. Knowing that I am a huge bonsai geek, he offered me a chance to collect whatever material in his yard that I felt I could use towards bonsai with the only cost to me is the labor of digging them up. He said he planned on selling and moving as soon as possible so I didn’t have much time. Being that it is the end of August and still summer here in Pennsylvania, I was a little hesitant to dig any plant up. But our weather has been cooler and wetter than normal so I felt that it would be fine to dig them up and should have no problems if done properly. So I gathered up some quick tools on a Saturday morning, jumped on the motorcycle and jolted over to his place.

I arrived at his house and started looking around at what possible material was there. Mostly everything was either full-grown trees, plants that are not bonsai suitable material or would dramatically change the landscape appearance and could possibly have an effect on the sale of the house. However, I did notice several extremely nice barberry bushes throughout the yard and he said that they all were ok to take! This was perfect for me because as i stated earlier, I fell in love with the species after working with my first one. There was 3 smaller ones in the front yard and 5 larger ones in the backyard surrounding the pool area. That is a total of 8 new plants! Now the smallest and youngest of the bunch was planted in the ground 8 years ago so even though it is small (due to being cutback each year) it has had a good bit of time to grow a nice thick trunk. The bigger ones that surrounded the pool were planted years before my brother moved in so its estimated they have been in the ground for at least 12-15 years or longer.  Now they have also been pruned over the years to contain the growth but not as small as the other ones. The bushes are all healthy , especially the 3 in the front, with the exception of the ones by the pool having dead sections due to the chemicals from the pool water. But the sections that are not dead have lots of healthy growth.

As I stated earlier I was on my motorcycle and obviously there was no way of transporting them on that. My plan was to dig them up that morning, wrap and secure the root ball to protect them, place in the shade and pick them up later that afternoon with my dads big SUV.  And that’s exactly how it played out! 🙂  So without wasting more time yapping lets take a look at what was collected.


Here is a look at a couple of the barberry that are around the pool.


Close-up of one of the trunks. This is why I was happy to dig them up 🙂  Sorry I didn’t use anything to show in comparison of the size but when I do individual work on these in the spring I will be sure to do it then. But you can still see that there is some good thickness and age to the bark.


All 5 larger barberry dug up, root ball wrapped and sitting in the shade until time to pick them up.


I forgot to take a pic of the 3 smaller ones in the front flower bed but here they are all dug and into 1 large bag. I did take individual pics of them being dug up but I will wait to share them in the individual posts later.


The first of the nursery stock barberry I stated about earlier that has not had any work done. I bought this one for $4.00 on sale from what you see in the pic it was originally $24.99. I would say its a heck of a bargain. Also it has a thick single trunk which is very rare to find from nursery stock.


This is the second of the nursery stock purchased. I believe I got this one for $5.00 from a different nursery from the above one. Again, a great bargain and another single trunk. I must be lucky with finding single trunk nursery stock barberry. I have had numerous comments from others across the country (and a couple overseas) and everyone tells me that they have been to every nursery near their homes and can not find single trunk barberry. Since I seem to find them around here, if anyone is interested out there I may be willing to sell or trade if you want to obtain a good single trunk barberry. Maybe…… 😉


I made these boxes the same day to hold the larger barberry in temporary until I can properly root prune and hard prune them over winter/early spring next year. At that point they will go in smaller training pots to begin their bonsai life. The smaller barberry were temporary placed in  standard planters (I am out of training pots at the moment) and will be treated the same as the larger ones next year.


And to complete this post , here is the collection of all 10 barberry bushes I have obtained. I would say I have my fair share of work to do this coming spring!

On a side note, I reached out to Bjorn Bjorholm (learn more about Bjorn at his website by clicking here) about a question I had regarding the term “yamadori”. For those that do not know, the term yamadori is japanese for “collected” bonsai material. I asked if items to be considered yamadori must they be 100% nature collected material or could it also be old collected landscape material. Here is his response straight from the email he sent me:


 Thanks for the question.  Yamadori really implies naturally occurring material that has been collected for bonsai.  There’s a new term floating around, though, for old collected landscape material…urban yamadori.  I think it’s a good fit, haha.
So if anyone else had the same question as I did I hope this gives you the answer.  I will refer to my 8 new collected barberry and any other landscape collected material as “urban yamadori” going forward. I like the term and think it fits well just as Bjorn stated. 
Thanks again for reading!

4 thoughts on “A whole bunch of new barberry!”

  1. Great get
    I have lots of urban yamadory . In Europe a lot of urban yamdory are used for bonsai. They have hundreds of years of material growing about. You as well have some garden material because as you know your gardens out east have been growing way longer than ours on the west coast. I guess we will just have to go into the mountains and get our material up there. Tounge in cheek. Oh by the way great yamadory.

    Qualicum Brian

    1. Your right about the east coast having older gardens than the west in regards to urban yamadori. However, from my research the west coast seems to produce far better natural yamadori than the east. I know my local bonsai nursery which has been around over 40 yrs gets almost all its yamadori stock shipped in from the west coast because its better out there. I guess it kind of balances things out. Lol.

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