Sorry it’s been so long since my last post…I skipped an entire season–fall 😉 I thought I’d share the story of a Pacific Yew–Taxus brevifolia–with you today. I was invited to stay with some friends at their cabin in eastern Oregon, Memorial Day of 2013. The area the tree came from had been logged and this tree had been living in the understory of the forest for a long time, slowly growing and waiting it out, losing its top somewhere along the way…it was the tallest thing around when I spied it–towering at just a little over four feet in height and had several morel mushrooms growing around it. There were enough morels to feed three–what a bonus! So the first shot is of me digging the tree from a rich duff and finding lots of feeder roots close in to the trunk:

digging yew

The diameter of the trunk is about five inches above the surface roots and tapers nicely to the broken top of the tree; my guess is the tree was about twelve feet tall at one time. The next shot is the moment we all live for as collectors…out of the ground and on some burlap with a great set of roots close to the trunk:

yew and I

And the last shot from collecting, tying the rootball up with some twine:

yew collecting

I don’t remember why I was laying down on the job, other than it may have been to get a better view of the trunk base as the tree was quite bushy down low. Another good quality we like to see a tree in the wild possess. I potted it in 100% pumice in the Anderson flat you see in the next photo that was taken just prior to putting it into a bonsai pot for the first time. The tree spent roughly a year acclimating from collecting and budded and grew vigorously–a sure sign it was ready for a bonsai pot:

Pacific Yew

It’s possible to see the three live veins comprising the tree starting with the one at the base on the left, then the vein running to the apex in the center and a third smaller vein a little lower down and to the right. I have a few shots next to show those of yew that get off on seeing roots–I know I sure do 😉

yew roots

They were so fat and succulent…sort of reminding me of ramen noodles:

yew roots

yew roots

And on to the potting! I wanted to anchor the tree securely into its new pot, so I used a couple of galvanized wood screws to put in some of the larger anchor roots that were cut when I collected the tree:

anchor screws

You can also see the sixteen gauge galvanized steel wire used to tie the tree in…a lot more substantial than the aluminum I had been using. I have Ryan Neil to thank for that tip!tying the yew into the pot

The wires attached to the screws ready to tighten…


I used an old root as another anchor…

pot and yew

Here’s a shot of the tree anchored in ready for soil around the edges…I left most of the original rootball intact for this first potting and filled in the sides to the edge of the pot with a mix of 50% akadama and 50% pumice that was sifted to 1/4″ particle size. The pot is a Japanese Tokoname.

Pacific Yew

Here we are with the tree all potted and a layer of screened New Zealand sphagnum moss on the surface, to protect the mounded area of the rootball. I let the tree acclimate another year to a bonsai pot this time and it grew very well and is strong enough to see its first styling sometime this winter…I’ll keep yew posted!