A simple yew can be made into a stunning small bonsai in just a few steps. Michael Tran of Minoru bonsai guides you step by step in how to create a bonsai from a yew.
Yews are a very robust and a great species for bonsai. Their hard wood makes them perfect for jin and shari techniques, which contrast well with the red bark and the fresh green of the foliage. The young shoots are easy to bend and very quickly grow dense and strong. It will be interesting to follow its further development . . .
Analysis and reduction
As expected of a yew this one has plenty of new shoots and a formidable little trunk. The tapering can be much improved by shortening the tree, which will also help to improve its proportions.
Cutting off the top leaves a big stump; this is worked into a jin with hand tools. It is very important to create a fluent and natural transition between the deadwood and the living parts. This can only be achieved by using hand tools and keeping a careful eye on the life veins.
Several of the plentiful young shoots can be cut away in order to create more open spaces — it’s essential for the design, lets the sun in and encourages the branches to grow.
Wiring and styling
Wiring the Taxus is easy once you have removed the older needles. The shoots are very flexible and easy to bend. When wiring, take great care of the retained needles because the wire is placed between them.
Bending the branches of yew is really easy; although their wood is hard, the branches are not brittle and can be shaped by applying some gentle force.
I prefer to repot the tree in spring just before it starts to bud so that it benefits from the coming growing season. The yew was cultivated in a fine hard pumice planting medium. The root system is very healthy and strong, so repotting can be undertaken at the same time as styling. Since the foliage of the tree was heavily reduced by cutting the top and a lot of small branches, the big root system can also be reduced to make the tree fit into a suitable pot.
Different types of pot can be used for this tree, as can be seen in the pictures on the opposite page. There is still plenty of potential in the crown, so any further development will probably make the pot look too small for the tree in the near future. For the time being, though, a pot that gives good contrast to the intense colour of the bark will be used . . .