Monday, December 4, 2023
HomeBonsaiIn Vivo Bonsai: The Unsung Deserves of Phoenix Graft/Tanuki Bonsai

In Vivo Bonsai: The Unsung Deserves of Phoenix Graft/Tanuki Bonsai

             Tanuki, also referred to as Phoenix Graft, will get a nasty wrap in bonsai. Though this method to make a younger tree seem older by planting it alongside the deadwood of one other tree is often thought of “dishonest” and appeared down upon in some bonsai circles, it may produce stunning and convincing bonsai. The accusation of dishonest comes about as this course of accelerates the looks of age, nevertheless, even so, Tanuki shouldn’t be on the spot bonsai. As I will talk about subsequent week in higher depth on the ideas behind the profitable execution of this method, there is no such thing as a substitute for the compelling high quality of “age as bonsai” even within the case of phoenix grafted timber. So if we settle for that tanuki nonetheless requires sound bonsai follow over a interval of years and an inventive eye to make them effectively, what different deserves are there to this model? One unsung advantage is that tanuki hinges on respect for the deadwood. Bonsai artists are sometimes enamored with stunning items of deadwood which are sometimes included inside our dwelling timber or inside our bonsai shows as slab/”jita” or in our bonsai stands/formal shows. The act of choosing a chunk of deadwood that’s enticing sufficient to be value preserving alongside a dwelling tree for a phoenix graft is an extension of our innate deadwood appreciation. Further helpful qualities of tanuki/phoenix graft bonsai when utilizing a useless tree which we used to work on is it may educate humility and remind us of the teachings we have now realized in our bonsai journey. In my case, this Japanese Larch is without doubt one of the few timber I acquired from my trainer Dan Robinson which I introduced with me to Ohio once I moved throughout the nation. I labored on this tree for about 5 years earlier than it handed away on account of my very own underestimation of Ohio winters. Even skilled bonsai artists lose timber – there’s all the time extra to be taught. So out of respect for the tree, I resurrected it. Additionally out of humility, it is going to be a dwelling reminder for me to organize rigorous winter safety in Ohio even for cold-hardy timber. Learn on to see the development this tree has taken with me from uncooked inventory to its most up-to-date tanuki styling.


  1. The Unsung Deserves of Phoenix Graft/Tanuki Bonsai – A Japanese Larch Instance. (this time)
    1. RIP Larch – Development Over the Years (2018-2022)
    2. Rising from the Ashes – Phoenix Graft/Tanuki Time (2023)
  2. Important Ideas for Convincing Tanuki/Phoenix Graft Bonsai (subsequent time)
  3. Bulletins
    1. I formally utilized with the state of Ohio to start out a nursery. Contact me to enroll in my first workshop on Tanuki! See particulars right here. The dates deliberate are 4/1/23 and 4/23/23 from 12pm-3pm. Contact me if you need to request a further date.
    2. 4/15/23 – 2nd Annual Invasive Honeysuckle Wild Bonsai Dig with CBS and Columbus Recreation & Parks @ Castro Park. It is a free occasion. Enroll right here.
    3. 4/16/223 – Columbus Bonsai Society Assembly – I will probably be presenting on the ins and outs of digging Yardadori/Yamadori/Wild Bonsai. All are welcome. See occasion particulars at
    4. Seeds can be found right here.
Tanuki Japanese larch, 1st 12 months in coaching. 2023.

A. Origin and First Styling (2018)

            I first acquired this tree again in 2017 or 2018 once I was nonetheless volunteering at Dan Robinson’s Elandan Gardens in Bremerton, WA. As I had been serving to on the market some time at that time, Dan gifted me this uncared for Japanese Larch. He stated a fellow had began it as a seedling within the Nineteen Eighties and someway it ended up in his backyard. It was a bit smaller than Dan’s standard fare so it sat for a number of years with out a lot consideration as Dan’s time was centered on different initiatives. As soon as I acquired it, it had a full however unstyled cover. I introduced it to a Puget Sound Bonsai Affiliation Convey Your Personal Tree assembly the place a fellow Dan Robinson scholar, Hansy, occurred to be in attendance and helped me discuss via the wiring concepts for the tree. This was in my early days once I was new to wiring timber. Hansy now has his personal enterprise in Silverdale, WA breeding koi fish, educating bonsai, landscaping, and pruning panorama timber. You’ll be able to contact him right here if you happen to’re . 

            You’ll be able to see the earlier than and after in a number of pictures under. We settled on a extra dynamic slanted model as an alternative of the casual upright it was at present in. This gave us extra floor space to utilize the cover it already had. Additionally, being college students of Dan Robinson, we needed to make the branching extra gnarly all through! Gnarly is fascinating and may be one signal of an historic, battered tree.

2018. Uncooked and unwired with a full cover that extends removed from the trunk.

2018. Put up-prune and first wiring.

B. First Repot

            In 2020 (proper earlier than the pandemic!), I repotted the tree into its first bonsai pot with Chris from the PSBA. On the time, we had been attempting to kickstart extra research teams there however I heard since then that the PSBA is getting far more into research teams this 12 months. When you’re close to Seattle, undoubtedly verify them out right here! Anyhow, this tree went right into a custom-fit Sam Miller pot which I commissioned from him for this tree.

2020. Earlier than repot.

2020. After repot.

C. Carving, Sustaining, and Refining Branching (2020-2022)

            Within the late summer time of 2020, I attempted to not work on my timber a lot to permit them to acclimate from the transfer from Washington to Ohio, however I made an exception for this one because it appeared wholesome. I introduced it to a “Convey Your Personal Tree” session by Rob Hoffman at Yume-en Bonsai in Marysville, Ohio (contact him right here to cease by his nursery or discover out about his newest workshops). This was the primary time I met Rob really. There I did a lightweight cutback of the elongated branches, wired them, and carved the bark off the deadwood “jin” on the prime of the tree to raised protect the wooden beneath. The bark would lure moisture and result in rot within the deadwood if you don’t take away it. I additionally made a primary draft of carving the deadwood so as to add some fascinating hollows, however I did not have the most effective bits for this so it was troublesome to form the hollows.
Late summer time 2020. Earlier than work.

2020. This brush wheel is my most popular bit for eradicating useless bark with my die grinder. It’s a bit cumbersome although so it isn’t nice for branches or tight areas.

2020. You’ll be able to see the deadwood prolonged far past the place the useless department was as a part of the trunk was useless too. I carved away bark till I noticed the white moist layer of dwell cambium and there I ended. A callous later developed there.

2020. You’ll be able to see some new hollows added right here. I used a drill bit to perform this which isn’t excellent as a result of it is robust to show the circle form into one thing extra uneven and pure trying, but it surely acquired the method began within the locations I needed them.

Late summer time 2020. Entrance after work.

2020. Decrease jin carved. I additionally thought this was an artsy shot for some purpose.

            Within the late summer time of 2021, I once more did gentle pruning and wiring. One factor I’m appreciating right here within the image is that it seems like the highest department is essentially the most vigorous and the decrease department, particularly on the finish, is much less so, subsequently I’d do extra pruning on the highest and fewer on the underside to steadiness the vitality. Additionally, it might have been value giving the tree a break for a 12 months to permit it to construct extra vigor. Who is aware of if that might have helped it with its winter troubles a number of months later.

Late summer time 2021. Earlier than cleanup.
2020. Rear view, nonetheless earlier than cleanup.

Late summer time 2021. Entrance after cleanup.

2021. Rear after cleanup.

One other random shot I assumed was good.
            Within the spring of 2022, I introduced the tree to a Will Baddeley carving workshop. My goal was to find out how Will does his deadwood texturing method through which he emphasizes the grain of the wooden through wonderful traces (see extra of his work right here). That is fairly completely different from the deadwood carving model of my trainer, Dan Robinson, however each have their deserves as creative kinds. Anyhow, on the well being of the tree entrance, this tree solely had 1 department exhibiting bud motion presently. I used to be worriedly watching it over the subsequent a number of months to see if it will open elsewhere.

D. Reason for Dying 🙁

            Do not underestimate winter! Shifting from the delicate climate of Seattle to Ohio, I did not have a correct appreciation for the vulnerability that bonsai timber in pots needed to winter climate, and subsequently the significance of winter safety to your entire assortment. On the time I figured timber just like the larch which survive on the mountaintops shouldn’t have any drawback with the winter chilly and subsequently wanted no winter safety, however after the winter of 2021-2022, I can’t make this error once more. This tree solely budded out on one department the next spring however didn’t make it via the summer time. One other two giant timber of mine died again considerably that winter which I imagine was due primarily to me not offering satisfactory root safety, however no less than these could also be salvageable in the event that they proceed to recuperate. Michael Hagedorn has a fantastic desk in his e book Bonsai Heresy which reveals that roots (akin to these in a bonsai pot which might be uncovered to chilly) are more likely to die from temperatures than the branches of timber. Due to this fact, this 12 months I laid a way more intensive mattress of leaves down and all did effectively aside from a number of years which acquired windburn from our excessive chilly again in December. Subsequent 12 months I will proceed to make enhancements on that winter safety entrance.

            Out of lemons, lemonade. Fortunately, across the similar time as I acquired the big larch, I began a number of Japanese larch seedlings. Many I bought earlier than leaving Seattle, however one which I stored was a straight whip that I hadn’t styled or up-potted an excessive amount of which left it small and straight – good for a tanuki/phoenix graft!

Useless tree with Japanese Larch whip. Their dimension looks like an excellent match.

This Kintsugi pot I did appears acceptable for tanuki. A repaired pot with a repaired tree.

No wire holes so we needed to get inventive for the tie-downs.


Tie-down wire answer.

Bada bing bada growth.

Time to take away the bark with the wire wheel as soon as once more – this time on the entire tree.

In progress.

We nearly acquired all of it. By the top of summer time, the cream-colored newly uncovered deadwood will photobleach by the solar and likewise will develop into grey in shade.

One other view of the deadwood.

This tree naturally had many branches all terminating from the identical space of the trunk. I figured to make the tanuki mix in higher, I ought to place the tree to intermingle with these branches and have its branches emerge across the similar spot of the trunk.

The whip’s nebari was fairly one-sided which turned out to be handy to get a decent match towards the deadwood.

You’ll be able to see the whip would stick out a bit if I solely planted it towards the deadwood. Due to this fact, I lined it up and outlined a groove to carve within the wooden.

I secured the tree at one spot at a time. It wanted to be twisted barely by the point it acquired to the highest so the branches would find yourself the place I needed. Ultimately, larch get thick bark so any wire marks will not present in the long term.

2023. After potting the tree. I view this because the entrance so we will exhibit the dwell vein and have it appear lifelike, however that in addition to the planting angle is topic to vary. That is very a lot a primary draft in want of improvement.

2023 after wiring. I needed the apex to imitate the motion of the useless jin.

            Now we let the tree relaxation. I’ll defend it from the solar and frost for the remainder of spring, take away the wire as soon as it bites (in all probability in summer time), and start fertilizing it in summer time. I’ll in any other case let it develop ragged for the subsequent 1-2 years to recuperate from all this. Subsequent 12 months, I will take away the wires securing the whip to the trunk and exchange them with a number of small screws which hopefully the tree will finally callous over to cover. That’s the subsequent step.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments