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HomeBonsaiRy2Tree2 Bonsai Weblog: The Unsung Deserves of Phoenix Graft/Tanuki Bonsai

Ry2Tree2 Bonsai Weblog: The Unsung Deserves of Phoenix Graft/Tanuki Bonsai

             Tanuki, often known 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-about “dishonest” and regarded down upon in some bonsai circles, it could actually produce stunning and convincing bonsai. The accusation of dishonest comes about as this course of accelerates the looks of age, nevertheless, even so, Tanuki isn’t on the spot bonsai. As I will talk about subsequent week in better depth on the rules behind the profitable execution of this method, there isn’t a substitute for the compelling high quality of “age as bonsai” even within the case of phoenix grafted bushes. So if we settle for that tanuki nonetheless requires sound bonsai apply over a interval of years and an inventive eye to make them properly, what different deserves are there to this type? One unsung benefit I suggest is that tanuki hinges on respect for the deadwood. Bonsai artists are sometimes enamored with stunning items of deadwood which are sometimes together with inside our dwelling bushes or inside our bonsai shows as slab/”jita” or in our bonsai stands. The act of choosing a chunk of deadwood which is enticing sufficient to be price preserving alongside a dwelling tree for a phoenix graft is simply an extension of our innate deadwood appreciation. Extra helpful qualities of tanuki/phoenix graft bonsai when utilizing a useless tree which we used to work on is it could actually educate humility and remind us of the teachings we have now realized in our bonsai journey. In my case, this Japanese Larch is among the few bushes I obtained from my instructor 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 as a consequence of my very own underestimation of Ohio winters. Even skilled bonsai artists lose bushes – there’s all the time extra to study. So out of respect for the tree, I resurrected it. Additionally out of humility, will probably be dwelling reminder for me to arrange rigorous winter safety in Ohio even for cold-hardy bushes. 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 Rules for Convincing Tanuki/Phoenix Graft Bonsai (subsequent time)
  3. Bulletins
    1. I formally utilized with the state of Ohio to begin a nursery. Contact me to enroll in my first workshop on Tanuki! See particulars right here. Dates deliberate are 4/1/23 and 4/23/23 from 12pm-3pm. Contact me if you need to request an extra date.
    2. 4/15/23 – 2nd Annual Invasive Honeysuckle Wild Bonsai Dig with CBS and Columbus Recreation & Parks @ Castro Park. This can be a free occasion. Join 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 obtainable 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 mentioned a fellow had began it as a seedling within the Eighties and by some means it ended up in his backyard. It was a bit smaller than Dan’s traditional 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 Carry Your Personal Tree assembly the place a fellow Dan Robinson pupil, Hansy occurred to be in attendance and helped me discuss by means of the wiring concepts for the tree. This was in my early days once I was new to wiring bushes. Hansy now has his personal enterprise in Silverdale, WA breeding koi fish, educating bonsai, landscaping, and pruning panorama bushes. You may contact him right here if you happen to’re . 

            You may see the earlier than and after in a number of photographs beneath. We settled on a extra dynamic slanted type as a substitute 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 historical, battered tree.

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

2018. Submit-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 have been attempting to kickstart extra examine teams there however I heard since then that the PSBA is getting way more into examine teams this 12 months. When you’re close to Seattle, undoubtedly examine them out! 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 season of 2020 I attempted to not work on my bushes 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 “Carry Your Personal Tree” session by Rob Hoffman at Yume-en Bonsai in Marysville, Ohio. This was the primary time I met Rob truly. There I did a light-weight cutback of the elongated branches, wired them, and carved the bark off the deadwood “jin” on the prime of the tree to higher protect the wooden beneath. The bark would faucet 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 one of the best bits for this so it was troublesome to form the hollows.

Late summer season 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 may 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 finished. A callous later developed there.

2020. You may see some new hollows added right here. I used a drill bit to perform this which isn’t superb as a result of it is robust to show the circle form into one thing extra uneven and pure wanting, nevertheless it obtained the method began within the locations I needed them.

Late summer season 2020. Entrance after work.

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

            Within the late summer season 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 most vigorous and the decrease department particularly on the finish is much less so, due to this fact I might do extra pruning on the highest and fewer on the underside to stability the vitality. Additionally it might have been price 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 season 2021. Earlier than cleanup.
2020. Rear view, nonetheless earlier than cleanup.

Late summer season 2021. Entrance after cleanup.

2021. Rear after cleanup.

One other random shot I believed was good.

            In 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 approach wherein he emphasizes the grain of the wooden by way of nice strains. That is fairly completely different from the deadwood carving type of my instructor, Dan Robinson, however each have their deserves as creative types. 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 following a number of months to see if it will open elsewhere.

D. Reason behind Dying 🙁

            Do not underestimate winter! Transferring from the gentle climate of Seattle to Ohio, I did not have a correct appreciation for the vulnerability that bonsai bushes in pots needed to winter climate, and due to this fact the significance of winter safety on your complete assortment. On the time I figured bushes just like the larch which survive on the mountaintops should not have any drawback with the winter chilly and due to this fact 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 by means of the summer season. One other two giant bushes 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 an awesome desk in his e-book Bonsai Heresy which exhibits that roots (corresponding to these in a bonsai pot which might be uncovered to chilly) are more likely to die from temperatures than the branches of bushes. Subsequently, this 12 months I laid a way more in depth mattress of leaves down and all did properly aside from a number of years which obtained 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 identical time as I obtained the big larch, I began a variety of Japanese larch seedlings. Many I bought earlier than leaving Seattle, however one which I saved was a straight whip which I hadn’t styled or up-potted an excessive amount of which left it small and straight – excellent for a tanuki/phoenix graft!

Useless tree with Japanese Larch whip. Their dimension looks as if a superb match.

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

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


Tie down wire answer.

Bada bing bada increase.

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 obtained all of it. By the tip of summer season, the cream-colored newly uncovered deadwood will photobleach by the solar and in addition will change into grey in colour.

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 identical spot of the trunk.

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

You may see the whip would stick out a bit if I solely planted it in opposition to the deadwood. Subsequently, 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 obtained 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 are able to showcase the dwell vein and have it appear practical, however that in addition to the planting angle are topic to vary. That is very a lot a primary draft in want of growth.

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

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



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