September 11, 2023

The Humble Yew's First Styling - A Case Study for Trunk-line, Primary Branch, and Foliage Pad Development

             Hello all, many projects have been in the works in recent weeks since the CBS show concluded. Today I share a small project styling a nursery stock yew. I don't normally work with nursery stock these days as I prefer to dig from the wild and grow from seed and that gives me plenty of material for myself and my nursery already, but I decided to style this humble nursery stock yew to provide an example for my upcoming beginner-intermediate styling workshop. In this Saturday's workshop, we will be using the same material to practice basic elements of styling; these yews are young enough that their trunk lines are still malleable, but also old enough to have substantial primary branch options and even smaller secondary and tertiary branches which we can use to begin to form foliage pads. After a bit of creativity and technical know-how is applied, you can transform this humble material as I did below into a variety of styles. The tree below also shows some of the main topics we will be covering in the workshop. I am still developing my lesson plan, but the topics we will cover are listed below.

Lesson Plan for Beginner-Intermediate Yew Styling Workshop, 9/16/2023 1-4pm in Upper Arlington, OH

  1. Benefits of Growing Bonsai Outdoors & How to Keep Them Alive (15 min)
  2. Wiring 101 & Exercise for Beginners (15+ min)
  3. Yew Styling
    1. How to pick and develop the best trunkline for a variety of styles.
      1. How to apply raffia to avoid cracking when bending large branches/trunks.
      2. How to attempt to save a cracked branch if raffia was not applied.
    2. How to pick and develop primary branch lines.
    3. How to develop foliage pads including pruning to induce density and fine wiring of small branches.
Note: Loaner pruners, wire cutters, raffia, and recycled bonsai wires will be provided in the workshop fee in addition to the yew stock material. Students who have their own tools or wire to bring are encouraged to do so.
You can see that the initial trunk was too rigid for much bending, but when combined with a change in angle we could get this upright yew into a cascading style. Also with this chosen front, some distance of the trunk is made less noticeable as in the 3-D view the trunk goes away from the viewer at one point and then comes back at the bottom towards us. In the long run, I intend to have the apex continue growing towards the right to fill in the space above the cascade. Then the other two main branches will continue growing outwards and downwards so they are subordinate to the main top section.

Also if you look closely you will see there are two parts where I cracked the trunkline and applied grafting tape overtop. I used to apply cut paste to such wounds but had mixed success (best with liquid cut paste, solid cut paste failed most often). This year I began using grafting tape on these wounds and it has worked well so far.

July 25, 2023

Case Study - First Styling of a "Naturalistic Deciduous" Yardadori Privet

             The 51st Columbus Bonsai Society is fast approaching! Alongside preparing for my first time vending at our local show, and moving my house and bonsai nursery last weekend, I had time to squeeze in a quick styling of this yardadori privet for my donation to the CBS Raffle. There's still much to do so today I will briefly share the backstory of this tree, nuances I associate with naturalistic deciduous bonsai, and show you the before and after. The reason I am sharing this tree, in particular, is that it is an excellent case study of what we will be doing in my "naturalistic deciduous privet yamadori styling" workshop on Sunday afternoon, 3-5pm at the show. If you'd like to sign up for that workshop, you can do so here. I'll also be teaching a beginner indoor bonsai workshop on Saturday, 3-5pm; final spots are available at here. You can also see the other available workshops and more details on the show here. If you purchase any workshop later than Tuesday, 7/25/23, be sure to bring proof of purchase (your email receipt) to the show for workshop check-in.

Final view. Even I was surprised with how much I liked it afterward. Compare below to the humble starting material.

April 6, 2023

Simplified Protocols for Yamadori Collection, Aftercare, and Initial Bonsai Training - A Honeysuckle Raft Case Study.

            In preparation for the 2nd Annual CBS / Columbus Recreation & Parks Department Invasive Honeysuckle Yamadori [Wild Bonsai] Dig event, I wanted to put to words a very simplified protocol for how to take a freshly dug yamadori from the forest and how to begin to train it as a bonsai tree. Obviously, the speed of development varies based on the species and health of the tree and some steps may even occur at seasonally different times especially if you are in a different climate than me here in USDA Hardiness Zone 6, Ohio, USA. Noting that these exceptions are bound to hit you at some point, let this be a starting point and take it for what it's worth. To exemplify that protocol, let's follow the development of my extra large honeysuckle raft yamadori which I rescued from culling in a local Columbus park at last year's first invasive removal collaboration. You can read about our previous experience hosting that event here, and you can see other examples of renowned honeysuckle bonsai here


  1. Event Description - 2nd Annual Columbus Bonsai Society / Columbus Recreation & Parks Invasive Yamadori [Wild Bonsai] Dig
  2. General Protocol for Temperate Deciduous Species Yamadori Collection
  3. General Protocol for Yamadori Aftercare
  4. General Protocol for Initial Bonsai Training - First Repot, Early Pruning, etc.
  5. Honeysuckle Raft Case Study
    1. Spring 2022 Digging
    2. Fall 2022 Pruning
    3. Spring 2023 Repotting + Pruning
  6. Announcements
    1. I officially applied with the state of Ohio to start a nursery. Contact me to enroll in my first workshop on Tanuki! See details here. The second workshop will be on Sunday, 4/23/23 from 12pm-3pm. Contact me if you would like to request an additional date.
    2. 4/15/23 - 2nd Annual Invasive Honeysuckle Wild Bonsai Dig with CBS and Columbus Recreation & Parks @ Castro Park. This is a free event. Sign up here.
    3. 4/16/223 - Columbus Bonsai Society Meeting - I will be presenting on the ins and outs of digging Yardadori/Yamadori/Wild Bonsai. All are welcome. See event details at
    4. Seeds are available here.
My extra-large honeysuckle yamadori raft, now freshly repotted into its first training bonsai pot.

March 30, 2023

The Unsung Merits of Phoenix Graft/Tanuki Bonsai - A Japanese Larch Example.

             Tanuki, also known as Phoenix Graft, gets a bad wrap in bonsai. Although this technique to make a young tree appear older by planting it alongside the deadwood of another tree is commonly considered "cheating" and looked down upon in some bonsai circles, it can produce beautiful and convincing bonsai. The accusation of cheating comes about as this process accelerates the appearance of age, however, even so, Tanuki is not instant bonsai. As I'll discuss next week in greater depth on the principles behind the successful execution of this technique, there is no substitute for the compelling quality of "age as bonsai" even in the case of phoenix grafted trees. So if we accept that tanuki still requires sound bonsai practice over a period of years and an artistic eye to make them well, what other merits are there to this style? One unsung merit is that tanuki hinges on respect for the deadwood. Bonsai artists are often enamored with beautiful pieces of deadwood which are often included within our living trees or within our bonsai displays as slab/"jita" or in our bonsai stands/formal displays. The act of selecting a piece of deadwood that is attractive enough to be worth preserving alongside a living tree for a phoenix graft is an extension of our innate deadwood appreciation. Additional beneficial qualities of tanuki/phoenix graft bonsai when using a dead tree which we used to work on is it can teach humility and remind us of the lessons we have learned in our bonsai journey. In my case, this Japanese Larch is one of the few trees I got from my teacher Dan Robinson which I brought with me to Ohio when I moved across the country. I worked on this tree for about 5 years before it passed away due to my own underestimation of Ohio winters. Even experienced bonsai artists lose trees - there's always more to learn. So out of respect for the tree, I resurrected it. Also out of humility, it will be a living reminder for me to prepare rigorous winter protection in Ohio even for cold-hardy trees. Read on to see the progression this tree has taken with me from raw stock to its most recent tanuki styling.


  1. The Unsung Merits of Phoenix Graft/Tanuki Bonsai - A Japanese Larch Example. (this time)
    1. RIP Larch - Progression Over the Years (2018-2022)
    2. Rising from the Ashes - Phoenix Graft/Tanuki Time (2023)
  2. Essential Principles for Convincing Tanuki/Phoenix Graft Bonsai (next time)
  3. Announcements
    1. I officially applied with the state of Ohio to start a nursery. Contact me to enroll in my first workshop on Tanuki! See details here. The dates planned are 4/1/23 and 4/23/23 from 12pm-3pm. Contact me if you would like to request an additional date.
    2. 4/15/23 - 2nd Annual Invasive Honeysuckle Wild Bonsai Dig with CBS and Columbus Recreation & Parks @ Castro Park. This is a free event. Sign up here.
    3. 4/16/223 - Columbus Bonsai Society Meeting - I will be presenting on the ins and outs of digging Yardadori/Yamadori/Wild Bonsai. All are welcome. See event details at
    4. Seeds are available here.
Tanuki Japanese larch, 1st year in training. 2023.

March 8, 2023

Repotting Scenarios for a Shohin Privet and Intro to Bonsai Soil

Source Material: March 02, 2023

             Welcome back bonsai enthusiasts, today I share a short article focused on a recent repot which illustrates some larger questions we must ask for our trees to look their best. Where should I position my tree in the pot? To the center? To the left? To the right? How do I want the nebari/root flare to look given the options the tree provides? Read on for a closer look at the unique challenges and character of this tree, think through what you would have done if it was your tree, and feel free to share those ideas in the comments below.


  1. Reviewing Repotting Basics
  2. History of the Tree
  3. Nebari Decisions
  4. Planting Position - What Fits Best?
  5. Final Result
  6. Announcements

The final product of our repot. March 2023. The pot is from Ancient Art Bonsai by Mark Passerrello.

January 9, 2023

Bonsai From Seed: Essential Steps for Success - Full Lecture

 Source material: Nov 20, 2022

        Have you ever tried one of those bonsai-from-seed kits and nothing grew? Or maybe you had a few seeds grow but had no idea what the next steps were to transform your seedling into a bonsai! Growing a bonsai from scratch is an intoxicating idea for beginners, but it is also one of the hardest feats to accomplish. In this lecture, I explain the basics of seed collection, storage, and germination to help you optimize your success at waking seeds up. I also explained the steps necessary to shape seedlings over the years following germination which will help you build sizable trunks and tapering branches to create a convincing and stunning bonsai. You can also participate in the active learning questions from home by commenting below and listening in on the discussions and questions from the Columbus Bonsai Society (CBS) members who attended. I gave this lecture in November 2022 for the Columbus Bonsai Society. Join us at

Find the full lecture here:

Read on for more resources on growing bonsai from seed....