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Building a Tanuki or Phoenix Graft Bonsai

Guest Article by Vic Harris

This Tanuki bonsai was put together by Vic Harris of Erin Pottery using a Japanese Larch/Larix kaempferi. Most Tanuki/Phoenix Grafts are made as a 'shortcut' to a thick trunked bonsai; with this tree,Vic has instead used the deadwood to add interest to an otherwise mediocre trunk.

 


Tanuki or Pheonix Graft Bonsai

 

I recently aquired this Larch, it was a tree a friend of mine didn't want, so he asked me if I'd like it.
I accepted, however i was not really sure what to do with it once i had got it. Though I wanted to put my stamp on the tree to make it mine.
I decided that some drift wood, would really add some character to this tree.

 

I live about 15 miles from the mouth of a large estuary, so I set off down to the foreshore to see what I could find. In the end i gathered up about 20 or so pieces of wood and went home.
After sorting through the pile, I found one piece that was perfect. I've soaked it in wood preserver and applied some lime sulphur to stop the wood rotting in the future.

To build the Tanuki I'll add a base to the drift wood made from car body filler and chicken wire, and drill holes in it for the roots of the tree to grow through.
Then i'll remove bark from the trunk, where the drift wood is going to be attached.
I'll attach the the drift wood very tightly with plastic ties, and then apply grafting wax to the joined area where the peeled bark and drift wood meet, this will stop the area drying out in the early stages of forming a callous.
I'll also clean all traces of soil from the root ball with a jet on a hose pipe, this should give nice free roots to feed through the holes in the base of the drift wood.

 

 

 

Tanuki or Pheonix Graft Bonsai

 

Tanuki or Pheonix Graft Bonsai

 

Here is the tree with the driftwood loosely wired to get some idea what it will look like.

 

And a drawing of how I'd like it to look when finished and planted in a slab/rock pot that I will make for it in the future.

 

Tanuki or Pheonix Graft Bonsai

 

Tanuki or Pheonix Graft Bonsai

 

To make the base of the driftwood I made a rough ball (about fist size) from the chicken wire and then loosely stuck the end of the wood into the chicken wire ball.




Then I used some fast-setting epoxy resin to glue the wire to the wood, this was rock solid within about ten minutes.

 

Tanuki or Pheonix Graft Bonsai

 

Tanuki or Pheonix Graft Bonsai

 

Once it was set, I then applied car body filler to the wire, making sure to work it in well. I think it is best to use a light coloured filler, as this will blend with the colour of the drift wood more easily.

 

Whilst applying the filler, Iheld the wood in a vice.

 

 

Tanuki or Pheonix Graft Bonsai

 

Tanuki or Pheonix Graft Bonsai

 

Once dry I used the exterior wood filler to blend in the areas where the filler and wood meet, this disguises the union quite well and also has a slightly porous surface which accepts lime sulphur well.
I'll leave all this to dry well for a week and then next week end i'll attach the wood to the tree.

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Copyright 2005 Vic Harris. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without permission of Vic Harris prohibited.


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