A large cotoneaster tanuki bonsai challenge

In the Autumn of 2019 at a John Hanby bonsai workshop, one of the other students (Keith) very kindly gave me a Cotoneaster bonsai that had been fastened to a large piece of deadwood to make it into a tanuki bonsai. I had previously admired this tree as it looked very effective. However, the deadwood had not been sufficiently treated to preserve it against rotting resulting in the deadwood becoming very unstable and rotten.

Before I even managed to get the tree home the deadwood had broken away from the wood that was anchored in the soil. I was hoping to rescue and stabilise the whole of the deadwood but unfortunately the base had totally turned to dust and was beyond saving. The rest of the deadwood was very soft but still in one piece. I pored six bottles of super glue into the softened deadwood and this immediately stabilised the wood making it hard and waterproof. When doing this you need to wear a mask as the process gives off a toxic gas.

The problem I now had was how to replace the rotted base of the deadwood with something that would not easily rot. I had a large piece of tufa rock that I thought may do the job as it is very light, can be easily shaped into a stable base and would not quickly deteriorate in the damp soil. Fastening the deadwood to the tufa may be a challenge but I had been told that Gorilla Glue set rock hard in the presence of water and any excess could be carved to shape. I decided to give this a try and so I slip potted the tree into a large mica pot to help reduce the overall weight and also so I could return the original pot to Keith.

I am not sure if this process will be successful or not but as they say ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’ and I will update this blog at a later date to let you know how it has turned out.