Driftwood Infusion or Tanuki Bonsai

Author and Bonsai Artist – TESS SIMPSON

I found this lovely two tone piece of driftwood possibly Mulga Wood.

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From memory I think it came from outback Australia when we were rounding up some firewood. Needless to say that it didn’t end up in the fire.

I just fell in love with the movement and the two tone colour. I now enhance the two tone effect by lime sulphur wash to the lighter areas and almond oil to the inside darker area.

I tried several angles and this one seemed to be the most pleasing. This also then dictated the direction of the tree.

I would suggest that a lot of the dead wood out there is indeed only fit for firewood, however there is always one that will be exceptional so don’t throw anything away until you have given it that ‘second’ glance.


A Shimpaku Juniper was chosen to use because of its flexibility.


I created this piece as a demonstration of ‘Tanuki Bonsai’ for the Toowoomba Bonsai Club on a visit here to the Nursery. My friend, Bronwyn assisted me.

Much of the decision making on angles, selection of tree stock is made well before you get to the stage of putting live and deadwood together, so take your time at this point and be prepared to change your mind until you are totally comfortable with your decisions. Many of my thoughts and ideas seem to come to me in the early hours of the morning. 3 AM to 4 AM must be my time for inspirations!!!!

In this instance it was a simple matter to attach the live tree. I channelled a grove up the rear side of the driftwood so the Juniper would nestle into the driftwood. I used a dremmel to curve out the channel. The Juniper had a natural bend forward so I positioned the live tree into the channel and the forward movement ‘hugged’ the driftwood.

I used a piece of wire to tie the driftwood and the live tree together about 2/3rd of the way up. Should I have any separation in the future, I will use a stainless steel screw, pre drill the hole so the tree doesn’t split and permanently attach.

When potting this Bonsai, I deliberately placed a lot of top dressing pebbles under the base of the driftwood. I am hoping that if I keep this area well drained, the wood will not rot.

Some members were not particularly happy that I had crossed a live branch across a dead branch. (left hand side).

To my defense, I believe in guidelines NOT rules. Again, to my defence, I surmise that the live tree would grow in the same direction as the old dead wood. It would be affected by exactly the same environment impact that shaped the first part of the tree.

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This is how the Bonsai Creation looked at the end of the demonstration. At this time I potted into a training pot, giving the Juniper ample room to grow and develop.


The support training wires have now been removed and the Bonsai re-potted into a pot more in keeping with the tree’s dynamics. Words fail me as to just how much pleasure I have had in creating this piece of art, nature and nurture go hand in hand.

The Japanese word ‘Tanuki’ literally means ‘trickery’.


Toowoomba Club visiting again 10th June 2017.

It is nice to share with them the final result of this project