Monday, October 24, 2011

Phoenix Graft: Juniper x Burr Oak

Text and photos by Trina

As has been said before, the phoenix graft is a quick bonsai technique. So quick that it took a mere 12 months to get past the first step of my first effort at it: two burr oak whips grafted onto a juniper skeleton that I hauled home last December.

The process began even earlier than that, though, with the gathering of acorns last fall. The acorns were then stratified over the winter and planted in March of this year. Today, the seven month old tree-lets (soaking in root stim before transplant)

were given a new home and hopefully a new life, as opposed to a new death, which has been the trend with my efforts at proper bonsai in the past. But this isn't proper bonsai. This is giant bonsai: more soil, more water storage capacity, more chance of survival.

By no means the *right* way to go about making a phoenix graft, this is how I did this one:

Drill holes in the base of the skeleton tree and pound rebar into those holes at angles that will give the skeleton some stability in the soil.

Place the whip/s. In this case, in lieu of carving a channel for the whip, which is what would normally happen at this stage, I'm using a naturally existing groove on the front side

and tucking a second whip into the back side of the skeleton so both trees will wend their way up the skeleton as they grow.

Tie the whip in place. The green tape alone wasn't enough to keep the whip pushed down into the groove, so I padded it with some tree wrap.

The "quick" part being completed, now begins the extremely slow part: waiting for the trees to grow and look like they're one with the skeleton, like the whole shabang is one really ancient tree with just a couple of living veins remaining, still producing green growth. In the meantime, I'll have this horrid little Frankenstein tree with which to frighten my gardener friends.

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