The subject of this article is a Fuchsia microphylla bonsai that I was asked to restyle as well as curing the base of the trunk which was rapidly rotting away.
Fuchsia wood is very susceptible to softening and can rot very quickly. This area of deadwood at the base of the tree had become very soft, as had many of the surrounding (dead) surface roots. Unless the wood-rot was treated now, another year or two would see the vast majority of this area crumble away, leaving a much smaller and inferior trunkbase.
On first inspection it can be difficult to establish exactly which parts of the trunkbase are live and which are dead, the work needs to be carried out slowly and surely to ensure the live wood/live veins are not damaged.
Using a wire-brush attached to my Dremel rotary tool, I began brush away the outermost layers of soft wood on the hollow in the centre of the base. Only light-pressure is exerted on the wood to remove the softest wood-layers.
After removing all of the softwood from the hollow, notice that for the sake of appearance, I have tried to use the wire brush so that it follows the natural grain of the wood.
To my great disappointment, I soon realised that the wood above the hollow was rotting badly and the wonderful mature bark was literally falling away.
Though the bark was a great feature on the bonsai, without removing it, the wood underneath would continue to rot, and in the long-term, leaving the bark in place and the wood untreated would have a negative impact on the appearance of the tree. So, with reluctance, the bark was removed from the dead areas of wood.
Picking away the mature bark from the deadwood was easy as it had begun to separate already..
The base of the trunk after exposure and brushing of all the dead areas of the trunk. The live area/live vein, including the green of the immature bark, can be seen running along the bottom half of the trunk
After I had completed the work, it could be seen that the top half of the trunk was entirely dead and rotting away, while the bottom half, including its roots, were live and well.
Applying the first coat of wood-hardener.
With the wood cleaned and dry, it was time to apply the wood-hardener. There are many brands of hardener available, in this case I am using 'Wet-Rot Wood Hardener' by Ronseal, a product marketed for curing wooden window frames with wet-rot.
The properties of wood-hardeners are such that if they are applied with a paint brush, the paint brush will be unusuable as soon as the hardener begins to dry. And so, for relatively small areas of wood I use cotton-buds to 'paint' the hardener onto the surface of the wood.