Wiring

Wiring is perhaps the most misunderstood of all the techniques used in bonsai. It drives little old lady's POTTY (sorry mum!) to think of those poor little trees encased in that nasty wire. If they knew that wiring was only used temporarily, to hold the branches in a desired position, to add to the impression of age, and add to the artistic effect, they'd still go POTTY (there's no pleasing some folk!). Wire is only left on as long as it takes for the tree to set in the desired position

It is pointless, and dangerous to wire an unhealthy tree. The way that wiring works is that, in bending the wood, you stress, and sometimes damage the cells. The tree while repairing the damage grows into the shape imposed on it by the wire. So if you wire a tree that is not in full vigour, it is unable to complete the repair, perhaps loseing the branch, or dying in the process.

The Wire is wrapped around the item being shaped (Branch or Trunk), which is then bent into the desired position.

Wire is only left on the tree as long as it takes for the shape to set. which may be a few weeks in the case of new foliage, or a year if larger material.

Wire is usually applied in mid to late summer, as the tree is in active growth, and will set into shape much quicker. Conifers may be left in wire over winter. Care must be taken to ensure that as the tree grows, the wire does not bite into it causing scarring.

It is best to cut the wire from the tree when it has done it's job, trying to unwind it to use it again may cause damage.

The wire should be applied at an angle of about 45 to the item being wired, having the coils furthur apart makes the wire less effevtive.

Try to keep the coils reasonably close together, not doing so reduces the strength of the wire.

It is not advisable to try to alter the angle where the branch meets the trunk, this will almost certainly cause the branch to break off. If you do need to lower the branch, start at a point further out.

If you try to start the bend close to the trunk (a), you may break the branch off. Starting the bend at (b) is much safer, and more natural, as it is only as the branch develops, the weight of the foliage will start to drag the branch downward.

When wiring branches with foliage (both deciduous and coniferous), avoid trapping the foliage under the wire as shown on the left. this will damage the leaves and provide a gateway for infection. The picture on the right shows how it should be done to both coniferous and deciduous foliage.

Wire

Wire obtained from specialist (Bonsai) suppliers is Aluminum, and is available in two types, Plain (Silver), and 'Anodised', where the wire is given a brown coating. Which one you choose is up to you, the anodised is less visually obvious, however the plain is more noticeable when you are watching to see if the wire is biting into a developing branch.

If you do not have access to bonsai wire use any wire that is capable of being bent without to much effort, then removed easily.

Bonsai wire is available in different sizes from 1.5mm to 6mm, and selecting the correct size for the job is not an easy task for most people.

A selection of bonsai wire, both anodised and plain

To get a feel for the size of wire needed, try bending the wood (branch or trunk), and get some idea of the effort involved, then try and apply the same effort to the wire you wish to use. If there is to much 'give' in the wire the you need a thicker wire or to 'double wrap' it.

If you do not have wire of sufficient strength for the job you wish to do, 'double wrap' the wire, apply two pieces of wire parallel, this should overcome the problem.

If you do not have a strong enough wire for the material you wish to bend, try using two thinner wires wrapped in parallel.

Other methods for lowering branches are:

Tying the branch down, either with string or wire.

This branch has been tied down to a Jin with wire, the wire was twisted to tension it.

Hanging weights on a branch will also cause it to hang down.

Both of the above methods, while effective will take longer to achieve your aim than wiring will.

Clamps designed specifically to bend branches, or trunks are available from specialist bonsai suppliers.

Allen. C. Roffey 14:31 18/01/2003