Wiring Bonsai and Bonsai Shaping
This is perhaps the most characteristic aspect of the art of bonsai, at least to the beginner. The necessity is born out of the need to modify the natural arrangement of branches to encourage them to grow to one of the classic styles.
Essential equipment is brass or copper wire, occasionally steel wire (although rust may present a problem here) of different gauges. The thicker wire is used for the trunk and thinner wire for branches. To work it into position you will also need a pair of flat, long-han-dled, short-bladed pliers and a pair of wire cutters.
Though it is not strictly wiring equipment, the clamp, or ‘trunk wrench’, enables you to bend the trunk or larger branches to the required shape.
This consists of wrapping the length of metal wire spirally round the trunk or branch, working upwards from the lower end. This restrictive wrapping will enable you to obtain the shape you require. The wire should not be too tight, or it will cut off the sap flow and eventually strangle the tree.
This technique of shaping bonsai has developed relatively recently, but it is universally approved. However, you must be careful that it does not mark the bark or become embedded in the tree. For this reason it must be regularly removed and rewound.
Conifers should be wired at the end of the dormant period, usually in late winter. By contrast, deciduous trees should be wired in spring. Wiring should be left on conifers for five to six months and on deciduous trees for about eight to ten months, though there are no hard and fast rules. Keep a watchful eye on your bonsai, and remove any wires that threaten to mark the wood.
Metal wire is also used to brace the branches. That is, it is used to keep tension (generally downwards) on branches so that they maintain their direction of growth. Copper wire which is used for bracing should be anchored in the ground by a hook, or simply attached to the container. In some cases, the wire bracing may link the trunk and one branch.
Wiring is one of the bonsai styling techniques and not a part of the aesthetics of bonsai as many seem to think. Trees should therefore not be kept permanently wired, as if the wire had some significance in itself. Wiring is a rather clumsy method of shaping the tree, considered by some to be contradictory to the spirit of bonsai. It should be practised sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.
If you have inadvertently forgotten a wire and it has become embedded in the wood, do not try to remove it, as you will probably do more harm than good. Simply cut it off flush with the wood.