Part 17 of a series by Eugene Howell
Bonsai wiring is what gives the bonsai artist nearly total control over the shape and design of his or her bonsai tree. By using wire, we can implement a curve into a branch where there hadn’t been one before. We can force a branch to lean one way or another. We can even coerce branches to begin growing in a direction different from where they originally wanted to go.
Wiring can control movement in the trunk, branches and sometimes even the roots. Wiring is to bonsai what a steering wheel is to a car. It allows you to tell the bonsai in what direction to go (grow).
Bonsai wiring works because, when done properly, it allows the artist to bend a branch to a desired shape and direction. The wire itself holds the branch in the desired position until enough new wood is grown to solidify this new shape. But wiring can be both a blessing and a curse because if it’s left on too long it can cause terrible, unsightly scarring on a tree.
Bonsai wire is made of either aluminum or copper and is highly specialized specifically for use in growing bonsai trees. So don’t go to your local hardware store searching for it. You’ll only find it on websites that sell bonsai related tools and supplies or at nurseries that sell bonsai trees.
Bonsai wire comes in a variety of thickness and you’ll need a good variety. Thicker wire is used for thicker branches and thinner wire for thinner branches. Several of the club members from my bonsai group have made stands from pvc that can hold several roles of bonsai wire at once and make it easy to transport and work with.
Effective bonsai wiring takes some practice and skill, perhaps even some trial and error while learning how not to break branches. The wire should be applied at a 45º angle to the branch being wired. Remember also that spacing is especially important and having your coils further apart lessens the wires ability to hold a branch in its desired shape and position.
When removing wire it’s always best to carefully cut each loop off the tree rather than attempting to uncoil it. Doing so reduces the chance of breaking branches.
Wiring a bonsai tree is as much an art form as the bonsai itself so to really get a good feel for how it’s done it’s best to join a club and watch someone demonstrate it for you and ask them to show you how to do it right. You can also watch internet videos on the subject to get a good idea of how to wire a bonsai tree.
Photo credit: flickr Creative Commons,bonsai tree wrapped with wire by Dmitry Barsky