In the art of Bonsai, wiring is the most used method for shaping a tree and for achieving stunning shapes. Wire is an indispensable tool that the Bonsai enthusiast needs and wiring is a skill that he or she has to develop and master. Proficiency and familiarity with wires and wiring is a skill that he or she has to develop and master. Wiring a Bonsai is like putting braces on the teeth. Most well designed Bonsai have been wired at some point of time during its growing stage.
By winding wires around the trunk or branch of a bonsai, the enthusiastic able to bend the tree to the desired position. Wiring provides one the freedom to place a branch where the artists' imagination tells, it is needed. By wiring branches can be positioned in such a way as to create an illusion of maturity and branches can be moved to fill in areas of the tree. After a period of time, the trunk or branch stays in the new position even after the wire is removed. Without wiring, the bonsai practitioner would otherwise have to wait for the shoots to grow in the desired direction.
Best Time for Wiring
There is no best or ideal time to wire a Bonsai and can be done at any time of the year. Generally, trees are wired when they are dormant during the winter season or after a growth spurt in the early to late summer season. Wiring can also be done during the summer months so as to ensure that the green branches are positioned before they harden and become rigid.
Wiring should never be done on a weak or unhealthy tree as bending the branches causes a solid amount of stress on the tree and if the tree is not healthy then the chances are that the tree may die. In case, the branch of fractures, discontinue wiring on that specific branch thereby allowing the branch to heal. Before wiring a bonsai, it should be allowed to try out for a few days, because when the tree is dehydrated, it becomes more flexible and less likely to fracture when wired.
Types of Wires Used
Basically, two kinds of wire can be used:
Adonized Aluminium and Annealed Copper.
The aluminium wire is used for deciduous species while the harder copper wire is used for thick trunk and large branches and for conifers and pines because after it is coiled it becomes stiffer giving better holding power. Wires are available in a range of different thickness varying 1 to 8mm. While wiring thick branches it is recommended to wrap them first with raffia salt in water (a palm fibre, available at garden centres), which will protect the branches from being damaged by the wire when bending them.
Step 1 - Select a Suitable Wire
The thumb rule for selecting the proper gauge wire is to use a wire that is roughly one third the width of the branch that is to be wired. Another easy method of finding out the suitable gauge of the wire is to take a wire and straighten out about two of it on one end and press it against the branch that needs to be bent. If the branch does not bend but the wire does, which means that the plants need a thicker wire.
Step 2 - Anchor the Wire
Before wiring the trunk or any branch, the wire should first be anchored securely. When wiring the trunk, anchoring is done by inserting the wire into the soil, making sure it does not move. While when wiring a branch, if device is not secured in the ground, then the wire should be wrapped and anchored around branch which is opposite to the branch to be bent. The wire has to encircle the trunk at least once so that it is properly secured and does not move. If the wire is not properly and anchored, then when one branch is shaped, the wire will move the other branch which can damage or break the branch.
Step 3: Method of Wiring
The length of wire needed for wiring a branch should be approximate 1/3 longer than the branch being wired. To begin wiring, use the thumb to secure the wire to the space where a spiral is gaining to begin. The distance between the spiral should be the same with angle of inclination being 45 degrees. A small gap should always be left between the wires and the branch so that the branch has a room to grow without having the wire cut into the branch.
Never try bending the branch to the desired form while in the process of wiring, but wait till the wire has been applied fully to the branch. Bending the trunk or the branch should be done using both hands and if the entire Bonsai is being fired it is best begin with the trunk and then move on to the largest branch and then to the smaller branches. After wiring, always cut the ends of the wire without leaving any protruding ends.
In some cases, trunks or branches cannot be bent with one wire. In such cases double wiring can be used to bend these trunks or branches. The second wire should always follow the same path of the first wire and both the wires should never cross each other.
Wiring a branch with two different gauge wires:
On some branches, it may happen, a thicker wire may be used to start with, but towards the end of the branch, transition to a thinner wire may be required. The thinner wire should start about 2 inches before the end of the thicker wire as an anchor and the same angle of inclination of 45 degree should be followed. When using two different gauges of wire, the heaviest wire is used first and then the thinner one - otherwise the thin wire will be concealed by the thicker wire causing damage to the trunk as the thin wire could not be seen.
Wiring two branches with a single wire
In wiring, the goal is to use as little wire as possible and hence it is advisable to use one single wire for wiring two branches. Select two branches that are similar and thickness but not too far away some each other, so that the anchoring has to be done only once. Take the appropriate length of wire to wrap around both the branches and anchor the wire on the first branch by wrapping a few times, as this will hold the wire steady when wrapping the second branch. Complete wiring the second branch from the base of the branch to the very tip at an 45 degree angle and then go back and finish wiring the first branch.
General Rules for Shaping a Branch
1. If a branch is to be bent down, the first wrap of the wire must come over the top of the branch and vice versa.
2. If a branch is to bent to the right, the first wrap of the wire must be wound clockwise and vice versa.
3. Try to eliminate cross wiring.
Removing the Wire
As a bonsai tree begins to grow the branches gradually thicken. As the branches increase in size, the wire that was wound around the branch gets tighter and will cause scarring on the branch. Ensure that the wire is not left too long on the tree as scaring is unappealing. The wire should be checked periodically and should be removed as soon as it starts cutting into the bark. Wires should always be removed with the help of wire cutters and the wire should be cut after each successive turn and should never be unwound for it can cause damage.