Bonsai from a Pre-Bonsai
by Nanci Strickland, Former Club President
Work at your Level by raising
or lowering your work area.
Comfortable chair/stool at proper height for table. No leaning
over your work.
Table large enough to hold everything you need.
If standing, get a short step (yoga or jazzercise), place under table
shift weight while working.
Locate pre-bonsai from
D&L, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Porters, garden
Look for plants with interesting trunk line; NOT necessarily roots that
are bulky or weird.
Push soil away from main trunk base to see what is below the soil line.
Select one with a wide trunk base or potential for one.
Purchase, take home and STUDY it, sketch the line BEFORE you do
Make notes: such as date purchased and why you selected it.
Plastic (cover table), newspapers, plastic pan, turntable, tools, wire,
Assortment of pots, good bonsai soil mix, chopstick.
Clean off soil from trunk base down to the main roots.
Study all angles looking for widest part of trunk base.
Determine the front of tree, the side of the tree facing the viewer. If
can’t find the front, look for
back which gives you the front.
Remove “basals” (suckers) growing from roots which
nutrients from tree.
Look for alternating limbs/branches, left right, back, etc. going up
Very low branches on trunk will widen the base, called sacrifice
branches, but should be removed before they may produce large scaring.
Narrow down style options by beginning to clean out growth absolutely
Give special consideration to removing branches growing on inside
curves of trunk, in middle of tree, overlapping or multiple branches
from one union.
Better to leave more on the tree than removing too much.
Good rule: When in doubt, leave it on; it can always be removed later.
Remember it can always be wired and twisted or moved to a proper
As pruning progresses, have a clear idea of the style you want to
Begin wiring branches which need to be placed differently. DO NOT move
Visualize the tree; check your sketch, tree options may have changed.
You or the tree may have changed your mind.
Completely wire the tree where needed.
After completely wiring tree, shape it by keeping the intended style
Trim as needed.
Always Style Tree
before potting it
Prepare pot by covering holes with screen & wire in place. You
want to prepare all your pots in advance.
Using root hook, pick out main roots from root ball.
Begin by placing/positioning tree in a pot in various positions
appropriate for style and type of tree (Masculine, feminine, width,
thickness, color) keeping in mind the 1/3
vs. 2/3 proportions.
Never position the tree in the middle of the pot unless it is a round
Remove appropriate amount of roots, reposition/recheck in pot.
Pull tree out, place a mound of soil under where the trunk will be
Position tree, add soil, use chopstick in circular motions to tighten
soil, repeat, going round & around tree until soil is tight.
Spray with water thoroughly until water runs out the drain holes of the
Keep out of direct sun approximately 2 weeks or until new growth is
A good re-potting
guide is if you remove 1/3 off top, remove 1/3 roots
The tree will appear in a formal
container, relatively small compared to the tree.
Except for the tree(s) and optional patches of moss, no other plant
should appear in a bonsai container.
Except for the vegetation, soil, and natural-looking rocks, no other
object should appear in a bonsai container.
The tree will have a distinct "front" from which it is intended to be
The trunk should taper significantly from base to top.
The tree's rootage should be exposed at the base of the trunk and
should flare wider than the trunk as it enters the ground.
No visible roots should cross each other.
Branches should begin about one-third of the way up the trunk, and be
continuous from there to the tip of the trunk (this guideline is
specifically broken for the literati, or Bunjin-gi, style).
Branch size should diminish from the base to the top of the tree.
No major tree branch should cross the trunk when viewed from the tree's
Branch ramification, particularly in deciduous trees, should increase
towards the tip of each branch.
Branch shape should reflect the weight of age, particularly in
conifers, and branches may be shaped to tend downwards toward the tip
in support of this practice.
The trunk may be a straight vertical shape or may be contorted in
different directions over its length, but in styles where the tip of
the tree is above the container, the tip should tilt slightly forward
at the top (toward the viewer).
Foliage (leaves or needles) should be small and to scale with the tree
and its branches.
All trees in a multi-tree bonsai planting should be of the same species.
David VanBuskirk, Owner of D&L
defoliate to reduce the leaf size and to promote
ramification. In deciduous trees it will help enhance the fall color.
It will also help prevent shock when transplanting during active growth
season. You can defoliate most deciduous trees and broadleaf
shouldn't do it to most flowering, fruiting or berry trees and not at
all to conifers. Only defoliate a young and healthy tree. You are
forcing the next years
growth, so an unhealthy or very old tree may fail to re-sprout and die.
When you defoliate cut every leaf off, leaving any leaves, especially
the young tips, will encourage them to grow instead of others
re-sprouting. You should cut at the base of the leaf, leaving some of
the leaf stem, this will protect the dormant bud at the base of the
leaf stem. While the tree is defoliated you can get a good view
of its branch
structure, so it is a good time to wire or make any other styling
After defoliating, keep the tree in a shady spot until new sprouts
emerge and then start giving it more sun. The more sun the tree gets
the smaller the leaves will stay and the better ramification you will
have. Do not fertilize before or after defoliating. Be careful not to
over-water as the tree will not dry out as soon with no leaves to
Partial defoliation can be done on all species, but more commonly on
species that cannot be totally defoliated. Do so by removing the larger
leaves through the growing season until late summer. Also, you can
partially defoliate larger or stronger branches to aid in the
development of smaller or weaker branches. Reducing the leaves on the
top of your tree will let in more light to the lower branches and
encourage more growth there.
It is best to learn as much as possible about the species of trees you
are growing so you will know when or if to defoliate, when to re-pot,
wire and style. Doing so will enable you to keep your tree healthy for
I defoliate my deciduous trees in April after the spring growth has
completely hardened off. That is when the leaves have lost their spring
green color and are getting stiffer. Waiting too long will actually
increase your leaf size and lengthen your internode spacing.
I defoliate my Ficus in May after the night temperatures have been
steadily in the 60's. You can defoliate
Schefflera, Fukien Tea, Philippine Jasmine, Bougainvillea or just about
any of your tropicals at this time of year. I
have done it right up to October without any
problems but early summer is the best time.
After you have defoliated your tree and the leaves are growing back
keep your growth tips pinched off. This will keep your growth further
back in the branch, keep your internodes short and improve your
ramification. In spring you will constantly be doing this to your
deciduous trees, especially your Maples. Most of your tropicals and all
of your Ficus will need
their tips pinched throughout the entire growing season.
Diseases, Pesky Things and Solutions
by Nanci Strickland, Former Club President
Note: Prevention is best by using Systemic Insecticide all the
contains detailed information on control of Insect and Related Pests
Pests of Foliage Plants
Household Ant & Roach Spray, Ant Bait Stations. Only spray
the soil, NOT the foliage.
Blast of Water (Very
Temporary), Systemic Insecticide (Bonide)
Clean cultural practices and lack of excessive watering usually will
prevent fungus gnat infestations.
If you get a serious infestation, the best way
to clear it up is to re-pot completely replacing the soil.
Purchase organic fruit fly
sprays from a garden center or organic growing
Nemeticide - keep your bonsai off the
Rubbing Alcohol applied with Q-Tips and
Systemic Insecticide (Bonide)
lizards. Don't discourage the little lizards love to eat moths.
Keep an eye out and just pick them off
Scale - Brown
1/2 Gallon Water with 1 TBS Formula 409 & 1 TBS Dishwash Liquid -
Mix & Spray
Alcohol applied with Q-Tips, and Systemic
Scale - White
1/2 Gallon Water with 1 TBS Formula 409 & 1 TBS
Dishwash Liquid - Mix & Spray
applied with Q-Tips, and Systemic
Spider Egg Balls
Remove by hand or use tweezers (after killing spider)
1/2 Gallon Water with 1 TBS Formula 409 & 1 TBS
Dishwash Liquid - Mix & Spray
applied with Q-Tips, and Systemic
particularly troublesome situations, try insecticidal soap or an
insecticidal oil such as neem oil or narrow-range oil.
Worms in Soil
Systemic Insecticide (Bonide) - May have to change soil
Azalea Leaf Gall Cut off
ENTIRE branch with gall - back to the first main junction
Black Leaf Spot
Brown Leaf Spot Identify problem,
then treat - see http://www.gardenguides.com/117232-brown-spots-bonsai-leaves.html
Sitting on Tree Tops & Breaking Branches or Crunching Tops -
discourage birds - do not feed, etc.
trees to prevent birds from eating fruit
Brown/Black Jelly 1/4 cup Apple Cider
Vinegar in 1 Gallon Water - scrub
Brown Leaf Edges Watering Too Infrequently -
Water more often & thoroughly
Brown Leaf Stems Watering Too Frequently,
Place Bamboo Stick under one pot edge to help drain
Chewing Leaves - Remove Caterpillars,
Alcohol or Lysol applied directly with Q-Tips or leave it - it looks
Move Trees Higher
(off the ground) - bonsai outside should always be on stands or benches
Sooty Black Mold Rubbing Alcohol or Lysol
applied with Q-Tips
Digging in Pots -
There is no solution...you want these
Bees Lady Bugs
Lizards Praying Mantis Stick
Bugs Frogs/Tree Frogs
for Pest Control
ants, aphids, scale, spider mites
2 tablespoons of 409 or Fantastic.
2 tablespoons of anti-bacterial dish washing liquid (Dawn, Joy, others,
(BUT DO NOT use Dove or Ivory or anything with lotions).
1 gallon water pour tablespoons of appropriate amounts into gallon
container (either before or after water is in it).
Mix thoroughly. Pour into a sprayer and keep it handy from spring
through fall. Place the tree in a shady area THEN spray the leaves
(including underside), branches, trunk and you can drench the soil.
Keep in the shady area until dry, otherwise the solution will burn the
Recipe for brown and black
"sludge" on Top of Soil
Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (white vinegar
doesn't work as well).
1 gallon water mix thoroughly.
Spray on sludge (NOT on leaves or trunk - only on portions of trunk
with "sludge") If the "sludge" dries out on top of the soil, it doesn't
let the water go through so your tree can be dying for a drink of water
and you don't even know it. If the "sludge" dries out, you can pull it
off, throw away and top dress with new soil.
Pruning and trimming must be performed on every tree
the year. In the case of deciduous trees, such as maples and elms,
pruning and trimming is best performed throughout the growing season.
Juniper, pines, and cypress are finger nipped throughout the growing
season to keep the tree shaped. Trimming the under & inner
is needed monthly.
Bonsai can be transplanted when the roots in the container have become
root bound. A root-bound condition is one in which the roots have
extended themselves to the point where they are no longer able to gain
sustenance from the soil. This becomes apparent when the roots are seen
growing out the sides of the container. For most bonsai, this
occurs approximately every three to five years.
Most bonsai can live in this root bound condition, providing they get
ample water. However, this is an unhealthy situation and should be
pruning is not a hazardous operation if it is done at the right time of
the year and if one is careful not to take away much of the soil from
the soil-rootball. One can safely take away one-third of the total
volume of soil from the tree providing it is done just before the
growth starts in the spring.
Pick a day that is overcast
if you are re-potting outdoors.
1. Carefully take the tree out of the container without disrupting the
soil around the roots. The soil should be moderately dry. Tree
placement in the container is important, so before removing the tree
from the container, take a good
look at where it is placed.
2. Untangle the roots from the soil-root-ball.
3. Using an unsharpened pointed stick, pick away the soil from the
soil-root-ball on side and bottom of the ball.
4. Remove approximately one-third of the soil from around the
soil-root-ball. Be careful not to disrupt the soil around the
trunk of the tree.
5. Carefully trim off the roots that are now exposed due to the soil
removal with a pair of sharp scissors, leaving one-inch of the roots
still extended beyond the soil-root-ball.
6. Using a good grade of potting soil mixture designed for bonsai,
place enough soil in the container so that when the tree is replaced
within the container, the top surface of the soil is even with or
slightly below the edge of the container.
7. Place the tree back into the container and locate it where it was
prior to it’s removal.
8. Fill the sides of the container with the soil mixture.
9. Pack the soil firmly into the container to ensure that there are no
air pockets around the roots.
10. Water the soil to saturation. Water the bonsai after packing the
soil, not before.
11. Keep the tree in shaded location through the spring and summer.
12. Continue to water the bonsai as you did before re-potting.
13. A vitamin called “SuperThrive” or a stronger
“Bonsai Master” fertilizer is recommended when
A table showing when best to re-pot specific species of trees is presented for guidance - Select Table
Submitted by David
soil in which you choose to grow your bonsai is
in effect its sole 'life’ support; and as such you cannot pay
much attention to its preparation. It should be considered very
carefully in terms of the function it has to perform for a particular
species of tree at a particular age.
Before going into the specifics of soil preparation there are certain
key points to take into account. The soil has to physically as well as
nutritionally support the tree; it must be able to drain freely; it
needs to contain oxygen in the form of air; it should have the capacity
to remain comfortably damp without becoming waterlogged; it should have
within its properties a 'buffer' capable of reserving nutrients in a
dissolved state; it should be possible to control its pH value; it
should not be unsightly in its appearance; it should be capable of
retaining its physical state for as long as possible to reduce any
tendency to compact.
Having said this, there is no single bonsai 'magic mix,' and most
bonsai enthusiasts tend to arrive at their own conclusions concerning
the right soil. This, to a great extent, is dependent on the
local availability of the necessary ingredients. What is important is
that the function of the soil is fully understood and some of the
points mentioned will serve as a useful guide.
I use grimson stone and crushed lava rock for my aggregate, but any
natural colored stone less than 1/4" in size will do. I have heard of
people using cat litter, Turface, or Oil-Dri which are all calcinated
clay. My experience with calcinated clay here in Florida is with our
summer rains it stays too wet and breaks down too quickly. Clay is good
at holding nutrients in the soil but it also holds the salts and other
unwanted ingredients from your fertilizer which could toxify your soil,
so I found a little clay is good but to use it as your main aggregate I
didn't care for. I found the natural rough aggregate works good. I sift
the aggregate through a 1/4" screen, what stays becomes my aggregate
for my coarse mix, what goes through is sifted again through a 1/8"
screen, what stays becomes my medium mix and what goes through is for
my fine mix.
For my organic component I use dried, aged, chipped pine bark. I sift
a 1/4" screen, what stays goes into my coarse mix and what goes through
is sifted again through a 1/8" screen, what stays is put into my medium
mix, what goes through is my fine mix.
The proportions of each are as follows:
30% pine bark
The proportions of each of the basic ingredients, however, will vary
according to the species of tree grown and as to which stage of
development the tree is in. Younger trees in early stages
need more organics for faster growth, whereas more mature trees will do
better in less organics to control growth. Conifers generally
prefer more aggregate for better drainage, maples and other deciduous
trees prefer more organics. Experimentation, followed by observation,
is the best way of finding out which soil mix is best suited to a
particular species and location. However, one can have good results by
using just a standard mix.
For the hobbyist with a few trees one would probably be better off
finding a source of standard, ready-made soil, suitable to your area
and then amending it to your particular species and age of tree. If you
have a large collection then doing all the work to make your own soil
might be beneficial.
ART OF WATERING
VanBuskirk, Owner of
is the most important aspect of bonsai care. If
you are like most people, and you don't have a green thumb, here are
three simple rules you might find useful:
Don't let the soil become bone dry.
When watering, water thoroughly. Make sure the water soaks all of the
Allow the soil to dry down to almost dry between waterings.
Check the soil for moisture daily. Don't just check the surface, but
stick your finger into the soil and see if there is moisture beneath
the surface. Then decide whether there is enough moisture to hold the
tree until the next time you can check. Be aware of conditions like sun
and humidity. If you think there isn't enough water in the soil to hold
the tree until you can check again, go ahead and water. Otherwise wait.
Though there is much more to the art of watering, if you follow these
simple instructions, you'll be off to a good start.
Though some books advocate soaking the pot in a tub of water, we don't
recommend this technique. We prefer top watering. Here's how you top
Use a watering can, hose with a nozzle, or any gentle stream of water.
Water through the leaves into the soil. This mimics rain by washing the
leaves. Do this for a few seconds, then wait a few seconds until the
water has soaked into the soil. Repeat 3 or 4 times or until you are
satisfied that all of the soil is well soaked.
Once the soil is soaked, wait until it is well dry before watering
again. If you don't let the soil dry down between waterings, at least
most of the time, then you run the risk of causing root rot.
Conversely, if you wait too long between waterings and allow the soil
to become bone dry, you run the risk of severely stressing your bonsai
CHECKING FOR MOISTURE
There are several ways to check the soil for moisture. Most people,
prefer sticking their finger a little way into the soil.
Another good technique, especially with deep pots, or when the soil is
somewhat compacted, is to use a chopstick. Push the stick way down nto
the soil and then pull it out. Feel the stick and the soil that comes
off onto the stick. If it is damp, wait to water. If it is dry, water
If the soil is only slightly damp (no matter how you check it) then you
need to consider the risk of it drying out too much before you have a
chance to check it again. If it is a hot dry day, and you are not sure,
it is better to go ahead and water. One of the worst things that can
happen to your bonsai is for it to cook in the sun with no moisture in
the soil. When a bonsai dies, more often than not, it is because
Persistent over watering will gradually kill your bonsai. If you don't
allow the soil to dry down between waterings, at least some of the
time, then your bonsai will develop root rot. This is a fungus that
thrives in persistently wet soil, and is anathema to roots.
However, the biggest risk of all is drying out. All you have to do is
forget to water it once. If the soil becomes bone dry, then your bonsai
will suffer. The longer it stays dry the more it will suffer. The risk
is particularly high if the tree sits in the hot sun with dry soil.
What actually happens is the dry soil sucks the moisture out of fine
white new feeder roots. After awhile these delicate new roots lose
their turgidity, and collapse. When these fine roots collapse, they
begin to disintegrate. When they disintegrate, they die. Without these
fine feeder roots your bonsai cannot absorb water, gasses and
nutrients, and your tree stresses and begins to die. So don't let
the soil become bone dry especially on hot dry days. If
you notice before there is any serious damage, you can still save the
WATERING BONSAI THAT HAS BECOME BONE
When you discover that the soil is bone dry and you suspect that there
is stress, here's what to do:
Don't soak the soil! Instead, immediately move the tree into the shade
and mist the leaves.
Then gradually introduce water into the soil. A
good way to do this is with your mister (if you don't have one you
probably should, but in the meantime use a small cup). Mist the surface
of the soil right after you mist the leaves. Wait a few minutes and
mist the soil again.
Do this over and over again, waiting a few minutes between each
misting, until the soil is gradually (emphasis on gradually) moistened
Make sure that the water has soaked all the way through. Now mist the
leaves again, and keep misting them every hour or so (if you can't do
every hour, just do whatever you can). Keep up the misting for a few
Next, be sure to wait until the soil is just slightly damp before you
water again. Repeat the gradual watering procedure the first three or
four times you water. After that, just water normally.
With stressed trees, your margin of error is reduced, so you must be
very careful to water only when needed. Don't water too often and
conversely, don't wait too long to water.
The key, as always, is paying close
attention. After three or four weeks you can gradually re-introduce
tree to more sun.
VanBuskirk, Owner of
come in organic and inorganic forms, all have the same three main
nutrients, those are the three numbers you see on the front of the
package. The first number is nitrogen N, which goes mainly to
vegetative growth, second number is phosphorus P and promotes flowers
and root growth, third number is potassium K and is for root growth and
helps the tree to overcome stress. Also contained in most fertilizers
are secondary nutrients, micro nutrients and minors, all are needed.
There are pros and cons in using only organic or inorganic. Organic
fertilizers tend to break down and may eventually clog the soil.
Inorganic fertilizers are bound by salt and may result in a salt build
up in the soil. Best to use some of both to assure your trees are
getting all the nutrients they require.
two most common inorganic fertilizers used are: granular time release,
such as Osmocote and water soluble fertilizer. Granular time release
has a temperature soluble covering that releases fertilizer in
proportion to the ambient temperature and gradually feeds the tree
every time you water. Water soluble fertilizers provide a more
immediate dose of nutrients. The nutrients do linger in the soil but
are quickly flushed out with each watering.
organic fertilizers used are: cottonseed meal, bone meal, blood meal,
fish emulsion and composted chicken manure. Generally these are used
more for specific species at specific times of the year. They are
mainly nitrogen and are good for promoting growth.
much to fertilize is based on certain criteria, what stage of growth
your tree is in. A younger tree needing to grow out will require much
more fertilizer then a more finished tree in a bonsai pot. What time of
year is it? Trees primarily feed throughout their active growing
season, hence no need to fertilize a dormant tree. Main objective is to
fertilize to maintain optimum health. Too much fertilizer will result
in rapid growth, long internodes and large leaves. Too little will
result in an unhealthy tree. Application rates should be full strength
as per instructions listed for houseplants. Root feeding in general is
best, foliar feeding, acts immediately and promotes more active leaf
and root growth. If a tree is in need of nutrients quickly, then foliar
All Bonsai Trees
Mid-October-early November, depending on weather (heat and winds),
begin reducing amount of water on an as-needed basis. Check with
“dirty forefinger” into soil. Dirt on finger
moisture in the soil. Remember, some trees only need watering every 2-3
Pots & Tools: Clean & sterilize, sharpen & oil
left outside may crack & freeze.
with sunny windows, rolling trays with covers, pop-ups from
3’x5’ - 8’x8’x8’.
One bulb electric line, space heaters, thermometer – Do not
“cook” the trees.
Need cellars, cold frames, sunny side of garages,
mulch into ground.
Check occasionally for watering if it hasn’t snowed, no
fertilizers except on tropicals lightly.
Temperatures are milder although they may dip to 28 degrees in central
Hardwoods: Birch Crepe Myrtle Cypress Elms Gingko Hollies
Loropetalum, Maples, Pyracantha, Serissa ,Texas Ebony.
Cedars, Junipers, Pines, Redwood.
Deciduous hardwoods and evergreens/conifers can withstand the
unless it is below 28 degrees for more than 3 hours in our Central
Florida area, specifically The Villages.
mixed into soil when repotting & top-dress.
Hardwoods need no liquid fertilizers in winter.
Evergreens with active growth in winter, ex: Junipers, feed
Trees – In LATE Winter just as buds start to swell &
sap starts to rise. Root pruning a dormant tree too soon causes it not
to have the stored nutrients needed to come out of dormancy, or it will
out & die. DO NOT Root pruning before tree goes dormant or all
its nutrients will bleed out the roots.
Evergreens/Conifers (except pines) Repot ONLY in coldest months:
January and early February.
Pines: Repot when white tips begin to grow on roots, usually late
February into March.
Pine schedule for this area - winter (late November-December): pull
last year’s needles.
February-March root prune & repot.
June (Father’s Day) cut candles.
Trees - Winter is best time since trees have stored up all nutrients
needed to begin new Spring growth plus leaves are not in way of wiring.
Tropicals & sub-tropicals:Bougainvillea, Black Olive, Brazilian
Malpighia, Barbados), Ficus/Fig (Benjamina, Green Island, Narrow/Willow
Leaf), Fukien Tea, Kumquat, Mandarin Hat, Natal Plum, Palms,
Nea Buxifolia, Powder
Puff, Scheffleras, Tamarinds, Succulents,
Desert Rose, Epiphytes, Euphorbias, Ferns, Jade, Orchids.
Tropical, sub-tropical & succulents CANNOT withstand the cold and
generally must be brought indoors or placed in a greenhouse at 48
Some tropicals DO NOT like it below 50 degrees (Black Olive,
Brazilian Raintree, Fukien Tea, Nea Buxifolia and others (check each
sub-tropical & succulents indoors & in greenhouse
Fertilize throughout the year just a slightly lighter application
during winter months.
sub-tropicals and succulents are repotted in spring and summer
depending on tree species. Black Olive, Brazilian Raintree, Fukien Tea,
Nea Buxifolia & others - Repot ONLY during hottest summer months.
Sub-Tropical & Succulents may be wired anytime necessary. Just
watch to prevent “biting”
WORDS OF WISDOM: Look all around you at the large trees in nature and
treat your bonsai tree better than those in nature. Our bonsai do not
have the protection of warm Mother Earth beneath them.
David VanBuskirk, Owner of
is mostly applied in the initial stages of
structuring a bonsai, but it will continue to a lesser degree
throughout the life of the tree. So mastering the technique of wiring
really is a necessary evil. The sole purpose of wiring a bonsai
is to change the direction and
shape of the branches and trunks to make them conform to your concept
of the perceived design. Therefore you should have in mind what you
want the tree to look like before you start. Before you wire a
tree it will be helpful if you stop all watering for
a day or two beforehand. This will stop the turgidity
with moisture) in the tree causing the branches to become slightly limp
and therefore less likely to snap when bent. However, do not be too
enthusiastic in this practice or the tree is likely to be droughted and
The way 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 you choose. Bonsai wire is available in sizes from
1.0mm to 6.0mm. The wire you use
should be about one third of the diameter of the branch to be wired.
Some drastic bends may require multiple wires placed tightly together.
A way to determine the proper size wire I use is to hold a wire
you believe to be the proper size, about one inch from the end of the
wire and push on the branch you are going to bend with the end of the
wire. If the wire bends you will need to go to the next larger size. If
the branch bends, then you should have the proper size. With practice
you will learn which wire to use by looking and by knowing the species.
When wiring, consider the tree's individual characteristics. Some trees
are easier to wire at certain times of the year. Different parts of a
tree will vary in the length of time necessary for the branch to set.
Some varieties will tolerate drastic wiring and others will not. You
will learn all this by reading and experimenting. Older, stiffer
branches will take longer, and you may have to bend them
little by little every few weeks. Younger branches will bend easier but
the wire will have to be removed sooner. Every plant is individual and
it is only with experience that you will learn just how far you can go
without snapping a branch, so take it easy at first. If your
branch does break, leave it as it is and apply sealing paste.
Do not move the branch for the rest of the season and it will likely
heal. Quite often, if you are making a drastic bend, you will hear the
wood cracking. If you do, stop and examine the limb for any breaks in
the cambium, if so leave the branch alone. If not, 'carefully' continue
the bend and listen carefully. If you hear any additional cracking stop
and wait for next year.
The best wiring is evenly spaced, has no crossing wires, is unobtrusive
and has the end of each wire before or at the end of each branch. The
most important thing to remember is that the starting wire should be
secure to either the trunk or to a branch by at least two turns.
Wiring should be slightly tight but not so tight as to
growth. If it is too loose there will be no strength and the branch
will not hold in place. The ideal angle is 45 degrees when viewed from
all sides. In order to make wiring easier there is a general
order for wiring
trees. Start at the bottom of the trunk and gradually move upwards.
After wiring the trunk, wire the first branch from the base to the tip.
Proceed to the second twig on the same branch and so on. When you have
wired all the twigs on the first branch, repeat the process with the
second, third and fourth branch. Finally, start wiring the top,
beginning at the base and proceeding to the tip.
There are basically three different modes of branch growth: forked,
alternate and opposite. You can find diagrams in many bonsai books that
show you how to wire different branches. Cut a couple of branches from
your yard to practice on. Forked- By wiring two branches of the
fork with one wire, each branch
holds the other. The important thing here is that wiring at the crotch
of the fork should be secure and firm. The procedure is to begin at the
fork, holding the wire at the back of the fork with one hand
and when bringing the wires around and through the fork from
front, to form an upside down "V". Wire a couple turns on one branch
and then, after wiring the other completely, return to complete the
first one. If you are going to wire only one of the branches, wrap a
couple of turns on the one that is not to be wired which should be
enough to hold the other. Alternate- This is the most common
wiring that you will do. When you
are wiring, you should try to wire two branches at a time since this
acts to secure the beginning of the wiring on each branch. Start by
treating the lower branch and the main trunk as a fork. After doing a
couple of turns up the main trunk, wire the lower branch. This is the
same procedure that you would use if you want to wire only one branch,
or an opposite branch. After wiring the bottom branch, continue up the
trunk to the higher branch.
Before bending a branch make sure your tree and pot are
Carefully and slowly with both hands bend the wire, NOT the branch,
where you want the branch to be. Avoid twisting the branch or trunk.
Think about the bend you want to accomplish and bend it once. When
bending a branch downward, the first half turn of wire should come
over, then under the branch. When bending a branch upward the wire
approaches from below.
The amount of time to leave the wire on is dependent on several
variables. One is the size and age of the branch or trunk being wired.
Conifers, especially junipers, may take several years to set, during
which time the wire may need to be removed and reapplied several times
to avoid damaging the bark. Some deciduous species and tropicals may
set in a matter of a few weeks. It is better to leave the wire on
longer than you think is necessary,
as long as it is not cutting into the tree. Sometimes the tree will
revert back to its original form over a period of a few weeks, so it is
better to wait as long as possible. You will find that if wire is left
on a trunk or branch for too long it is likely to bite into the bark
causing unsightly scarring. This is not to bad on coniferous species
which will usually heal over in time. On deciduous species the scarring
is likely to be permanent. Always keep a watchful eye out for this
problem and remove the wire immediately if
you see this happening. If the branch moves back replace the
in a slightly different position until the branch has set.
Wire can be expensive so it is tempting to unwind it once it has served
its purpose in order to use it another time. However this is risky
business since it is much easier to damage the bark or snap the branch
when working in reverse. The branch will have grown, so the wire will
be tighter than when you first applied it, and will be full of kinks
making it difficult to manipulate. It is much safer to snip the wire
away using wire cutters which cut right up to the tip of the jaws. If
you are concerned about the expense of ' wasting' wire in this way, ask
yourself this question: Which is more valuable to you, a few inches of
wire or a developing bonsai which you have labored for hours and
nurtured for years.