Shaping Bonsai

An ideal bonsai tree ought to always have a trunk that looks aged, while its branches and leaves should have robust growth. In addition, the proportions of a perfect bonsai tree needs to be same as those of any other tree growing naturally in the forests or country sides, but it should be in a miniature form. It is important to note that you can only obtain perfect results when you continuously interfere with the growth and development of your bonsai tree. When we talk about continuous intervention we actually denote pruning the leaves, branches and roots of the bonsai tree at frequent intervals. At the same time, you should involve wiring, as it helps to mould the branches and trunks of the tree in different accepted bonsai styles.

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Binding and bending

The art of bonsai did not develop overnight, but over a period of time. As this art evolved, new techniques of shaping as well as creating bonsai were incorporated into the conventional methods. The original techniques of bonsai did not include binding and bending the tree trunks, branches and twigs, but added later. If one handles these techniques skilfully, a bonsai grower can achieve spectacular results. The elements that are necessary for binding and bending include patience, reflection and also the knowledge regarding the amount of load the miniature tree is capable of enduring. Precisely speaking, the grower should possess the true skills for bonsai cultivation. For instance, the main objective of bending and binding a bonsai may be to alter the distance between the branches of your miniature tree.

You can also control the shape of your bonsai by bending its branches and twigs in a descending direction, nearer to the earth. The examples presented below may help you to adapt as well as employ these techniques better. When you are using the bending and binding techniques, it is vital to bear in mind that you have to cushion the places where a wire or string comes in contact with a branch or twig. You may use a piece of cloth or rubber for this purpose, as they work well as cushions.

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Wiring and shaping

The bending and binding techniques of bonsai culture enable a grower to alter the natural direction of a branch, shoot or twig or the direction in which they intend to grow by means of wrapping them with a wire and twisting them in the direction desired by the grower. It is important to keep the wire in place till the branch, twig or shoot start growing in your desired direction. This process involves cautious adjustments and can only be achieved when you apply a particular technique.

When expert bonsai cultivators want to bend an extremely straight and firm branch downwards, they employ this method. The branches are bent downward to make them look more aged than their actual age or when the bonsai growers make a crooked branch or twig straight. In fact, experienced bonsai gardeners are willing to accept with the fact that wrapping the branches and twigs with wire will deprive the trees of their beauty and attraction for anything between six months and 18 months. In fact, this is the usual period for which the branches and twigs are kept under wire wrapping.

Often, the consequences of minimum wiring and shaping may be much more than what even expert bonsai gardeners may expect to be. This is mainly owing to the fact that when you wire just a few branches of a bonsai, you actually allow additional light to get inside the tree. In turn, this allows the branches and twigs in the core of the tree to grow better, thereby changing the entire form of the miniature tree.

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Hence, you can see very well that wiring is not a technique that obstructs the growth and development of a bonsai tree. In reality, it is quite the opposite. The only instance when wiring hinders the growth and development of a tree is when a branch is bent downwards. Therefore, you need to ensure that the terminal shoots of a branch that is wrapped with wire to make it bend downwards always point upward to some extent. When the shoots are pointing slightly upwards it is an indication of the fact that the bent down branch is not dying off or drying out.

At the same time, it is important that the wire being used to wrap a branch or twig is of appropriate thickness. It is best to use anodized aluminum wires for this purpose, as it is easy to twist this wire. Moreover, this type of wire is also not visible owing to its dark hue.

You also need to ensure that the wire being used by you should always be one-third of the width of the twig or branch that you intend to wire. In addition, it is also essential that the wire is one-third longer compared to the twig or branch. Ideally, the tools of a bonsai cultivator should always include a small variety of wires of different gauges.

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The wiring technique may also be applied to make small corrections on your bonsai. In fact, this is a good approach for new bonsai cultivators to practice the wiring and shaping technique. This technique can be applied to your plants all through the year. However, you should wire the shoots only after they have become mature enough. In other words, they should be wired only when they have started to lignify. If you want to undertake further extensive corrections, ideally it ought to be done during the period between fall and spring. Alternatively, this can also be undertaken prior to the main growing phase of the tree.

While using the wiring and shaping technique you should be careful not to wire the branches or twigs very firmly. In fact, experienced bonsai gardeners suggest that you should cover the wire using a thin paper prior to wrapping the branches or twigs with a view to avoid harming the tree. After wiring the branches and twigs, you need to keep a close eye to see if any part of the tree has been damaged and, in case you notice even any minor damages to the tree or its bark, you should respond immediately with corrective measures. In case of any damage, you need to slacken the wire, even if the tree has not achieved your desired shape by then. You should know that even wiring a particular branch or twigs twice or thrice in succession will not cause any harm to an indoor bonsai, provided the technique is followed properly. On the contrary, you will actually be harming your bonsai tree if you need to tear out any wire that might have got entrenched into the bark.

In case a wire does get embedded into a branch despite taking all kinds of precautions, you should use a wire cutter to get the portion of the wire that is not entrenched into the bark, while leaving the remaining part in the bark. But never ever tear the wire out of the bark. In fact, you will find several admired, attractive and old bonsai trees to be living well even with a small wire piece entrenched in their bark.

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At the same time, it is essential to adopt a tender approach while you are trying to give a branch or twig your desired shape by wrapping it in wire. It will prove to be of great help if you try and test the extent to which any branch or twig will be able to bend with no additional exertion or "pain" prior to wrapping it with wire. If the branch tears anyhow, cover the place of injury instantly using tree wax. On the other hand, if the injury is more serious, drape the place with raffia.

Below are a few examples that will make you understand the importance of the wiring and shaping methods in bonsai cultivation.

Wiring the trunk
This process involves pushing a wire's end in a slanted manner into the soil on the rear side of the bonsai tree. If you are wiring the trunk, you need to use a solid wire.
Wiring a branch
Wiring the branches of a bonsai is a very delicate task. For instance, even while bending just one branch separately, you need to wire the opposite branch too, as this secure wire. Begin wiring the selected branch from the middle and ensure that the angle of the wire you are using for wrapping the branch is at 45 degrees. In addition, the distance between two turns of the wire should always be equal.
Wiring a twig
While wiring a twig of a bonsai tree, you need to wrap it very closely. The thinner a twig is, the closer the wrapping ought to be. If the twigs are very thin, for instance the green ones, you should never wrap them with a wire.
At the same time, be careful not to shut in the leaves underneath the wire wrapping.

Always keep in mind that the branches, trunk as well as the twigs of a bonsai should always be from below upwards and in their growth direction. Ensure that you do not leave any end of the wire loose. Cut the wire off on the rear side of a twig, branch or trunk.

When you are twisting any wired bonsai branch, you should only apply necessary force for accomplishing the task, but always ensure that you are gentle. Use your thumb in the form of a counter-pressure for the force you exert with your hand - doing this will help in avoiding the branch from splitting or breaking.

If a branch has developed a natural bend, never exert force to bend it the opposite direction. When you are bending any branch, always bear in mind its natural growth direction. While bending a branch, the first bend ought to be near the trunk. On the other hand, the first bend of a bonsai twig should be at the place where it emerges from a branch. In case you are bending a bonsai branch downward, it should always also be bent forward simultaneously.

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