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Topical Times – A word on Wiring

A regular update on the life and times of John Hanby’s Newstead Bonsai Centre……..

Topical Times – A word on Wiring

Love it or hate it, the chance is big that if you want to do bonsai you will have to deal with the dreaded “w” word!

When you announce a tree needs totally wiring many students can’t help but revert to being a teenager again………”do I have to”……….”oh not again”…..”but I havn’t time, I have to go out”……”can’t you do it for me”…….. the list is endless.

Wiring is a means to an end. Without it you will never see that total transformation, the silk purse from the sows ear, that incredible refined image. The more you do, the better you are, the more enjoyable the task becomes. Practice does indeed make perfect.

Most of the time we use aluminium wire from Japan or China available in sizes 1mm to 6mm including the half sizes.

Most of you know the basic techniques….. correct anchorage, always wire branches in pairs, 45 degree angles as you wrap the wire along the branch, don’t cross your wires.

The biggest mistake?…..undoubtedly using too thin a wire for a branch. Most people put some wire on, move the branch a little and if it does not suddenly spring back then this is OK. Most times it is inadequate. You need to be able to manipulate that branch in all directions, sometimes even twist it inside out. You need that branch to hold steady for as long as possible once it has been positioned. If the wire is weak it will simply move out of shape as soon as the tree starts growing.

They say the diameter of the wire is approximately one third the diameter of the branch being wired. If you can’t decide between two wire sizes it will nearly always be the heavier one you need.

The aim is to try and get the wire on so it looks neat, so it does it’s job, but also has a slight looseness to it so that the tree can grow and the wire can stay on as long as possible. I have made students remove wire after an hour so that they can see how it is already marking the bark. If you use wire too thin this again will make you apply it tighter.

Once you can wire competently then we can show you how to cheat! How you can anchor without keep going around the trunk. When a tree has been wired and styled we should be looking at the tree not the wire. The front of the trunk should be clear not looking like a malformed much used redundant spring!

As the sap starts rising in February we can wire deciduous trees. A different technique using larger wire sizes with a relaxed loose style is called for. Be so careful when bending….these don’t grumble and groan like conifers, they just snap and break!

When it comes to the refinement wiring of conifers, annealed copper wire is really useful. You have so many more size to choose from, especially in the lower gauges, it sets hard so it holds the smaller fine branches better, and it generally becomes unobtrusive. I have been able to keep copper wire on the finer branches for many years without a problem.

Japanese wire is undoubtedly the best. People in the UK have tried to produce their own but they fail to get the annealing right. Their’s starts to harden too soon, before you have fully wired and positioned the branch.

When you remove the wire please take the same amount of care as you did when you put it on. It would be a shame to damage a branch that you have finally got holding it’s correct position.

The ultimate objective is to have your tree standing pristine, mature, refined, not a branch or shoot out of line……a truly magnificent specimen bonsai………..and not so much as an inch of wire to be seen anywhere!

But to get there……………………………’sch’…….it’s “w”……..again and again and……….