WIRING II
Training Temperate Trees in the Tropics
with Variations of Japanese Bonsai Techniques

                Pines grow slowly in tropical Hawaii. This photo report shows a wiring session of an older Japanese Red Pine. I germinated the seed in 1963 or 1964 and have trained it since.  Red Pines are less common than Black Pines.   They naturally grow in the clean air of the mountains of Japan while Black Pines usually grow at sea level.  Red Pines have soft needles and are difficult to grow in areas with smog or air pollution. 

                The tree is almost 40 years old but it hasn't been wired for the last 10-15 years or so. Whereas tropical trees are usually trained by creative pruning and reduction-building techniques,  temperate climate trees are traditionally trained by wiring.  It's necessary to check trees being trained by wiring as the wires can bite into the bark and cause unsightly marks. Between wiring sessions the trees should be allowed to grow strongly.  Some bonsai growers wire, remove periodically, and immediately rewire the tree to keep it continually in training.  Such a tree is weak and develops slowly.  

Wiring II Jun02. 1.jpg (11622 bytes)

JUNE 28, 2002

    1.  At Fuku-Bonsai, we use 6 of the many grades of anodized aluminum wire available.  The lightest 1mm and 1.5mm sizes are handy for nursery work but too thin to use in training.  The 2.5mm, 3.0mm, 3.5mm, and 5.0mm are our most used training sizes.  We do not use stiffer sizes larger than 5.0mm. "Limber" or twist the branch to assure it will bend at the desired point and develop a plan so you'll know exactly where each bend will be.  Make bends rather than curves.

Wiring II Jun02. 2.jpg (17420 bytes)     2. The first heavy 5.0mm wire is cut 1.5X the length of the 18" long branch. Normally the wire would be cut about 27" long. But two branch sections will be wired with the single wire so it was cut about 54" long.  The wire was bent into a U-shape and anchored around a stub that remains from having removed a large branch in the past. The objective is to lower the branch so the wire is coiled over the branch and a "U" formed to where the branch will be lowered.
Wiring II Jun02.  3.jpg (18212 bytes)     3. The branch is bent down to the base of the U and the wire brought over the top to hold it in place.  This "Fuku-Bonsai Bed-Spring Method" uses thick wire and a decision is made at each wire coil. Because the wire is in contact only where pressure is needed, it appears to be very loose and "messy." But it effectively trains fast-growing tropical trees in a few months or slow growing pines in a few years.  There is significantly less likelihood of scaring because the wire is in contact only at pressure points.  Any scars very quickly grow out and disappear.
Wiring II Jun02. 4.jpg (16247 bytes)     4.  The second wire was coiled next to the first, then on to a secondary branch section to spread it out.  Note that the original training of the first 10-15 years was to develop an interesting trunk base and a general training concept. Much of the earlier training was by our "reduction-building" techniques. In this case the bonsai was to depict a tree that had been blown over in a storm. The tree resumed growing upright after it recovered with some of the roots exposed..
Wiring II Jun 02. 5.jpg (13811 bytes)     5.  Compare this photo with photo #1 just with the first branch completely wired.  In creating flattened pine tier branches we separate, thin out, and create more detail. At this stage the trunk is well developed and the lower branches are pretty much set. The primary need is for refinement. There are still many styling decisions in the top area. 

BASIC PINE BRANCH WIRING

                Pines tend to have flattened "tier" branches with no growth below the branch, short growth on top of the branch, and longer spreading growth at the sides.  By continually cutting out sections, remaining sections can develop greater detail and branches become more complex. 

Wiring II. 7 sketch A.jpg (15499 bytes)

      6. The first wire (5mm) 

Wiring II. 8 sketch B.jpg (18461 bytes)

  7.  The second wire (3.5mm)

Wiring II. 9 sketch C.jpg (17397 bytes)

  8.  The third wire (2.5mm)

WIRING THE LOWEST BRANCH

               (Sketch #6) The U-shaped wire is anchored around a stub and one section is coiled around the major branch section. When it is desired for the branch to go down, a U-shaped loop is created below the branch, the branch is pushed down to near to the bottom of the loop, and the stiff wire swung over the depressed branch to hold it in place with only a single pressure point. 

                If the branch is to next swing to the left, a U-shaped loop is created to the left and the branch pushed left to near the bottom of the loop and the stiff wire is swung over the branch to hold it in place.  This continues one coil at a time. In this case the end of the wire is formed into a wide loop to hold down several small branches  near the end of the branch. The initial wire is in black in sketch #6.

                The second part of that first wire is brought along and coiled in the same direction as the first part so it does not cross. It continues one coil at a time to position a second branch section.   This wiring method is relatively slow, but it does the job!  The most common method neatly coils the wire which is kept constantly in contact with the branch. The branch is then bent as desired.  It looks neat and bonsai trained in this manner are sometimes exhibited with the wires on.  But in doing so, the wire is partially already digging into the bark and it's very easy to create wire marks. The wire must be removed after a short time.  In contrast the "Fuku-Bonsai Bed-Spring Method" can be left on the tree for 2-4 years if done correctly. 

               (Sketch #7)  The next largest pair of selected branch sections measures about 12" from tip-to-tip and a slightly smaller 3.5mm wire is cut 1.5X that length or about 18" long.  It's anchored in the middle with a turn or so started on both branch sections.  The first part continues to the end of one section, then the other part of the wire repositions the other section. The most desirable growth is retained while thick growth is thinned out as wiring progresses.  The second wire is shown in black in sketch #7.

               (Sketch #8)  The next largest pair of selected growth sections is smaller and a 3.0mm wire was used in the same manner.  Although the sketches show just three wires,  the actual branch also required several other wire pairs.  Some growers meticulously wire every single branch.  I tend to wire only the larger branches and train smaller growth by detailed pruning. 

                WIRING SUMMARY:  1) Twist and limber the branch to be sure that it will bend at the desired points.  2)  Anchor the wire.  3) Allow wire to contact the branch only at points with no full contact for an entire coil.  4) Where you want a bend, position a U-loop to where you want the branch repositioned.  5) Press the branch down to that position and turn the wire over to hold the branch in place with just a single contact point.

Wiring II Jun02. 9.jpg (18861 bytes)      9.  This photo shows the first branch from above.  Note that the branches are now spread out and each remaining branch section is flattened with room for each part of the branch to grow.  Growth under the main branch was removed.  Growth above the branch growing upwards was shortened. Only new side growth was allowed to grow out a little, but even these were slightly shortened. 
Wiring II Jun02. 10.jpg (15215 bytes)     10.  Here's how the tree looked when growth selection, refinement pruning, and wiring was completed on the second branch. In comparing it against photos #1 and #5, the heavy top foliage is being thinned out to show more details. 
Wiring II Jun02.  11.jpg (15655 bytes)     11.  The very heavy crown is being further refined.  The third branch was thinned and wired, and the fourth branch was completely removed.  Generally, I leave as many good branches as possible on the tree as this gives training options.  Detailed study preceded the actual training and the total styling strategy was clear before we cut or wired a single branch.  Training bonsai is not a race. If you remove a wrong branch, it's impossible to glue it back!
Wiring II Jun02. 12.jpg (14915 bytes)     12.  Years ago, two major options were retained.  The heavy upper left branch could have been the primary apex with the crown of the tree leaning to the left. But I decided to go with the smaller new apex on the right. In Japanese "Single Apex-Tier Branch" styling, the topmost tip is called the "SHIN." When a new shin is started, the standard technique is to remove or very heavily cut back the prior shin.  We call this processing:  "Changing Shins" and the more times you switch shins, the more interesting the trunk line becomes.  It also greatly improves both trunk and branch taper.  
Wiring II Jun02. 13.jpg (16237 bytes)     13. Here's a view of the other side.  Note that when large branches are removed, a large stub is left on.   This dries and the bark around it shrinks.  When the stub is later removed, the scar will be much smaller than if you pruned it off flush with the trunk.  
Wiring II Jun02. 14.jpg (16509 bytes)     14.  The view from the side shows a lively trunk line of a tree blown over in a windstorm and recovering. In Japanese styling, it's necessary to place first emphasis on the roots as they determine the validity of the trunk.  Roots that are well developed on all sides suggest a tree solidly anchored to the ground in an upright orientation.  If one side roots are weak, consider slanting or semi-cascades as was done here.  
Wiring II Jun02. 15.jpg (23900 bytes)     15. A closer view of the top area of photo #14.  Temperate climate trees grow slowly in the tropics. So initially it was difficult to prune out large sections of trees.  But by establishing a cyclical training strategy of infrequent aggressive training sessions followed by optimum growth, we were able to get good results in a reasonable amount of time. In contrast, trees that were constantly in training grew weakly and took longer to develop.
Wiring II Jun02. 16.jpg (23001 bytes)     16. From another angle, a new shin is being started.  Note that another "alternate shin" is also being positioned. In the future, the shin that best fits the design will be chosen and the other either completely removed or significantly reduced in size.  If the alternate shin on the right is selected, perhaps only the small lowest left branch will be retained.   Since that branch has very loose coils, it's growth will not be slowed compared to branches more heavily wired and repositioned. 
Wiring II Jun02. 17.jpg (21195 bytes)     17.  Wiring is only used on the newer growth areas.  At this point, some of the older sections that are too stout to be wire are already in good position. So the wiring is on the ends of the lowest branches, the middle branches, and the top of the tree.  When large branches re removed,  creative stubs are made.  These stubs will dry back and shrink to be easily removed in the future if desired.
Wiring II Jun02. 18.jpg (19336 bytes)     18.  A close-up view of the "Fuku-Bonsai Bed-Spring Method" that shapes the branches but is less likely to cause wire marks. This method is criticized because the wiring is not neat and attractive.  Our objective is to produce high quality healthy trees with no wire marks with the least amount of labor. We don't exhibit trees that are wired and still in training phases. By using one wire for two branches, anchoring is simple as the wires of each branch stress against each other.
Wiring II Jun02. 19.jpg (23698 bytes)     19. A close-up view of the impressive trunk base. Notice the exceptional trunk and branch taper due to keeping as many branches as possible and aggressively pruning out major sections every few years. Each time the tree was aggressively reduced, there is an abrupt change of trunk direction or decrease in trunk size.  This duplicates the natural process of trees growing in harsh conditions of repeated growth and die-back cycles.   

                At Fuku-Bonsai,  wiring is mainly used to maintain temperate single apex-tier branched pine-type trees in the Hawaii State Bonsai Repository that were originally trained utilizing wiring. This type of bonsai have flattened branches that need to be thinned and wired every few years to allow light and air to penetrate and prevent the die-back of inner branches. 

                When developing such pine type trees,  we prefer to utilize "reduction-building" techniques as they produce powerful stout trunks and heavy branches with strong growth.   At the early stages of training, only those branches that must be repositioned are wired with large coiling  and bent only at the minimum number of points while branches are still thin.  This allows the branch continued unrestricted growth and the wire can be left on for 2-4 years if necessary. 

                Pruning,   whether in dramatic reduction-building or in detailed refinement pruning, is our major technique.  Wiring is viewed as a supplemental technique used only when necessary.  For more information on pruning,  go to Reduction-Building.

 
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                When developing such pine type trees,  we prefer to utilize "reduction-building" techniques as they produce powerful stout trunks and heavy branches with strong growth.   At the early stages of training, only those branches that must be repositioned are wired with large coiling  and bent only at the minimum number of points while branches are still thin.  This allows the branch continued unrestricted growth and the wire can be left on for 2-4 years if necessary. 

                Pruning,   whether in dramatic reduction-building or in detailed refinement pruning, is our major technique.  Wiring is viewed as a supplemental technique used only when necessary.  For more information on pruning,  go to Reduction-Building.

 
*** Return to Fuku-Bonsai home page   *** Continue to next section
*** Go to Mail-order introduction     *** Go to Gift List & Prices       July 2002
 
Fuku-Bonsai Inc.     Phone (808) 982-9880     FAX (808) 982-9880
URL:   www.fukubonsai.com        Email: sales@fukubonsai.com