An important part of the art of Bonsai is guiding the tree into the desired shape. If you follow the traditional Japanese style of Bonsai you will try to create a tree like one that can be found in nature, but you may exaggerate some of the elements for style purposes.
You will have to know what you want your tree to look like before you can start shaping it. You should be able create an image in your mind of exactly how you want your tree to appear. Once you have decided on the style and shape there are several methods used to guide your bonsai into the shape you desire.
Two very common and basic methods of shaping the tree are wiring and anchoring.
When you wire a tree you use a metal wire to hold a section of the tree into the shape that you want. Wiring has the advantage of training the tree to the desired shape quicker than most other methods.
Since it is softer aluminum wire is used to wire most branches. When using aluminum wire you will need to use a thicker wire to hold the branch in place. The thicker wire is less likely to cut into the bark, which greatly reduces the risk of scarring. When training heavier branches or changing the shape of the trunk a stronger wire will be needed. In this case you will probably need to use copper or even steel wire.
To wire a branch you simply wrap the branch with wire and then gently bend it into the position that you want. You leave the wire in place to hold the branch until it is capable of holding that shape unassisted. Once you wire a branch you will need to watch it closely to be sure that the branch has not thickened to the point that the wire is cutting into the bark. You need to be especially vigilant with deciduous trees because they tend to thicken in spurts.
You should always start your wire on thicker branches and work your way up to the thinner ones.
Your wiring job will be more stable if you use one wire to wire two branches.
If you notice your wire getting tight remove it to avoid scarring. If the branch still will not stay in position you can re-wrap it to accommodate its new size.
Frequently a branch that is several years old will be too thick, in this case wiring the branch will not be very effective. For branches like this anchoring will probably work better. Anchoring works by pulling the branch into the position you want and keeping it there.
You start by looping a wire or string over the branch you want to anchor. Any place that the string or wire touches the tree you will need to protect the bark by covering the wire or string with a soft rubber tube. The other end is secured to the container or another branch to hold the limb in the position you want. If you secure it to another branch be sure to use the protective tubing on this end as well, you also need to be sure that you do not pull the anchor limb out of it's position.
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