Shaping Bonsai

Pruning to Shape

To help an artist achieve the style, shape or form of the bonsai he has in mind, he must train the tree. Training the tree is making it adhere to the artist?s envisioned image. One way to achieve this is through pruning.

Pruning a bonsai is similar to pruning real-life plants. But because the bonsai is a small-scale representation of the original tree, pruning it can take more work. Some of the implements used to pruning a bonsai are pliers, tweezers, nippers and leaf-cutting scissors.

Maintenance pruning is usually applicable when the tree grows more branches and leaves than you would want it, thus altering the intended width of its canopy and height of the tree. However, for coniferous trees, pruning by hand is recommended as shears can result to dead foliage. If you want to make the canopy become denser while following a certain form or style, pruning through defoliation is used. When defoliating, an artist removes leaves from the tree during summer to encourage new leaf growth while reducing its size.

An artist may look at nature for inspiration so that styling and pruning his bonsai also become in-tune with nature, giving the tree a more charming, aged and oriental look.

Reshaping by Wiring

In order to give the bonsai it?s desired shape, form and style, wiring is oftentimes necessary. Wiring is the process of coating the trunks, limbs and branches of the tree with wire so that it follows a certain angle and direction. Through wiring, a bonsai artist is able to manipulate a motionless tree into movement. As much as wire is essential in reshaping the bonsai, his imagination should come first in order to visualize his desired finished product.

There are two common types of wires used in wiring a bonsai: copper and aluminum. While copper is stronger of the two, it can also become less forgiving. If an artist fails to constantly monitor the conformity of the tree to the wire, copper can bite into the barks of the tree, leaving some ugly marks.

On the other hand, aluminum may be less strong but it is more flexible and pliable. Beginner bonsai growers may begin with aluminum wires because they are easier to move and remove.

Secure wires into the bonsai following a 45-degree angle. The wire should just be not too tight or too loose. If needed, gently bend the branches with your hands and securely place the wire around them. Make sure that wiring is done towards so you are able to see and avoid damaging leaves and buds of the tree.

The ideal time to wire a bonsai depends on the type of tree you are working with. For instance, pine trees have lower sap levels during early winter and late fall, making them more flexible. On the other hand, deciduous trees have no or lesser leaves in early spring, making the branches more visible. Lastly, wires are best applied when a bonsai is repotted while they should be removed before they bite into barks and branches.