There are many different bonsai techniques that one can use, and to a novice bonsai gardener, the abundance of techniques can be a little confusing. In bonsai, gardeners aspire to “train” or force their tree to grow in a certain fashion, usually to acquire their envisioned artistic shape.
Various techniques are employed in order to rearrange branches, construe the shape of both the trunk and the branches, as well as stunt the growth of the tree and its greenery.
In this article, we are going to talk about two common bonsai techniques that most gardeners will find a need for at some point in their project.
The first technique is using wire to bend or completely change the position of a tree branch. I know this may sound a little painful for the tree, but most of the bending done with wires is performed very gradually over a long period of time so that the tree naturally begins to grow in the preferred position. Wiring a tree is more like encouraging it to grow a certain way while remaining perfectly healthy, rather than harming the tree to result in a forced growth.
More than a spool of wire is needed in order to perform this method of bonsai training. As one can probably imagine, tree branches can easily be marked by wire, especially trees with soft bark such as beech. In order to prevent the wire from marking the tree with notches, the gardener will need a substance called raffia. Raffia is a plant material that can be found in most garden supply stores. This material must be soaked in water for about half an hour, and then tightly wrapped around the branch or trunk that will be bent or repositioned.
Not only does the raffia help to keep the branch from showing physical marks from the wire, but it also works doubly as a form of support to keep the branch from snapping. Wire can then be wrapped around the point in which one wishes to create a “bend” in the branch or trunk. Some gardeners choose to anchor the other end of wire tightly to another branch or to the trunk of the tree, however this may have an effect on the positioning of the “anchor” section. If a branch is being moved to grow in a completely new direction, one may have to slightly bend the branch as they tighten and secure the wire to an anchor. Bending should cease immediately if any sharp cracking sounds are heard. To create more dramatic bends and repositioning, one should gradually shorten the length of wire over a long period of time until the desired look is achieved.
For this method, one will need a sharp knife or a very fine saw, raffia or insulated tape, and wire. This technique begins by slicing 1/2 of the way into the base of the branch (near where it meets the trunk) at an inward angle. Another small slice should be made from the opposite angle, but again should head inward. The end result should show a very small triangle of wood missing in the branch. The branch can then be coated in a few layers of wet raffia. Wire may then be secured to the branch while the branch is slowly positioned into place. The wire is then secured to the trunk or another tree branch. Eventually this notch will fill in as the tree heals itself and light scaring may result. As the slight discoloration from the scar is so close to the trunk of the tree, it is generally not easily spotted by onlookers.The next method we are going to talk about involves creating notches in a branch to help reposition it. This method takes a pair of steady hands and a great deal of patience, as moving too quickly can cause the branch to completely snap off. The “notching” method is intended to help bend very thick or brittle branches that would otherwise be at an awkward angle for traditional wire bending. For instance, one might use this technique to lower a branch about 45 degrees.
These two techniques are just two that one may use to get started in the art of bonsai. There are countless bonsai techniques out there, but as one tends their own bonsai, they learn the techniques that best suit their artistic visions. Along with practice, one may also develop their own unique tricks to get just the right results they are looking for.