Training a bonsai requires pruning and patience. Although the bonsai always requires regular watering and fertilizing, the training of the bonsai occurs only once or twice throughout the year. The bonsai's training activities should be carefully planned to ensure that the training does not become harmful to the tree.
Bonsai Tree Pruning, Trimming and Pinching :
During late spring and throughout the summer bonsai trees can quickly become overgrown, losing their shape and overall structure. The speed at which they grow depends on many factors, such as age, species and also the watering and feeding regime.
To keep the growth balanced and in shape, pruning is necessary and this is without doubt one of the most enjoyable and satisfying aspects of the hobby. Do not be afraid pruning - it is an essential part of the development and maintenance of bonsai, helping to create miniature trees, rather than overgrown bushes. Pruning can be a learning exercise and if a mistake is made, there is a good chance that new growth will rectify the situation!
Important points to bear in mind:
Trimming and Pinching:
The result of pruning:
Part of Pruning:
Wiring is perhaps the most misunderstood of all the techniques used in bonsai. It drives little old lady's POTTY (sorry mum!) to think of those poor little trees encased in that nasty wire. If they knew that wiring was only used temporarily, to hold the branches in a desired position, to add to the impression of age, and add to the artistic effect, they'd still go POTTY (there's no pleasing some folk!). Wire is only left on as long as it takes for the tree to set in the desired position.
It is pointless, and dangerous to wire an unhealthy tree. The way that wiring works is that, in bending the wood, you stress, and sometimes damage the cells. The tree while repairing the damage grows into the shape imposed on it by the wire. So if you wire a tree that is not in full vigour, it is unable to complete the repair, perhaps losing the branch, or dying in the process.
The Wire is wrapped around the item being shaped (Branch or Trunk), which is then bent into the desired position.
Try to keep the coils reasonably close together, not doing so reduces the strength of the wire.
It is not advisable to try to alter the angle where the branch meets the trunk, this will almost certainly cause the branch to break off. If you do need to lower the branch, start at a point further out.
If you try to start the bend close to the trunk (a), you may break the branch off. Starting the bend at (b) is much safer, and more natural, as it is only as the branch develops, the weight of the foliage will start to drag the branch downward.
When wiring branches with foliage (both deciduous and coniferous), avoid trapping the foliage under the wire as shown on the left. this will damage the leaves and provide a gateway for infection. The picture on the right shows how it should be done to both coniferous and deciduous foliage.
Wire obtained from specialist (Bonsai) suppliers is Aluminum, and is available in two types, Plain (Silver), and 'Anodised', where the wire is given a brown coating. Which one you choose is up to you, the anodised is less visually obvious, however the plain is more noticeable when you are watching to see if the wire is biting into a developing branch.
If you do not have access to bonsai wire use any wire that is capable of being bent without to much effort, then removed easily.
Bonsai wire is available in different sizes from 1.5mm to 6mm, and selecting the correct size for the job is not an easy task for most people.
A selection of bonsai wire, both anodised and plain
To get a feel for the size of wire needed, try bending the wood (branch or trunk), and get some idea of the effort involved, then try and apply the same effort to the wire you wish to use. If there is to much 'give' in the wire the you need a thicker wire or to 'double wrap' it.
If you do not have wire of sufficient strength for the job you wish to do, 'double wrap' the wire, apply two pieces of wire parallel, this should overcome the problem.
If you do not have a strong enough wire for the material you wish to bend, try using two thinner wires wrapped in parallel.
Other methods for lowering branches are:
Tying the branch down, either with string or wire.
this branch has been tied down to a jin with wire, the wire was twisted to tension it.
Hanging weights on a branch will also cause it to hang down. Both of the above methods, while effective will take longer to achieve your aim than wiring will.
Ageing of Bonsai:
A tree acquires its beauty and character with age. There are bonsai training methods which enable a tree to look older than it is, and at the same time correct any faults in its shape. The Japanese use three different techniques known as Jin, Sharimiki and Sabamiki.
The technique of jinning involves leaving branches of the tree that have broken off or died back naturally. Strip away the bark from the branches and sharpen their ends a little if you wish. Smooth along the entire length of the branch with emery paper before painting with citric acid or furniture bleaching agent which in turn bleaches the branch and protects it from rot.
Jinning can also be used to make a tree that has grown too tall appear shorter. Simply cut off the leaves or needles at the tip of the tree, remove the bark that is exposed, then proceed as described above. All conifers and some broad- leaves are suitable subjects for jinning.
The sharimiki method involves partially stripping bark from branches or trunks, and sometimes even from a particularly prominent, visible root. The bonsai thus gains a more interesting appearance.
Working from the top downwards peel a narrow strip of bark from the front of your bonsai, having previously loosened the strip by making two vertical incisions with a sharp knife. Use emery paper to smooth the wood down, as for jinning, then apply citric acid or a furniture bleach. Do this carefully so that you make sure the bleach only comes into contact with the areas of the tree stripped of bark.
Bonsai that have undergone Sabamiki look very old and impressive. They remind you of trees that have withstood the rig ours of nature for centuries, particularly those found in highland areas and in solitary coastal sites.
Sabamiki means hollow or split trunk, and it is a wood-splitting technique that enables you to copy the shapes of trees found in nature, particularly among old apricot trees, elaeagnus and junipers. Perhaps you have a bonsai with a damaged trunk, in which case take a chisel and hollow it out at the damaged spot, then treat as you would for jinning and Sharimiki.
Some bonsai experts will also rip out a forward-growing branch that is marring a tree, then using a chisel enlarge the hole left in the trunk. They are then able to train the tree in the Sabamiki style.
All these techniques are best carried out in mid-summer when the wounds will dry quickly and the bleaching agent can soak nicely into the trunk. Always use a sharp knife and smooth the wood down with emery paper before applying the bleach.
Reapply the bleaching agent at least every two years to stop rot attacking the stripped branches and to re-emphasize their light color.
Besides these techniques there is another way of making your bonsai appear older. Simply tie the branches of your young tree down, or wire them so that their outline more closely resembles those of older trees in the wild.