page contents The Little Bonsai: 2013

Growing and Caring for Bonsai Trees

Growing and Caring for Bonsai Trees

Buy a Bonsai Online

Peoples most favorite Bonsai this year was the Juniper and most sell able tree, number one exporter this year was Japan followed by China. Though China is slowly overtaking Japan in number of Bonsai exports.

Checking through jungles of websites to detect authentic Bonsai online stores is not easy. The usual thing when buying online are the shipping costs. Some popular Bonsai retailers do not ship internationally and those that do are inevitably more expensive. Nevertheless, its worth to check and perhaps get in contact with them directly and see if the retailers willing to compromise. At the end of the day, we are all out there looking for the best and affordable Bonsai. You may find a dramatic difference in prices between Seeds, pre-Bonsai and Bonsai. Having said that, it would be easier and more convenient to start your passion with a pre-Bonsai. Please refer to my blog post on different tree species that will help you to detect the right Bonsai that matches your environment. Some tree types suit better to tropical environment whereas others like the Juniper for example, thrive in a non tropical environment. Therefore, its always good to check these matters in details before purchasing.

Here a small guide on Bonsai Online shops: A famous online website from Yoshihiro Nakamizu, he is been in the business for decades and beside teaching and educating students, he does offer Bonsai artworks online. Online store from New York, they grow a huge assortment of Bonsai trees. Although I have never purchased directly from them, it's worth to check. Please note that they do not ship internationally, US only. Another fantastic online shop, Graham is very popular on YouTube. The way he wires and shapes Bonsai in his workshop is simply remarkable. Another good point is that they ship worldwide. The most popular online store website in the US. They sell all kinds of Bonsai sizes and accessories. They ship to US only and not internationally. Very competitive pricing and fast delivery. Aliexpress sells various types of Bonsai seeds. Sometime it also offer Pre-Bonsai that have already been wired and styled. The good part of AliExpress is that it ships worldwide.

And if you still haven't found your Bonsai, then try on YouTube, artists are often very helpful to introduce you with the right counterpart. Most of them do it out of passion and not necessarily to make a living. Good luck!

Ōmiya Bonsai Village

Omiya Bonsai
It's always amazing to explore countless Bonsai exhibitions around the World. Particularly in Omiya, Japan which attracts lots of attention world wide. For instance, the Omiya Bonsai Village consists of about ten privately owned bonsai gardens. From the early 1990s, Omiya Bonsai-cho has seen a slight contraction in the number of nurseries. As of 2007, the Bonsai Village contains hundreds of thousands of bonsai trees in a site of about 330,000 square meters. In addition, the area also contains the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, opened in 2010. 

The museum has indoor exhibits of bonsai history and art, as well as an outdoor area with a number of bonsai specimens. Some of the museum's materials were drawn from the Takagi Bonsai Museum of Art in Tokyo. Each year, the Bonsai Village holds the Great Bonsai Festival from 3 till 5 May. During the festival the area is packed with bonsai fans and devotees from all over the world.

Pomegranate tree
The month of May is considered to be a very interesting time to display Bonsai Trees. Another interesting tree is the pomegranate, finding such a beautiful Bonsai tree is a rare sight worldwide. It's called the twisted pomegranate tree, from the picture you will soon notice why this tree is award winning. It displays beautiful bright yellow leafs. In the northern hemisphere the Pomegranate typically flowers in the summertime and the flowers are bright red. Once the temperature comes down Dwarf Pomegranate bonsai should be immediately brought indoors. 

Going back to Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, it's really recommendable for Bonsai devotees. The Museum educates visitors about the various aspects of bonsai. English audio guides and well written English descriptions explain clearly how to appreciate the art form and highlight key points to take note of. Moreover, the museum also exhibits the various styles of bonsai and accompanying elements such as pots and stones.

About half a dozen bonsai nurseries are found across the village. They welcome walk-in visitors, but do not allow photograph taking. They have on sale their wide selections of bonsai as well as relevant gardening tools. Nursery owners are generally happy to answer questions and appreciate any interest shown in bonsai. Be aware that the nurseries and bonsai museum are closed on Thursdays. So making a long trip to Saitama and ending up visiting the premises on Thursdays can be frustrating when it's closed.

How to get there

Tobu Noda Line
Tobu Noda Line

The Omiya Bonsai Village is located between Omiya Koen Station 
(5 minutes, 150 yen one way from Omiya Station by Tobu Noda Line) and Toro Station (5 minutes, 140 yen one way from Omiya Station by JR Utsunomiya Line). 

Find your Bonsai from the Wild

Collecting, styling and taking care of a tree from seed will take you ages. So, the easiest way to find a good master piece of nature is from the woods nearby your house. Unless you living in the tropics, it should not be a big issue. Things that you must bear in mind is that you can get a young tree from the wild, but consider whether you really want to. The point of collecting a tree is to get something that has, at least a little, character. If you are willing to start with a simple sapling there are better ways to acquire one. Although I usually suggest avoiding growing from seed at first, that certainly is an option. You can also purchase seedlings or, better yet, buy a nursery tree that has the first years behind it.

Knowing where to look is the important thing! We often forget that a bonsai tree is a tree that can be found in our surroundings! To get a tree worth doing, you have to look in a place which is inhospitable to the species. It causes them to do exaggerated things to survive. So try and find a place which is hostile to trees, but still has them... and then find out who owns the space. Most land owners don't really care about what's on the back 40, and would likely be willing to let you take out the trip hazards that we love. Often times, if it's state land, you can get a "logging permit" to take out small trees.

That's why places like high mountain areas are most suitable to find a lonely and strong maple tree that suits to bonsai.Very inhospitable place where trees eek out a bare existence over hundreds of years.

In this video you can see an expo in Japan from trees mostly collected from nearby woods of the region. These aren't bonsai trees that have been grown from seed, or at least most of it has been taken out from somewhere..

Good luck in finding your own bonsai !

Pruning Techniques for Juniper

It's a very fascinating and distinctive tree in comparison to many others. I simply like Junipers due to easy maintenance and romantic look. Interestingly pruning techniques for this type of trees are not rocket science and if you just started with Bonsai, it's a good way to put hands on and try pruning it the best you can. Don't forget, nature is very forgiving so if happen that you accidental  prune the wrong way, Junipers will easily forgive you and incredibly recover foliage pretty well.
Junipers, with their many shapes, colors and sizes, are prized in the landscape for a variety of purposes including privacy screens, accents and ground covers  with heights upwards of 30 feet and colors ranging from blues to grays and greens to yellows, it's no
 wonder you can find a juniper in almost any landscape design. Because of their dense foliage, junipers require little pruning to maintain their shape. However, if you feel you must prune, there are a few delicate rules to follow. Not pruning a juniper the correct way can lead to bare spots, uneven shape and disease. Additional, it's very important to sharpen shears and cutters as needed to keep cuts clean and less stressful to the tree.

  1. Look at your juniper for pruning needs in early spring just before the new growth begins; early spring is the best time to prune junipers. Start pruning and shaping while the tree is young and do a small amount each year.
  2. Identify areas you would like to prune back and mark with ribbon individual branches to be cut.
  3. Identify the "dead zone" of your juniper -- the inside of the plant that is full of bare branches and wood. Never cut back to this dead zone or wood that has no needles on it, as junipers will not produce new growth on this type of wood.
  4. Cut individual branches back to a side shoot or leaf of an upward-growing branch, using pruning shears. Cutting to this type of shoot will make the tree look younger and healthier while maintaining a pleasant shape.
  5. Cut any completely dead or broken branches back to the main trunk using loppers, as the juniper is wasting energy on these branches that could be better used to promote new growth and keep the remaining branches healthy.
  6. Avoid cutting your bottom branches shorter than those above them, as tapering in towards the bottom creates too much shade and thus will kill off the bottom. Make sure the base of the juniper is wider than the top.

Please feel free to let your trees grow naturally. I prefer to practice a craft where I get to decide what the tree looks like. Just letting a tree grow naturally is not and will never be bonsai. If you spend time looking at natural trees there is certainly much beauty but very little perfection in terms of bonsai.

The Right Pot for Your Bonsai

Choosing the best pot for a particular tree is not easy. As well as the more mundane factory-made Chinese and Korean pots there are a number of bonsai potters and potteries throughout the world that are able to offer individual and diverse pot designs and glazes to the enthusiast. There are so many available colors sizes and designs that it can become very difficult to identify exactly which ones are best for your tree.

Pot choice is also subjective; ultimately some of the final decision will be made according to your own personal tastes. Some enthusiasts prefer more conservative pot shapes, textures and glazes, other enthusiasts prefer to make more unusual 'individual' choices.
Choice 1: Pot Dimensions

The first thing to consider is the size of the pot that you will need. The correct pot dimensions can be achieved using some basic rules according to the dimensions of the tree itself. The general rule of thumb is that the pots depth should be equal to the diameter of the trunk just above soil level. For oval or rectangular pots, the length of the pot should be 2/3 the height of the tree. For round pots, the diameter of the pot should be 1/3 the height of the tree.

For trees with especially wide canopies a wider pot can be necessary and this can be compensated by using a slightly shallower pot. As equally, a tree with a very thick trunk (in comparison with the height of the tree) may suit a slightly deeper but narrower pot It should be remembered that these guidelines are based on aesthetics only. For horticultural reasons, some tree species require larger or smaller pots. Species with very fast growing roots such as Trident Maples often require deeper pots whilst flowering and fruiting species such as Crab Apples require more root run and therefore deeper pots.

Choice 2: Pot Shape

The style of pot that you choose will need to harmonize with the tree. You need to take a look at your tree and evaluate it's characteristics. Try to decide whether your tree is masculine or feminine. Many trees are a combination of both although usually one is dominant than the other. This is very subjective; for some people a tree may be masculine, for others, it might be feminine. Ultimately as the owner of the tree it is for you to decide. It should be noted though that a firmly masculine tree will never look right in a very feminine oval pot; in turn a feminine tree will always look awkward in a masculine pot.


What makes a tree feminine or masculine?

A masculine tree gives an impression of strength, it might have a heavily tapered trunk, have craggy, mature bark, strong angular branching, it may have deadwood. It may have a straight, powerful trunk or a dense canopy. A feminine tree will have a more delicate appearance, a smooth trunk line, smooth bark, sinuous movement in it's trunk and branches. A light canopy and slow taper.

Some tree species are predisposed to being considered feminine or masculine; Pines or angular Hawthorns are often considered masculine whereas delicate Japanese Maples will be considered as naturally feminine. However, a strong, heavily tapered Japanese Maple with delicate leaves and branching could be considered to be a feminine species with masculine features, whilst a tall Hawthorn with craggy, rough bark, gentle curves and very gradual taper could be considered a masculine species with a feminine characteristics. With trees such as these it is necessary to identify which is the strongest feature and reflect it. Is it the craggy, fissured bark of the hawthorn or the gentle curves of the trunk that have the strongest visual impact? Is it the delicate branching of the Maple or the powerful tapered trunk that attracts your eye most? Fortunately, it is possible to find pot designs that can reflect both femininity and masculinity.

Pots are considered feminine or masculine. Deep pots with strong angular features are considered masculine whilst more feminine pots are shallower with softer lines. For instance, strong chunky, deep rectangles with sharp corners are very masculine pots, as are square pots. These are suited to thick heavy trunked masculine trees, especially conifers. For thick-trunked deciduous trees, the corners of the rectangle can be rounded thus reducing the masculinity of the pot a little. Working down through the scale of masculinity, deep chunky ovals come next and then we have drums/round pots that are androgynous i.e are suitable for a masculine or feminine tree. After this we move into the feminine pots which are shallow delicate ovals and very shallow round literati pots.

Pot Shape Basic Guidelines

Rectangular pots are suitable for coniferous species and big deciduous trees with very pronounced taper, wide base, heavy buttressed nebari. These are used for masculine trees to add a feeling of strength in the tree

Oval pots Suitable for reflecting the femininity of deciduous trees, clump style bonsai, groves and forests. The less taper the tree has the more feminine it tends to become, sinuous curves can also dampen the masculinity of a tree.

Round. Suitable for coniferous or deciduous feminine trees, particularly (but not exclusively) for literati bunjin trees. Tall straight or sinuously curved trees with very little taper are the most feminine and the pots that tend to suit these trees are very shallow rounds.

Pot Lip or Rim

A lip on the upper rim gives additional strength to a masculine tree.
A straight rim is softer for more androgynous trees
A bowl/convex side is more suited to feminine trees

Pot Corners

Sharp, right-angled corners are masculine and suitable for masculine trees
Indented corners on a rectangular pot soften the masculinity of a pot.
Rounded corners softens the pot further, beginning to resemble a oval pot and more suitable for masculine deciduous trees

Feet of pot

The main purpose of feet on a bonsai pot is to allow for good drainage and airflow, but feet can also be used to change the pots appearance. Feet can be subtle and decorative or strong and robust. These qualities can be used to influence the over all feel of the pot, big chunky feet can add strength to the design and understated delicate feet will have the opposite effect.

What are Bonsai Sizes ?

Another great bonsai exhibition has taken place in the UK, it's the Shohin Bonsai 2013. It tends to get increasingly crowded by the year and the exhibition draws international media attention. The exhibition is popular for small sized bonsai, and here goes the term ''Shohin'' which literally means ''small goods'' and basically refers to small sizes of trees encompassing mame, kifu and gafu sized bonsai from a mere inch to 1 foot in height! Although such are not my personal favorites, it is still worth to visit the exhibition and study the different techniques and ways of display.

The reason for increasing popularity is due to limitations of time, space and finances that fans and enthusiast encounter. And it is understood that to grow bonsai well you must have at least one of the following, time space and money. But beside the Shohin exhibition which is popular for small sized trees, there are plenty of others around the world for different types of sizes as well..the basics are simple, the smaller your apartment the smaller the bonsai. I would suggest Omono to start with a good type of maple. Here are some important ones:

If you ever wish to take part in an exhibition, please take note of common names for bonsai size classes as it is important. Not every exhibition will offer to view all size classes.

Here another perfect example of deadwood combined with the tree itself. It makes a perfect match and marvelous for in and outdoor display. This type of three might be a little bit pricey and not the right thing for beginners to start with a bonsai. Did you also know that wounds on bonsai trees do not heal in the same manner as the wounds of humans or animals. The best is to start with a small bonsai, maples and chinese elms are ideal for beginners.

That is to say, trees are not able to repair damaged tissue, instead they continue to manufacture a new layer of cells with each years growth, until the wounds is entirely covered over. The length of time this healing process depends upon the size of the wound and the overall size of each new annual growth ring.

Start a Bonsai from Seed

If you really wish to start a Bonsai from seed, then you must be aware that it can take ages to see first results. Not mentioning about time and effort that must be invested in wiring and shaping the Bonsai. There is no such thing as Bonsai seeds, these are normal trees and you the one in charge to make it happened! You should of course be aware that trees used in Bonsai are not 'special', not genetically different, they are the same trees as you see all around you.

For those that still may wish to grow a tree from seed. This will give you absolute control over the tree from its beginning. The best advice I can give you is don't do it, simply because life is to short.

You may have been the lucky recipient of one of the many Bonsai Kits available, go on try it!, follow the instructions, watch those precious little seeds germinate, poke their heads above the soil, and die. On closer inspection you will probably find the seedling has rotted at about soil level, this is called 'Damping off' and is a fungal attack. You can overcome this by adding a fungicide to the first watering and then as directed by the instructions. Bonsai 'kits' put people off the hobby, convincing them that bonsai are difficult to keep, as such they should be avoided. All of us have access to tree seeds, in parks or woods, our own gardens or perhaps through specialist suppliers. These will be 'fresher' than other sources.

When you have your seeds divide them into two lots. If you live in a temperate part of the world the chances are that your seeds will need to be chilled to start them growing, this is called 'Stratification'. Put half of the seeds in a container (a plastic bag) and place them in the refrigerator (not the freezer) for a few weeks. Plant the remainder straight away. If you come from the Tropics plant the seeds soon after collection.

They should be planted in a sturdy pot, or tray, and left to their own devices. This may take a year or so but provided they are not disturbed by birds, mice, or you, they should if fertile germinate. Last but not least, you have to put special importance on surrounding environment before you start.

How to Store Seeds

Keep seeds out of direct sunlight in a cool spot that maintains a fairly consistent temperature. Consider a cold closet, a basement, or a room on the north side of your home that remains cool year round. Freezing isn’t necessary for short-term storage, but you can refrigerate seeds, provided they are sufficiently dry.

All seeds need to germinate is sufficient water and temperatures that are favorable for plant growth. Make sure your seeds don’t sprout by storing them in a spot that isn’t humid and ensure the seeds are dry before sealing them in a container. Moisture is an especially important factor if you are freezing or refrigerating your seeds. If seeds are too wet, they can rot in the refrigerator or suffer frost damage in the freezer. If you store seeds in the refrigerator or freezer, place the packets in an air-tight container and ensure the seeds are properly dried to begin with. If you are storing seed you’ve saved yourself (bravo!), follow the correct seed saving processes to ensure they are dry.

Consistency is key when it comes to temperature and humidity levels. This is why you should avoid storing seeds in a spot that isn't climate-controlled, like a garage or shed, where temperatures and moisture levels can fluctuate wildly.

We’ve all had a plant or two that’s caught the attention of a pest. Critters, rodents, and bugs also enjoy nibbling on seeds that are waiting to be planted. Choose a storage spot that is pest-free and you can keep a close eye on to ensure it remains that way. Glass jars, metal containers, or wire mesh can further protect seeds from invaders.

However, there is something to be said for a little breathing room. When using a storage area that is cool and dry year round, you may be able to keep seeds in paper bags, mesh bags, or envelopes in what is called “open storage”. Moisture and heat generated by the seed during respiration can escape through these gas permeable containers. This is also a smart tactic when you aren’t sure about the moisture content of the seed. But you will still want to take precautions to protect your seeds from pests.

Some seeds do not fare as well in storage. Crops like carrots, parsnip, onions, and leeks are notoriously short lived. For these, freezer storage is best as seeds from these varieties that are stored at or near room temperature will quickly lose their ability to germinate and grow.

With these safeguards in place, you’ll be able to plant your seeds later and enjoy watching them grow.

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Passionate Students

I happen to subscribe to a Hobby Bonsai channel from this guy in California, he is very passionate about Bonsai and this has been going on for years now. The Bonsai's in this video are his artifacts from years and years spent with lot's of effort in wiring, shaping and passion for his trees. Here the latest Bonsai collection from Bonsai Student on Youtube. 

Update 2017: With a heavy heart I have to inform you that Bonsai Student passed away in 2016. I've read the news on his YouTube channel. He was passionate and talented Bonsai lover.

Another passionate Bonsai fan is Graham Potter, he shows different Bonsai techniques of wiring and shaping Bonsai. He uses a very different approach in shaping the branches and develop the trees. Even the pots that Graham displays are distinctive from other Bonsai channels on Youtube.

In a best sample, he displays a Mugo Pine collected from northern Italy and explains very detailed the various steps and reasons not to over stress the tree. In this demonstration he is showing a brilliant image of unique master piece!

Basically my message is don't 'buy a bonsai'. That is a poor way to begin this fascinating hobby and usually doomed to failure. Bonsai is not about 'owning' bonsai plants, but rather the enjoyment of caring for them and especially creating them. One learns the basics of Bonsai best by creating them, even your first one!

Without these basics, it is unreasonable to expect that someone could keep one alive, let alone maintaining it as art. There is also the cost factor. Any 'real' bonsai will take at least five years of development to be convincing. To buy such a bonsai would cost several hundred dollars. Of course you can find 'mall bonsai' everywhere, even grocery stores. These are junk, they are not bonsai. A two year old juniper cutting plunked unceremoniously into a bonsai pot is not bonsai. It is the care and training that makes bonsai; these plants have none.

Here some golden rules for Bonsai beginners:

Be persistent
Be patient

Don't buy your first Bonsai
Select a one gallon nursery plant for your first victim.
Prune and style the top of the plant into a shape that pleases you.
Do not repot or prune the roots
Keep your plant outside, even in winter (with protection) unless it is a tropical.

All starts with passion and good intention, so if you think that you have what it takes, then start with your first Bonsai ! Have fun and good luck!

Easy Steps to Bonsai Wiring Techniques

bonsai wiring

Wiring techniques can be applied easily when the student get hands on to do the job, otherwise it will seem mission impossible to fix the branches the way you wanted. For strong and firm type of wood e.g. pine tree, I would rather select a strong and thick wire whereby for softer and smaller branches the opposite. Wire is placed on the trunk and branches of bonsai for one purpose… to assist in making branches and trunks bend to the desired location. Like a hammer or a screwdriver, wire is a tool designed to accomplish a specific task in the most efficient manner possible. When it has served its purpose, it is removed. Interestingly, a segment of the population seems determined to believe that wiring a bonsai is the key to some sort of ancient Asian secret for keeping the tree small. People have ask if the purpose of the wire was to cause the tree great pain. They were sure that the creation of bonsai had something to do with the ancient Chinese practice of binding the feet of noble women. When I would smile and patiently explain what the wire was actually used for they seemed…. somehow…. disappointed. Wire serves the same purpose as braces on a child’s teeth. It is a temporary shaping device designed to be removed after it has done its job. We wire because it allows us, to train, to shape, to style and to create a bonsai that fits our aspiration and immagination! Bonsai is a living art form. It is a collaboration between nature and us. Wire provides us with our artistic license. That license gives us the freedom to place a branch where our imagination tells us one is needed. It allows us to give movement to the motionless. It provides us with the ability to supply stability where stability is required. Wire is an essential tool of the bonsai artist and wiring is an essential skill of the bonsai artist. So, it behooves anyone serious about bonsai to become proficient at and familiar with wire and wiring.

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The objective is to bend trunks and branches. In most situations wire is the simplest and quickest way to get that job done. However, it is certainly not the only way to bend a branch. Other methods include: tying branches to the edge of the container with string; hanging weights from the branches or using trunk jacks and branch clamps. It should be remembered that the objective is to move the branch. How that task is accomplished is of secondary consequence.

In fact, the use of wire in bonsai is not even mandatory. One school of bonsai in China known as the Ling Nan School, prohibits its practitioners from using wire. Ling Nan proponents insist that the use of wire gives the tree too much of a finished/refined appearance and that a more natural and pleasing effect can be achieved by simply clipping and growing branches.

While this artistic viewpoint has some merit, most of us will, at one point or another, wish to alter our bonsai’s appearance by bending a branch using wire.

On the surface, the process sounds deceptively simple. 

1. Put wire on tree. 
2. Bend branch to desired position. 
3. Wait for branch to harden in that position. 
4. Remove wire from tree. Nothing is as simple as it first appears.

For beginners, wiring can be a frustrating experience, but with practice and time comes control and precision. Eventually beginners discover a fact that experienced bonsaists already know. Wiring is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable processes in the creation of a bonsai.

Understand The Task

Bonsai wiring
Professional Bonsai Wires
Understanding the growth habits of the particular variety of plant material being shaped is one of the keys to success. Once a branch has been wired and moved to the desired position a certain amount of time is required for the branch to “harden off” before the wire can be removed. How much time will vary and is based on the kind of plant material being shaped; the thickness of the branch and the extremity of the bend involved.

Pines, for instance, are soft wood trees which are full of sap. They grow slowly and often take a long time before they can put on enough new wood to hold their position. Junipers on the other hand grow vigorously and will adapt to their new shape quickly. Some trees will take a month, some a year. Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure is to remove the wire and see if the branch remains where it was placed. If it does not, it must be rewired. To purchase bonsai wires you can click on here.

It is worth noting that some species of plants are such vigorous growers they will defy any attempt at shaping with wire. Weeping willows and Alberta spruces are two excellent examples and can be depended upon to move branches back into their original positions within days, if not hours after having their wire removed.

Because one can never be absolutely sure how long to leave wire in place, bonsaist will often leave wire on the tree for as long as possible. This can be very dangerous. It is possible to destroy a good piece of bonsai material by doing so.

If left on for too long, the branch will begin to grow into and around the wire. As it does it will leave spiral shaped marks on the bark. Horticulturally speaking, the tree could care less about wire marks. In most cases it will eventually absorb the wire and keep on growing.
Perfect Bonsai
Final result of a perfect Bonsai

However, from an artistic standpoint wire marks are a disaster. The objective in bonsai is to replicate nature’s patterns. Nature does not leave wire marks on her trees. Neither should you. Wire marks are a sign of bad artistic technique because they indicate that the artist was not doing his/her job. When such trees are entered into a competition judges will certainly deduct points for wire scarred trees.

Obviously it is good idea to watch a freshly wired tree closely. If the wire starts becoming too tight, remove it immediately, even if it means the branch will not hold its shape. The wire can always be reapplied later in a different position.

Trees can generally be wired and shaped at any time during the year. Extensive wiring in the early springtime, however, should be avoided. Most plants get a vigorous spurt of growth during this period and will develop wire marks quickly.

Also remember the majority of trees send their most vigorous and active growth to the top of the plant. The horticultural term for this habit is “apical dominance”. It means that branches in the upper regions of the plant are enlarging faster and will therefore be more inclined to develop wire marks more quickly than lower branches.

Types Of Wire?

There are two types or kinds of wire used in bonsai: copper and aluminum. Copper wire is stronger, but in my experience, is less forgiving. If it is not monitored very closely, it will invariably bite into your bonsai, scaring bark and branches alike. Aluminum wire, on the other hand, has one-quarter the
strength of copper wire, but it is easier to apply and easier to remove. These two fundamental characteristics make aluminum wire an advantage for the beginner and a blessing for the experienced.

How Should You Wire?

The rule of thumb for selecting the proper gauge wire is to use a wire that is roughly one third the width of the section of your bonsai that you are planning to wire. Apply the wire at a 45-degree angle; making certain that it is wrapped neither too tight, nor too loose. Bending the trunk or branch, should be done using both hands. It is important to support the trunk or branch, as much as possible, as you proceed. Be sure to hold the wire from behind with your thumb, as you proceed forward, bend the wire and not the trunk or branch. If you are wiring the entire bonsai, it is best to begin with the trunk and then move on to the largest branch and then to the next largest branch and so on. Also, it is imperative that you wire in the direction of yourself. It is easier and safer, because you will be able to avoid wiring over any buds, leaves or twigs that may be hidden by your arms or hands; and on a pragmatic level, you will be able to cut off the excess wire as you reach the very end of the branch.
Japanese Maples
Bonsai with Japanese Maples by Peter Adams

When Should You Wire?

You should always secure a bonsai that has just been re-potted with a wire running up from the bottom of the pot through the drainage holes. In regards to what season is optimal to wire your bonsai for styling purposes, the answer is: it depends upon what type of bonsai you're styling. If you grow pines, it is often recommended that you wire in the late fall or early winter, when sap levels are low and trees are more flexible.

If you grow deciduous trees, then early spring - before your bonsai leafs out - is a good choice, as a leafless tree allows you to see the entire branch structure clearly. As for when to remove the wire from

your bonsai, the safest answer is: before it bites into the bark of the tree. If you are using copper wire, checking weekly is prudent. If you are using aluminum wire, checking bi-weekly is advisable. You should only remove wire with the use of wire cutters. Trying to unwind a wire usually results in a crack or split, which is followed immediately by inconsolable weeping.

General Guidelines For Placement Of Wire On A Bonsai

1. If you are unsure about whether or not to remove a branch, it is usually better to wire the branch

2. Always begin with the thickest branches and the heaviest wire first. Gradually work toward thinner branches and thinner wire. This will greatly assist in the task of keeping the wire placement organized and orderly.

3. Avoid crossing wires when possible. Follow previous strands up the trunk and out the next branch. The result will be increased holding power and a much more professional appearance.

4. Wire needs to be applied so that it is snug against the bark with no spaces or gaps, yet not so tight that it cuts into and damages the bark. You should not be able to see daylight between the wire and the bark. Loosely applied wire will increase the risk of cracks or stress fractures in the branch.

5. Wire needs to be coiled at about a 45 degree angle perpendicular to the branch or trunk and placed snugly up against it. An angle of about 45 degrees seems to provide the best holding power. Wire coiled too close together will tend to behave like the spring on a screen door and will want to “spring” back. Wire coiled at an angle greater than 45 degree may leave such wide unsupported sections of the branch exposed that breaks and cracks may more easily occur. This is a critical consideration on heavier branches, but becomes less critical with smaller branches.

6. When wiring any given branch you have the choice of applying the wire in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. Plan what you are doing. Don’t simply “throw” wire onto the tree. If your plan is to move a branch down and to the right then placing wire on the branch in a clockwise pattern will cause it to tighten slightly during the bending process. Counterclockwise placement would cause it to loosen slightly and therefore lose holding power. Think about what direction you are wiring and how you plan to bend the branch. Again, this is a consideration which is more critical for thicker branches than for thin ones.

7. Any given piece of wire applied to a tree needs to be secured to some other part of the tree if it is expected to hold when bending pressure is applied. A piece of wire has two ends. Always attempt to wire two branches (of the same diameter) with one piece of wire. When doing this make sure that the wire makes at least one circumference of the trunk (more if necessary) before going out the next branch. This “required” turn around the trunk will insure that when branch #1 is moved, it will not cause branch #2 to also move. Instead, the “torque” will be against the trunk and not the other branch being wired. If you have only one branch to wire, secure the opposite end with a couple of wraps around an adjacent branch.

8. When applying wire always support the branch being wired with the thumb and forefinger of your

9. Place wire on the outside of any intended curves or bends you plan to make. When bending a branch the wood of the tree is compressed on the inside of the curve and stretched on the outside of the curve. Placement of wire along the outside of the curve provides critical support where it is most needed.

10. To determine the correct gauge of wire needed to hold a branch securely in place you can try pushing on the branch with an extended piece of wire about 8 or 10 inches long. As you “push” against the branch you will discover that: 1. the branch will move, or 2. the wire will bend. If it is the wire that bends, it is probably of insufficient strength to hold once coiled into place. Go to the next thickest diameter and repeat the test. At some point the wire will remain rigid and the branch will move. This is probably indicates you have selected a gauge of wire sufficiently thick enough to hold the branch securely. Note that we said probably.

If the branch does not remain in its new position, you have two options: 1. remove the wire and replace it with a heavier gauge that will hold, or 2. Place another strand of wire on the same branch by coiling it alongside the first one.

The development of good wiring technique is dependent upon practice more than any other thing. Remember that if the branch goes where you bent it and does not break… you did it correctly.

Admittedly you will probably use more wire than necessary in the beginning and its organizational structure on the tree will look a little like a road-map in the mountains, but with time and practice your technique will improve. And try to work its placement into the final design than to cut it off. The branch can always be removed after the fact.
Bonsai Tool Set
Bonsai Tool Set from Japan
opposite hand.

Bring the wire to the tree and rotate the wire slightly as you wrap it about the branch. This rotation will cause it to seat more snugly against the branch. When working with very thick wire you will find a pair of wire pliers handy for assisting with this task. When that wrap is complete, inch forward with your thumb and forefinger and support the next section as you apply the next wrap. Continue in this manner until you have reached the end of the branch. This technique guarantees that the branch will always have the solid support of the artist’s hand as the wire is moved into place and that unnecessary breaks will be avoided.

Bonsai - Japanese White Pines

Japanese White Pines (Pinus Paviflora) is one of the striking elements in a garden landscape. Very solid wood and harsh weather resistant. I happen to visit my relatives in downtown, it’s always amazing to admire the white pines in their backyard nearby. 

Often seen as a dense, conical form when young, Japanese White Pine develops into a 25 to 50 foot tall, irregularly-shaped tree, with an equal or greater spread, and a broad, flattened canopy.

The 1 to 2.5-inch-long needles are stiff and twisted, forming blue and green tufts of foliage at branch tips, and creating an overall fine texture to the tree's silhouette. The brownish-red cones are one to four inches long and persist on the tree for six to seven years. The needles grow in groups of five, so this tree is also known as "five-needle pine".

Watering is very easy!
As with other Pines, good drainage is very essential.

Pruning and wiring

The root system should be pruned gradually in the course of repotting, so as to always leave a strong root system. Branch pruning and wiring should be done in late autumn, and the wire left on the tree for 6-8 months at most. Pinch new shoots in spring to 1/3 of their length. Every 1-2 years it is possible to remove all of the new shoots in late spring,

if the tree is healthy and well fed. This will result in buds forming in the fall at the sites where the shoots were removed. The reason this might be done is to form very short internodes on the branches.


More Bonsai articles can be found here:

Please click here for more information on --> Chinese Penjing Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> The Origins of Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> The Art of Saikei Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> Japanese Tanuki Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> How to Water a Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> Bonsai Healing Methods

Thank you for visiting my blog and feel free to subscribe to this blog and leave your message on the comment section below. Remember, good feedbags or bad remarks, it doesn't matter! 

Chinese Elm Bonsai

Chinese Elm Bonsai

This type of tree is the most common kind of bonsai and generally the first one most people will own. Without some information on how to look after them they are also usually the last one they will ever have after it struggles and then finally gives up. Bonsai in general symbolise peace, harmony, order of thoughts and balance. Known as 'The tree of harmony', the Elm symbolises inner strength, intuition and wisdom. A beautiful bonsai which signifies love, balance, calm and a peaceful energy. Here an illustration from the popular channel Bonsai Empire;

They are tough and able to survive the hazards of life indoors, difficult for any tree. Chinese Elm have very small leaves, rugged bark, fine branches and nice roots. Large trees have real charisma and the wow factor. Small ones can be bought cheaply. The tree is semi-decidious and will either keep or partially loose its leaves depending on the conditions in which is it kept. Branch protection is vital for Bonsai's to survive in the long run. Efficient would be tree raffia which can be found here --> Bonsai Tree Raffia

The Chinese Elm is an easy bonsai to care for. It is not overly fussy about positioning but prefers a position with good natural daylight but out of direct sunlight, especially during the hottest summer months. We recommend a position away from radiators if possible. A window sill would be great but avoid south facing window-sills in mid summer.

As an indoor bonsai the Chinese Elm is not fussy about temperature. If you are growing your bonsai outside, please place in a sheltered position in the garden. Outside this bonsai is semi-evergreen so you should expect the leaves to drop. For very cold nights (below freezing) we would recommend that you bring the bonsai into a shed, glasshouse or cool room. Once nightly lows begin approaching the 40 degree mark, it is time to bring your indoor bonsai inside. The ideal indoor location is on a window sill facing south. An east or west exposure is second best. A northern exposure will work, but will necessitate the use of "grow lights" to provide sufficient light to keep your bonsai healthy. Four to six hours of sunlight per day should suffice. If you can provide more, so much the better.

Aim to maintain an even level of moisture. The species is quite thirsty especially in hot or sunny conditions. Pot emersion watering can be done or the tree can be watered from above. It largely depending on when the tree was last re-potted and what mixture of organic or inorganic soil medium was used.

Chinese Elms can be very vigorous growers which can resemble fluffy bushes in as little as a couple of weeks. the leaves group alternatively on straight shoots.If you seek simply to maintain the existing shape of a pre-made bonsai, cut the shoots back to the first set of new leaves after the shoot has got an inch or two in length. It also responds will to finger pinching of small shoots on an ongoing basis.

Growing Chinese Elm
We are frequently asked for bonsai seed kits but the reality is that thee kits are rather a disappointed. They frequently don't germinate and it is not the best way to propagate indoor bonsai trees. You are far better to purchase a bonsai, so you can enjoy growing it, and propagate new bonsai by taking cuttings. These are best taken in spring. Allow new shoots to grow 8-10cm and then prune with clean pruning scissors. Pop these cuttings into some fresh multipurpose compost in a small pot. Water them and then keep misting to maintain humidity.

More Bonsai articles can be found here:

Please click here for more information on --> Chinese Penjing Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> The Origins of Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> The Art of Saikei Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> Japanese Tanuki Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> How to Water a Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> Bonsai Healing Methods

Thank you for visiting my blog and feel free to subscribe to this blog and leave your message on the comment section below. Remember, good feedbags or bad remarks, it doesn't matter!