When developing bonsai from scratch – from seed or from very young stock – the first order of business is creating the trunk. This is easier said than done. Some of the very first curves are set when the tree is still young. For black and red pine, I’ve been applying the first wires at around 3 or 4 years old (see “Wiring 3 year-old black pines”). When wiring such young trees, I tend to use larger gauge wire as it doesn’t cut into the bark as quickly as thin gauge wire. Given enough time, however, the wire will cut in. And as young pines can grow quickly, care is required to ensure the wire doesn’t stay on too long.
How much is too much? I left the wire on the young pine below on a bit longer than I wanted. The wire had been in place for around 5 months.
Wire cutting into the bark
A bit of cutting in is good as it helps set branches, but at some point too much cutting in can kill branches, or at least make them unsuitable for bonsai. Smaller scars don’t cause problems as they typically disappear as the trunk thickens.
Scars left by leaving the wire on too long
I have a number of pines around the same age.
4-year-old black pine
The wire here is cutting in but not too much.
Wire cutting in
Removing the wire at this stage is easy. Here’s the trunk after removing the wire.
After removing the wire
Ready for more fertilizer and a return to the bench
When applying or removing bonsai wire, it’s important to apply (or remove) the wire with one hand and secure it with the other. This is especially true when the wire cuts in deeply. If not removed with care, the wire can tear through young bark and open large wounds.
Another 4-year-old pine
Both the trunk and the first branch have been wired
I usually secure the wire with my left hand and wind or unwind it with my right. Below, I’m securing the wire with my left hand so my right can unwind the wire about 180 degrees. At that point I’ll lower my left hand and secure a bend closer to the soil. From that position I can unwind the wire another 90-180 degrees. I continue re-securing the wire bend by bend until I reach the soil line and the wire comes free.
Securing the wire
After removing the wire, I reapply fertilizer and return the trees to the bench. I’ll work on them next in fall or winter.
Flat of young pines
A number of my 4-year-old pines were a bit larger and are already growing in colanders.
4-year-old pine in colander
I followed the same process for these trees.
Wire – copper in this case – beginning to cut in
After removing the wire
This one tree had been wired with copper as I worked on it just before my last trip to Japan. Once in Japan, I saw examples of trees developed the same way with aluminum wire. It’s a cheaper material with a larger diameter making it just perfect for the job.
Ready for the bench
Once that tree was done, I worked my way through the rest of the pines on the bench, removing all of the wires that were cutting in. When the wires weren’t cutting in, I left them in place. I’ll check these trees again next month and hold off on removing the wire until it’s begun to cut in.
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