Bonsai trees are traditionally shaped to replicate the shapes of fully-grown trees in the wild. There are many techniques used by bonsai experts in shaping their trees. Pruning and trimmings are some of the common techniques used but if you are trying to influence your bonsai to grow in a particular manner or direction, wiring techniques prove to be the most effective.
Generally, wiring is a technique that involves the curling of wires around bonsai branches to influence the growth of the tree. The wires are coiled around the branches in a specific shape and left there until the branch can retain that shape without the use of wires.
This technique is most suited for radical designs and formal styles that demand for specific shapes.
There are two types of wires that are commonly used in shaping wires; aluminum and copper wires. Both these types of wires have their own attributes and are used for different purposes.
Aluminum wires can be easily bent and can be re-used to shape bonsais. Copper wires on the other hand, tend to harden once bent, making it difficult for it to be reused. If you are a newcomer to shaping bonsais, you should make use of aluminum wires as they are cheaper and are easier to shape compared to copper wires.
One of the major disadvantages of aluminum wires is its color. Its shining glaze creates great contrast between the branches and leaves, making it stand out to the viewer.
Copper wires on the other hand, have a softer and orange hue, which blends in better in the foliage. Copper wires are also used to shape larger and sturdier branches it is more rigid compared to aluminum wires.
When using the wiring method, you must be vigilant in ensuring that the wires do not cut in the tree branch or trunk, especially when using thin wires. This would leave an unsightly scar on the branch and uneven discoloration.
To avoid this, make use of thicker wires whenever possible. Deciduous trees are especially susceptible to such scaring.
It usually takes about 3 months for the branches to retain its new shape. If the plant does not retain its shape, leave the wires on the branches for a couple more weeks.
It is very important to not be overzealous in your wiring attempts. At any one time, the branch should not be bent more than 45 degrees to avoid the risk of breaking. If you need the branches to bend at a radical angle, bend the branches gradually over several wiring sessions.