You’ve chosen your tree and your shape and now it’s time to learn how to make it happen! Pruning can seem intimidating but once you know what to look for and how to systematically execute the process, it will seem much easier.
There are two kinds of pruning – style pruning, and maintenance. When you first get your tree (or your seed grows large enough to style) you will want to begin shaping it into the bonsai of your dreams. Rather than just cutting willy nilly all over the place, there are certain steps you’ll want to follow in style pruning:
- Normally it’s best to prune in spring or fall (before or after growing season) but you’ll want to look up information on timing for your specific species.
- Place your tree on a solid surface, at eye level.
- Remove any dead foliage or wood.
- Cut away thick, vertical branches that aren’t bendable.
- Cut away any branches that conceal the front of your plant’s trunk.
- Even out the branches in order of thickest toward the bottom of the tree, to thinnest at the top.
- Apply cut paste to places where larger branches were removed.
- Do not remove more than a third of your tree’s foliage.
Maintenance pruning is just as it sounds – follow the same basic procedures as for style pruning, but only cutting away the extra growth that is compromising the look and shape you want the bonsai to have.
How to Wire Train the Branches
Wiring is an essential part of training your branches into the growing pattern you want them to follow. There are different kinds of wire but it is usually recommended that beginners use anodized aluminum. This comes in diameters of 1-6mm. You won’t need them all, a variety in sizes 1-4mm should probably suffice.
Begin with wire that’s about a third the size of the branch you’re wiring. Wrap the wire around the truck at least two times, then continue up the branch, wrapping at about a 45 degree angle. If you intend to bend the branch downward, the wire should be wrapped up around it from the bottom. Likewise if bending upward, the wire should be wrapped around from top of the branch to bottom. Continue wrapping to the end of the branch.
Now for the tricky part – bending. Brace the outer part of the branch (meaning the side that is going to curve outward) with your fingers, stabilizing it as you gently bend the inner curve with your thumbs. This helps to protect the branch from breakage. Once the curve is the way you want it, stop bending – moving it around too much may break it.
It is also important to remember that thick branches may become scarred by wire as the branches grow, so check the wire often. You can also wrap the branch in raffia to help protect it.
You’re on your way to a custom-created bonsai, invented by your imagination!