“You get tragedy where the tree, instead of bending, breaks..” ― Ludwig Wittgenstein
Making great bonsai trees requires learning the skill of wiring. If you're not wiring, you're not doing bonsai. You're just growing potted plants.
I don't like wiring. Wiring and bending branches stresses the tree. It can cause cuts and scrapes, especially with thorny specimens. It's not that fun. It makes me nervous about damaging my tree. I once asked a speaker how to gauge how far you can go when bending a branch, and he told me "It's okay to bend it to just before the point where it's going to snap, but no more!"
I do, however, like the way wiring makes a tree look. Pruning can only accomplish so much, and after pruning, the tree often looks much worse, at least for a few weeks. Wiring almost always immediately improves the tree's appearance.
So how do you do it the right way? Start by getting a better teacher than me. The best way to learn how to wire is to watch other people wiring, to ask questions, and to practice wiring on your own trees, over and over and over. If you don't have access to a club, and you want to see how and why it's done, Youtube is a great alternative source. In my opinion, the best Youtube video on wiring is this two-part series by UK bonsai artist Peter Warren.
Here's part one. It doesn't contain any actual wiring, but it does include a lot of useful information.
Part two is where he actually starts to wire, which is probably why part two has more views than part one.
There are some good online wiring guides, too. For example:
- Bonsai4Me Guide to Wiring, Part 1
- Bonsai4Me Guide to Wiring, Part 2
- Bonsai Experience's Guide to Wiring
- Bonsai Primer's Guide to Wiring
If you don't have a bonsai nursery near you and can't find suitable wire for sale in your location, you can buy it online in a number of places. The going rate is about $20 to $35 per kilo, which is quite a spread, but it depends on how much you buy, what the shipping charges are and what the seller's costs are. Some sellers online include:
I have gotten mine recently from David & June Nguy of America West Imports, 1653 N. Main Street Los Angeles, (323) 223-9102, firstname.lastname@example.org.