Ponderosa Pine—With Same Wire for 10 Years

It’s true. I’ve a pine with the same wire on it for 10 years.

We often hear talk of removing the wire on our trees in the fall. The question is, when they are not in danger of biting in, why take the wires off?

Sometimes, the thinking is, it’s to protect from damage from cold—which, as Chapter 31 of Bonsai Heresy explains, is a myth.

Most bonsai, particularly conifers, need wire to dent into the branch slightly before removal, otherwise they spring back nearly to where they were before. The question of course is what a ‘dent’ is. This I’d define as a mark or indentation when the wire is taken off, but not so much that the top of the wire is level with the bark of the branch. That would be fairly well into the damage zone, particularly with deciduous trees.

If wire hasn’t made a dent in the branch, you’re safe to leave it on a while longer. There’s no reason to check wires in the winter (in temperate climates), but spring through fall wires can bite in fast. A good practice is to routinely and systematically go though your bonsai garden and see which are getting too tight.

Although 10 years is an extreme example, many slowly growing mature conifers can go 2 years or longer before wire needs removal. Young, vigorously growing conifers may need removal in less than a year. Often only one or two months is the limit for deciduous trees. Old conifers, however, might keep wire on much longer.

Copper wire on a Ponderosa Pine, left on for 10 years. This wire is very dark, which will happen over time with copper. These wires are getting pretty snug, but are not in danger of damaging the branches yet. Given how slowly this tree has put on wood, they may be left on a while longer yet.

Other branches on the same tree. It’s best to take wire off only when some indenting is seen—if you take it off before then, branches will spring back nearly to where they were before, and your work (and wire) will be wasted.

October 2020 Bulletin Board:

  • Although the October session is full, there’s still a couple spots left in the later Fall Seasonal-lites, Nov. 7-8 and 14-15. We limit these to ten people, cover a heck of a lot of ground in 2 half-day sessions (6 hours total), and a recording of our session is given to each participant. To learn more about this online course, see Seasonals. Contact us at [email protected] to join us for a deep dive into fall bonsai work-
  • We’re getting close to 10,000 downloads on our new Bonsai Wire podcast! Our team of four—Jonas Dupuich, Andrew Robson, John Eads and myself—have uploaded, to date, 9 episodes. If you’re new to podcasts and haven’t the faintest idea what this is about, all you need are earbuds and a taste for bonsai. Perhaps start with the ‘Introductions’ episode where we introduce ourselves, and then you’re off and running: Bonsai Wire.

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