Al Keppler's Tips for Better Bonsai

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Al Keppler, Tips for Better Bonsai


Grow seeds under screen for movement


I started growing seeds under window screen about twenty years ago.
I had not grown seeds for bonsai in that long. I did some a couple years ago and the
shapes of the trunks and branches is a sight to behold. The movement takes on the
striations with in the texture of the trunk bark and the tree as it grows looks as if it had
grown that way by Mother nature.

Growing your own material

This seems easy enough, but is probably the hardest way to go. growing material is primarily dependent on your knowledge. What seems like cool stuff in year one may be really sucky in year five when your a better artist. Paying for someone else's time is a good way to go. I do that myself, but look for interesting stuff not too developed so that I can put my feeling into what's left. I don't wish to buy finished trees, but feel no need to grow them either. I just don't have the time. If you are young that can be a rewarding part of the hobby, provided you have the knowledge to grow something worthy of your talents.


Learn to graft

Obviously grafting is the fasted way to move along deciduous material. Purchasing promising looking trunks and removing the branches and putting them in your best places ir very rewarding. It builds a tree fast and there is no better way to get a branch right where you need it. Grafting conifers is easy too, just taking much longer to knit and subject to more failures. Like any bonsai technique, practice makes this an easy task with the more you do. When it becomes second nature, a good grafter always wonders why everyone doesn't do it!


Learn to layer

Layering is a task much like grafting. It requires some practice and a few failures and then it all clicks and it is easy. Layering is a good way to removes only the best part of an otherwise crappy piece of material. Many times I have purchased material with the intention of removing the part in which I was buying the material for. Maybe only the middle or top portion of the tree. Ground layers are the best way to finish off deciduous trees. Many times the root base of the trunk is ugly and the final part of the grow out is to ground layer the completed tree and remove it from its ugly portion and reveal the new finished tree with good base and magnificent canopy.


Learn to fuse

We don't hear about this technique much. Doug Phillips made this technique popular a decade ago with his fused trunk tridents. Fusing hundreds of seedlings around a wire armature and allowing all the seedlings to fuse into a solid trunk. It works, and after doing a few and working out the kinks Doug was able to make some really nice trees. I have started doing this with small saplings fusing them into spreading oak type forms because the style is hard to find from growers who concentrate on pine tree style trunks on maples.



Learn how to use raffia

Raffia is a good aid in bending branches an small trunks. Soaking the raffia strands in warm water for half an hour makes them pliable. Gathering five or six strands and tying them with a knot and wrapping tightly around the branch corkscrew fashion will allow the artist to then wrap the raffiaed branch with wire and bend it without fear of cracking the cambium or possibly breaking the branch. The raffia also tightens when dry helping to make a bandage keeping out insects and bugs.



Use fungicide year round

Spray your trees prophylacticaly. Most maladies are made during the winter and don't show up till the following spring like fungus. Spraying after you see it is too late.


Spray for bugs year round

Spraying for bugs is the same issue. It should be done on a regular basis and not just when bugs appear. You don't do it that way in your house and you shouldn't so it that way on your trees. Unless of course your house is infested with bugs and you just don't care.


Don't clean out all the good stuff

This is another rookie mistake taught at every workshop across America. This is not to say that the instructors are bad, this is to say that sometimes in a workshop time limit that things get missed and cleaning a new piece of material can actually take a day or more to do properly, This is not something that is done wham bam thank you Mame. This is what actually sets up the tree for good or bad, in years terms. I learned all this from Kenji Miyata many years ago. I don't think there is a better juniper stylist in America than Kenji. But, Kenji did not make the workshop about cleaning crotches. He told you to clean them and then chastised you about not doing it properly without telling you why before. So I am going to share that right now.


When you go to a workshop with a name guy, they may tell the whole circle of students with their ten dollar juniper in front of them to "spend a few minutes cleaning it up" This comes with no instructions except maybe to cut out the dead stuff and take out the green in the crotches. What this does is allows the teacher to walk around and look at each tree, maybe make points about what someone is doing or see which students he can use as an example of doing great work...whatever. The workshop could be better used to explain how important cleaning a tree is towards the work to be done.


Here is an example. Form your left hand into a peace sign. Stick you right hand index finger to the bottom of the vee. That is the crotch. If there is green there remove it. More later. Now with your right index finger still in the crotch let it slide up to the first knuckle of your left hand. If there is a green thing there, leave it. That is not a crotch nor adjacent to it. That may be where the instructor in the next part tells you that the branch should be cut back to for taper. Starting to make sense now. Ok lets go back to the crotches again, I said remove them and all the dead stuff which goes with out say. Lets pretend that you are working your way up the crotches from bottom to top. You get to the upper third of the tree cleaning and you get to this branch that is as large as some near the bottom. You are at that crotch. Leave the green. Do not clean any green from anywhere in the upper third. Those crotch shoots are your best friend. You may be removing that big branch and working with that small shoot for the best branch. If you removed it you would have to wait for another to bud. You may get it if you leave the big branch. If you remove the big branch, sayonara shoot there again!!! Kenji is notorious for coming around after the clean up and making you feel like a bowl of dog shit for removing the future of the tree after the clean up. Hope this helps.



Use cut paste

When pruning trees in the yard and wild , cut paste is not necessary. The tree over a month or two compartmentalizes that part and the tree does not bleed out. The wound dries out and rots and the tree covers it over with bark if the conditions are good over many years. On our bonsai we do not wish to have this big gaping wound left to its own and what it might do to the look of the tree. I paste all large wounds after dressing with a sharp knife. I even cover wounds down to a 1/8 inch. Why not...I'm anal.


Buy for the future not what's on sale

This is really one of the most valuable pieces of information here. It makes no sense to continue to buy ten dollar plants over and over again. Save up and buy one hundred dollar plant and really have something for the future. The ten dollar plants are never going to be anything and frankly if you buy one and start working on it, that's the size it will stay, so if one wishes to have a collection of 5 inch tall crappy trees, then by all means but the ten dollar material.


Learn to look for the smallest tree.

This is the best trick of all. Always look for the smallest tree. You may have a 40 inch tall juniper with a wye, and some big branches, but down at the bottom is the couple of small shoots that exit the trunk in the perfect places. Have the guts to cut it all off and go with that. Spend the time and wire that out and develop it, that's what being an artist is all about. The tree is your canvas, do good artists just use the paint as it comes from the tube. No, they mix it and message it into colors that reflect their mood and style. Massage the tree and force it to reflect your mood also, don't just use it the way you bought it, bring out your creativity with this palette the tree has provided.


Buy upper grade tools

Purchasing bonsai tools can be considered a life time investment. They should last close to a life time of the hobby and when cared for and kept in oiled and clean condition this is easily accomplished. It is not necessary to buy expensive stainless steel tools and I don't think they stay as sharp nor take an edge better than less expensive carbon steel. The cost difference is measurable and even replacing a carbon steel tool here and there is still less expensive than fancy stainless. Your choice, your money.


Learn how to bend with pliers

Bending branches seems a no brainier. Grasp with hand, maybe use thumb as fulcrum and apply pressure, Bingo, broken branch. Bending branches with pliers is easy and will allow the artist to kink the branch in just the right spot. It also allows for kinking the wire which is not possible when bending with hands. Kinked wire has tremendous holding power. It is possible to bend a branch with one pair, but two pair of pliers is even better. Your bent branches will take on a whole new character and frankly its what separates professionals from hobbyists


Buy good pots

This is highly variable and depends on where you live and your budget for purchasing pots. Most good pots can be had all over the internet and shipped directly to your home, so purchasing good pots is easy, having the available funds is hard. In the long run a good pot is versatile since it can be used over and over on many different plants as your hobby grows. Pay attention to frost hardiness and function. Inward turned lips can be a problem and pots with out sufficient drainage holes or wire tying holes can be useless. Your trees will step up in appearance with a good functional pot and matched appearance.


Don't bonsai pot too soon.

This is a rookie mistake seen all the time. The first thing that is done is to buy a juniper from Home Depot and cut it a little, put some poorly applied wire on it and then placing it a bonsai pot makes it all done. That is not a bonsai. The faster you all learn the difference about what bonsai really is and when it goes into an appropriate pot the faster you will be on your way to better bonsai. Put some years into the material and grow it in the roomy appropriate container to get maximum growth from the plant. Do the prunings and when the time is right, maybe five or more years, it will be ready for a suitable show container. Maybe not the final container but its first bonsai pot to help reduce the root ball.


Plant on bottom of pot with no soil when possible

I started doing this about twelve years ago, I always felt that planting on a saucer was a
great way to improve nebari. Well the bottom of the pot is also the same as planting on a
saucer or tile. Plants do not need soil to grow and your plant will absolutely grow very
well with no soil under the root ball.


Use good soil but don't be stupid

Another topic with many variables. Good soil is debated on many levels. The only thing soil needs to do with a bonsai is provide adequate drainage and work as a moisture supply device. All of this is solely dependant on particle size and type. Volcanic particles have an advantage of being pourus and so they hold moisture well. Clay particles too hold moisture well, but degrade into finer particles over time, and while having an advantage of helping with root ramification which translates to the canopy, it also means that the soil must be replaced more frequently at added expense. A good substitute can be the addition of bark chunks. Not humus and not decomposed. The soil components to work together should all be sifted to the same size. Keep in mind that smaller particle size will hold more moisture for a longer period than a larger particle. There are many things one can use for soil, just use good common sense and invest in a soil sieve




Use humic acid.

I stumbled onto Humic acid about twelve years ago during a job I was doing. They had a fire and they would not allow me into the basement. Finally after a week of coaxing and promising to not let his cat out of the bag he let me in. A wonderful pot farm. It was all aeroponic and his secret was Humic acid and I began using it right away. I have used it ever since. There is much info on the internet and if one wants to research it and the material is sound. I highly recommend it.


Organic fertilizer works slower than nitrate

Organic fertilizer is slower acting than Chemical type fertilizers, especially in a pot. Organic fertilizer requires bacteria to break it down into useable plant compounds. Nitrate on the other hand is available for the plant to use straight away. Organics probably have an advantage in finished plants due to not providing coarse growth where nitrate will elongate shoots and ruin good ramification. They both have their place in the growing of bonsai.


Clean your pots yearly

I have a terrible problem with calcium in my water. It is very hard, tastes good but covers my pots and leaves with calcium. I have to clean them sometimes twice a year to stay on top of it. There are many ways to clean the pots and some work very well there is a rubber type eraser with pumice embedded in it that works very well on glazed pots and then on unglazed I use a regular bathroom pumice stone to really knock it off. Coating the pots with boot dressing like mink oil will facilitate removing the calcium build up easier.


Wire everything

The one overwhelming piece of advice one can give in the pursuit of bonsai is wire. It is simple and when properly applied can make the difference between a plant in a pot and a bonsai in a pot. Wire sometimes is the difference between the two. When wiring a tree for the first time it is wise to wire everything. Wire out to the smallest branch tips. This is so as the tree grows in the current season decisions can be made on what to remove the next season and what will need to be re wired the next season. This back and fourth is what bonsai is all about. Wiring is also good practice even if your not keeping it all.


Wire into pots

This is just good common sense. Our trees tend to be top heavy and depending on the soil to hold the tree into the pot is a recipe for disaster. The wire serves two purposes. It holds the tree firm against the elements and critters and it holds the tree firm so as to not disturb the root ball. I have seen trees wired in and when moved by the pot alone the tree still jiggles within the soil and this should not be. The tree should be wired firm into the pot by the correct size wire.


Use the correct wire

When wiring a tree the correct size wire will hold what it is intended to hold. I would prefer to have the next size up if needed than two wires or a branch always springing back against the wire into an inappropriate location. One trick is the use a length of wire against the intended branch. If the branch yields to the pressure it should be sufficient to wire with that size. If the wire needs, move up in size till you reach the size that move the branch and not bends the wire. There is a limit on size and I think using wire that looks like a cable on a tree is stupid. Use a guy wire for a season or two and then come back to it and see if your largest cool looking wire will work now. as to the choice of copper over aluminum? That is your decision and one you will have to come to grips with on your own. I have my preference, but since I don't see much difference, for me it's not worth arguing about. Whatever gets the job done is my go to.


Wire at the correct angle

Wire should be applied at as close to a 45 degree angle as possible. It takes some practice allowing the wire to wind around with even coils, but when done properly it looks amazing. The 45 degrees give maximum holding power because of the angle of the wire perpendicular to the branch. Coils to close together and at about 15 degrees hold nothing.


Use jin and shari when appropriate

Jin and Shari are two of the most dramatic elements on a good bonsai. when done correctly it can enhance what is going on with in the tree by offering balance, negative space and direction. when done poorly it takes away from an otherwise great tree. Overly long jins or twisty out of place jins look manufactured and not natural. Overly carved shari and trees with holes and grooves that show the marks of man detract from the bonsai. Jin and shari should be kept to a minimum and used when appropriate. Removing a branch is not a ticket to a jin. Sometimes branches need to be removed to offer flow. Leaving a distracting jin there adds an eye block to the flow and makes it seem the branch is still there.


Take pictures

Taking pictures is one of the best way to improve ones trees. Not only do you see the tree grow and change thru the years, it gives you starting points for photo shopping the tree for branch removal before even taking the branch off. Pictures can also allow you to set your tree up for a display by changing stands, accents, scrolls or many other accessories. Photos also will instantly show you a leaf out of place or a shoot that needs to be trimmed a half an inch. You can also turn trees so the next repotting can be done more easily and a print made for repot day showing just how it should be.


Go to exhibits

I have learned more from going to exhibits of fine bonsai more than every teacher combined. Really good exhibits offer the ability to see into the mind of the creator. really get down on your hands and knees and study what is going on. Sure you look stupid but that what your there for. To appreciate. Take pictures of the undersides of canopies. Learn how it was wired, why they did this and that and how the branches were positioned. Pictures of jins and deadwood. Learn how it was made. Ask questions. I guarantee if the owner is nearby him or her will be eager to spill their guts on what they did. We really like to gush about that sort of thing. Be humble, don't piss him off by questioning why he did this and that. Just make a mental note to never do that if you don't like it. It's not your tree.




 

markyscott

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Al Keppler, Tips for Better Bonsai


Grow seeds under screen for movement


I started growing seeds under window screen about twenty years ago.
I had not grown seeds for bonsai in that long. I did some a couple years ago and the
shapes of the trunks and branches is a sight to behold. The movement takes on the
striations with in the texture of the trunk bark and the tree as it grows looks as if it had
grown that way by Mother nature.


Growing your own material

This seems easy enough, but is probably the hardest way to go. growing material is primarily dependent on your knowledge. What seems like cool stuff in year one may be really sucky in year five when your a better artist. Paying for someone else's time is a good way to go. I do that myself, but look for interesting stuff not too developed so that I can put my feeling into what's left. I don't wish to buy finished trees, but feel no need to grow them either. I just don't have the time. If you are young that can be a rewarding part of the hobby, provided you have the knowledge to grow something worthy of your talents.


Learn to graft

Obviously grafting is the fasted way to move along deciduous material. Purchasing promising looking trunks and removing the branches and putting them in your best places ir very rewarding. It builds a tree fast and there is no better way to get a branch right where you need it. Grafting conifers is easy too, just taking much longer to knit and subject to more failures. Like any bonsai technique, practice makes this an easy task with the more you do. When it becomes second nature, a good grafter always wonders why everyone doesn't do it!


Learn to layer

Layering is a task much like grafting. It requires some practice and a few failures and then it all clicks and it is easy. Layering is a good way to removes only the best part of an otherwise crappy piece of material. Many times I have purchased material with the intention of removing the part in which I was buying the material for. Maybe only the middle or top portion of the tree. Ground layers are the best way to finish off deciduous trees. Many times the root base of the trunk is ugly and the final part of the grow out is to ground layer the completed tree and remove it from its ugly portion and reveal the new finished tree with good base and magnificent canopy.


Learn to fuse

We don't hear about this technique much. Doug Phillips made this technique popular a decade ago with his fused trunk tridents. Fusing hundreds of seedlings around a wire armature and allowing all the seedlings to fuse into a solid trunk. It works, and after doing a few and working out the kinks Doug was able to make some really nice trees. I have started doing this with small saplings fusing them into spreading oak type forms because the style is hard to find from growers who concentrate on pine tree style trunks on maples.



Learn how to use raffia

Raffia is a good aid in bending branches an small trunks. Soaking the raffia strands in warm water for half an hour makes them pliable. Gathering five or six strands and tying them with a knot and wrapping tightly around the branch corkscrew fashion will allow the artist to then wrap the raffiaed branch with wire and bend it without fear of cracking the cambium or possibly breaking the branch. The raffia also tightens when dry helping to make a bandage keeping out insects and bugs.



Use fungicide year round

Spray your trees prophylacticaly. Most maladies are made during the winter and don't show up till the following spring like fungus. Spraying after you see it is too late.


Spray for bugs year round

Spraying for bugs is the same issue. It should be done on a regular basis and not just when bugs appear. You don't do it that way in your house and you shouldn't so it that way on your trees. Unless of course your house is infested with bugs and you just don't care.


Don't clean out all the good stuff

This is another rookie mistake taught at every workshop across America. This is not to say that the instructors are bad, this is to say that sometimes in a workshop time limit that things get missed and cleaning a new piece of material can actually take a day or more to do properly, This is not something that is done wham bam thank you Mame. This is what actually sets up the tree for good or bad, in years terms. I learned all this from Kenji Miyata many years ago. I don't think there is a better juniper stylist in America than Kenji. But, Kenji did not make the workshop about cleaning crotches. He told you to clean them and then chastised you about not doing it properly without telling you why before. So I am going to share that right now.


When you go to a workshop with a name guy, they may tell the whole circle of students with their ten dollar juniper in front of them to "spend a few minutes cleaning it up" This comes with no instructions except maybe to cut out the dead stuff and take out the green in the crotches. What this does is allows the teacher to walk around and look at each tree, maybe make points about what someone is doing or see which students he can use as an example of doing great work...whatever. The workshop could be better used to explain how important cleaning a tree is towards the work to be done.


Here is an example. Form your left hand into a peace sign. Stick you right hand index finger to the bottom of the vee. That is the crotch. If there is green there remove it. More later. Now with your right index finger still in the crotch let it slide up to the first knuckle of your left hand. If there is a green thing there, leave it. That is not a crotch nor adjacent to it. That may be where the instructor in the next part tells you that the branch should be cut back to for taper. Starting to make sense now. Ok lets go back to the crotches again, I said remove them and all the dead stuff which goes with out say. Lets pretend that you are working your way up the crotches from bottom to top. You get to the upper third of the tree cleaning and you get to this branch that is as large as some near the bottom. You are at that crotch. Leave the green. Do not clean any green from anywhere in the upper third. Those crotch shoots are your best friend. You may be removing that big branch and working with that small shoot for the best branch. If you removed it you would have to wait for another to bud. You may get it if you leave the big branch. If you remove the big branch, sayonara shoot there again!!! Kenji is notorious for coming around after the clean up and making you feel like a bowl of dog shit for removing the future of the tree after the clean up. Hope this helps.



Use cut paste

When pruning trees in the yard and wild , cut paste is not necessary. The tree over a month or two compartmentalizes that part and the tree does not bleed out. The wound dries out and rots and the tree covers it over with bark if the conditions are good over many years. On our bonsai we do not wish to have this big gaping wound left to its own and what it might do to the look of the tree. I paste all large wounds after dressing with a sharp knife. I even cover wounds down to a 1/8 inch. Why not...I'm anal.


Buy for the future not what's on sale

This is really one of the most valuable pieces of information here. It makes no sense to continue to buy ten dollar plants over and over again. Save up and buy one hundred dollar plant and really have something for the future. The ten dollar plants are never going to be anything and frankly if you buy one and start working on it, that's the size it will stay, so if one wishes to have a collection of 5 inch tall crappy trees, then by all means but the ten dollar material.


Learn to look for the smallest tree.

This is the best trick of all. Always look for the smallest tree. You may have a 40 inch tall juniper with a wye, and some big branches, but down at the bottom is the couple of small shoots that exit the trunk in the perfect places. Have the guts to cut it all off and go with that. Spend the time and wire that out and develop it, that's what being an artist is all about. The tree is your canvas, do good artists just use the paint as it comes from the tube. No, they mix it and message it into colors that reflect their mood and style. Massage the tree and force it to reflect your mood also, don't just use it the way you bought it, bring out your creativity with this palette the tree has provided.


Buy upper grade tools

Purchasing bonsai tools can be considered a life time investment. They should last close to a life time of the hobby and when cared for and kept in oiled and clean condition this is easily accomplished. It is not necessary to buy expensive stainless steel tools and I don't think they stay as sharp nor take an edge better than less expensive carbon steel. The cost difference is measurable and even replacing a carbon steel tool here and there is still less expensive than fancy stainless. Your choice, your money.


Learn how to bend with pliers

Bending branches seems a no brainier. Grasp with hand, maybe use thumb as fulcrum and apply pressure, Bingo, broken branch. Bending branches with pliers is easy and will allow the artist to kink the branch in just the right spot. It also allows for kinking the wire which is not possible when bending with hands. Kinked wire has tremendous holding power. It is possible to bend a branch with one pair, but two pair of pliers is even better. Your bent branches will take on a whole new character and frankly its what separates professionals from hobbyists


Buy good pots

This is highly variable and depends on where you live and your budget for purchasing pots. Most good pots can be had all over the internet and shipped directly to your home, so purchasing good pots is easy, having the available funds is hard. In the long run a good pot is versatile since it can be used over and over on many different plants as your hobby grows. Pay attention to frost hardiness and function. Inward turned lips can be a problem and pots with out sufficient drainage holes or wire tying holes can be useless. Your trees will step up in appearance with a good functional pot and matched appearance.


Don't bonsai pot too soon.

This is a rookie mistake seen all the time. The first thing that is done is to buy a juniper from Home Depot and cut it a little, put some poorly applied wire on it and then placing it a bonsai pot makes it all done. That is not a bonsai. The faster you all learn the difference about what bonsai really is and when it goes into an appropriate pot the faster you will be on your way to better bonsai. Put some years into the material and grow it in the roomy appropriate container to get maximum growth from the plant. Do the prunings and when the time is right, maybe five or more years, it will be ready for a suitable show container. Maybe not the final container but its first bonsai pot to help reduce the root ball.


Plant on bottom of pot with no soil when possible

I started doing this about twelve years ago, I always felt that planting on a saucer was a
great way to improve nebari. Well the bottom of the pot is also the same as planting on a
saucer or tile. Plants do not need soil to grow and your plant will absolutely grow very
well with no soil under the root ball.



Use good soil but don't be stupid

Another topic with many variables. Good soil is debated on many levels. The only thing soil needs to do with a bonsai is provide adequate drainage and work as a moisture supply device. All of this is solely dependant on particle size and type. Volcanic particles have an advantage of being pourus and so they hold moisture well. Clay particles too hold moisture well, but degrade into finer particles over time, and while having an advantage of helping with root ramification which translates to the canopy, it also means that the soil must be replaced more frequently at added expense. A good substitute can be the addition of bark chunks. Not humus and not decomposed. The soil components to work together should all be sifted to the same size. Keep in mind that smaller particle size will hold more moisture for a longer period than a larger particle. There are many things one can use for soil, just use good common sense and invest in a soil sieve




Use humic acid.

I stumbled onto Humic acid about twelve years ago during a job I was doing. They had a fire and they would not allow me into the basement. Finally after a week of coaxing and promising to not let his cat out of the bag he let me in. A wonderful pot farm. It was all aeroponic and his secret was Humic acid and I began using it right away. I have used it ever since. There is much info on the internet and if one wants to research it and the material is sound. I highly recommend it.


Organic fertilizer works slower than nitrate

Organic fertilizer is slower acting than Chemical type fertilizers, especially in a pot. Organic fertilizer requires bacteria to break it down into useable plant compounds. Nitrate on the other hand is available for the plant to use straight away. Organics probably have an advantage in finished plants due to not providing coarse growth where nitrate will elongate shoots and ruin good ramification. They both have their place in the growing of bonsai.


Clean your pots yearly

I have a terrible problem with calcium in my water. It is very hard, tastes good but covers my pots and leaves with calcium. I have to clean them sometimes twice a year to stay on top of it. There are many ways to clean the pots and some work very well there is a rubber type eraser with pumice embedded in it that works very well on glazed pots and then on unglazed I use a regular bathroom pumice stone to really knock it off. Coating the pots with boot dressing like mink oil will facilitate removing the calcium build up easier.


Wire everything

The one overwhelming piece of advice one can give in the pursuit of bonsai is wire. It is simple and when properly applied can make the difference between a plant in a pot and a bonsai in a pot. Wire sometimes is the difference between the two. When wiring a tree for the first time it is wise to wire everything. Wire out to the smallest branch tips. This is so as the tree grows in the current season decisions can be made on what to remove the next season and what will need to be re wired the next season. This back and fourth is what bonsai is all about. Wiring is also good practice even if your not keeping it all.


Wire into pots

This is just good common sense. Our trees tend to be top heavy and depending on the soil to hold the tree into the pot is a recipe for disaster. The wire serves two purposes. It holds the tree firm against the elements and critters and it holds the tree firm so as to not disturb the root ball. I have seen trees wired in and when moved by the pot alone the tree still jiggles within the soil and this should not be. The tree should be wired firm into the pot by the correct size wire.


Use the correct wire

When wiring a tree the correct size wire will hold what it is intended to hold. I would prefer to have the next size up if needed than two wires or a branch always springing back against the wire into an inappropriate location. One trick is the use a length of wire against the intended branch. If the branch yields to the pressure it should be sufficient to wire with that size. If the wire needs, move up in size till you reach the size that move the branch and not bends the wire. There is a limit on size and I think using wire that looks like a cable on a tree is stupid. Use a guy wire for a season or two and then come back to it and see if your largest cool looking wire will work now. as to the choice of copper over aluminum? That is your decision and one you will have to come to grips with on your own. I have my preference, but since I don't see much difference, for me it's not worth arguing about. Whatever gets the job done is my go to.


Wire at the correct angle

Wire should be applied at as close to a 45 degree angle as possible. It takes some practice allowing the wire to wind around with even coils, but when done properly it looks amazing. The 45 degrees give maximum holding power because of the angle of the wire perpendicular to the branch. Coils to close together and at about 15 degrees hold nothing.


Use jin and shari when appropriate

Jin and Shari are two of the most dramatic elements on a good bonsai. when done correctly it can enhance what is going on with in the tree by offering balance, negative space and direction. when done poorly it takes away from an otherwise great tree. Overly long jins or twisty out of place jins look manufactured and not natural. Overly carved shari and trees with holes and grooves that show the marks of man detract from the bonsai. Jin and shari should be kept to a minimum and used when appropriate. Removing a branch is not a ticket to a jin. Sometimes branches need to be removed to offer flow. Leaving a distracting jin there adds an eye block to the flow and makes it seem the branch is still there.


Take pictures

Taking pictures is one of the best way to improve ones trees. Not only do you see the tree grow and change thru the years, it gives you starting points for photo shopping the tree for branch removal before even taking the branch off. Pictures can also allow you to set your tree up for a display by changing stands, accents, scrolls or many other accessories. Photos also will instantly show you a leaf out of place or a shoot that needs to be trimmed a half an inch. You can also turn trees so the next repotting can be done more easily and a print made for repot day showing just how it should be.


Go to exhibits

I have learned more from going to exhibits of fine bonsai more than every teacher combined. Really good exhibits offer the ability to see into the mind of the creator. really get down on your hands and knees and study what is going on. Sure you look stupid but that what your there for. To appreciate. Take pictures of the undersides of canopies. Learn how it was wired, why they did this and that and how the branches were positioned. Pictures of jins and deadwood. Learn how it was made. Ask questions. I guarantee if the owner is nearby him or her will be eager to spill their guts on what they did. We really like to gush about that sort of thing. Be humble, don't piss him off by questioning why he did this and that. Just make a mental note to never do that if you don't like it. It's not your tree.

Awesome Al wisdom.

S
 

my nellie

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Thank you, Sir @Bananaman !
That "bending with pliers" thingy is really bothering my mind, though...
Haven't seen this technique in person except one video on YouTube with Stacy ("sawgrass") but it only last a few minutes.... the video wasn't about bending but about styling.
 
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It was a good read:) .I have some trident seeds that will be stratified this autumn and your thread have some ideas about what to do with some of them. Thanks!
 

amcoffeegirl

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I always forget about 2 of the tricks that you mention one is grafting- never done it- works well on my species of choice- should be doing it.
The other is bending with pliers. I like small trees. I have fat fingers. I should be doing this.
I always forget that it's an option. I will put i pair in my tool kit so I use them.
Thank you.
 
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