By wrapping Aluminium Wire to a branch or a trunk of a tree we can train that branch into any direction that is desired.
So wire is basically a training device that helps shape our plants and supports the branch or trunk as we bend it.
The majority of the tree should be wired up to give you consistency in the angles of the branches on your plant and result in a more uniform appearance.
Preparation of the tree for wiring.
Branches not desired for the shape of the tree should be removed.
The remaining branches kept should have undesired growth removed e.g foliage angling down from the branch totally removed and excessive growth upright from the branch shortened. Lateral branching can also be roughly shortened to desired lengths for that branch. The length of each branch should be roughly shortened so wire isn't unnecessarily wasted.
Weak growth can also be cleared so it doesn't clutter the branch and allows the wire to be much easily wound around the branch or trunk.
How do you apply the wire to a branch?
It should be anchored at the base of the trunk by pushing it in a few centimetres into the soil when wiring up a trunk line.
Note: The trunk of any tree is always wired first before wiring any branches. The only reason you wouldn't start first with the trunk is when the trunk is too thick for wiring. The main reason for wiring the trunk first is that it will be much easier to avoid having the wire crossing over itself.
- It can be anchored in between two branches by looping the wire at least once around the trunk. (Two branches can be wired with the one piece of wire this way.)
- The wire should be gently looped around the branches and not pulled tight.
- It should be evenly spaced and placed at a 45 degree angle. (If you place it on like a coil it will do just what a coil does and spring back when you try to manipulate it into position.)
- It should be roughly measured for the length of the branch you wish to wire plus 1/3.
- The ends of the wire at the tips of the branches should be looped back on itself so the wire does not dislodge on the ends. It also gives greater control to manipulate the tip of the branch.
- When bending a branch you should always place your fingers over the wire to help support the branch as you manipulate it into position.
- Make sure you have manipulated the wire consistently along the branch so the wire has greater effect in moulding into that desired position.
- It is ideal to let the tree you wish to wire to dry out slightly before placing wire on it as this allows greater flexibility in the branch. A stem full of moisture after watering has less flexibility and will be prone to cracking.
- Learn about the flexibility of branches of certain trees. Conifers are extremely flexible and even branches 1cm in thickness can be easily trained into any desired position. Many deciduous trees once they develop to pencil thickness can become quite rigid and less pliable. A plant known to be quite brittle to wire is an Azalea. So extra care should be taken when manipulating a branch or trunk into position. Be realistic in the degree of bends you can put into certain branches.
- With very old plant material although a branch may be quite thin it can be very brittle to wire compared to a younger version of that particular plant. So take the age and vigour of the tree into consideration when bending branches on older plants.
- Branches that are only a few months old and very "green" are too immature to place wire on them. The soft bark can be easily ripped or crushed when placing the wire or bending that particular type of branch. Branches can easily be totally dislodged from the trunk because it has a very weak stability at that stage of its development. It hasn't formed a firm woody base to strongly secure it to the trunk and take pressure in that area.
When do you place the wire on a plant?
- Wire should be placed on a plant when it's growth for the season is coming to an end or has ended.
- By placing wire on a plant at this time of the season you will be able to leave it on for an extended period enabling it to have an increased chance of setting in the particular direction you desire for it.
- Placing wire on a plant in full vigorous growth will only allow the wire to be on there for a matter of a week or two before it starts to cut in. You have a very poor chance of the wire setting in the particular direction that you desire after taking it off that early.
- It is best to place wire on deciduous trees after they have gone into dormancy and all the leaves have dropped off the plant. The are no leaves to get in the way of applying the wire, you can see a clear structure of the plant and the plant has no vigour so the wire won't put pressure on the plant too quickly.
- Evergreen plants can generally have wire placed on them by around the second month of Autumn.
Note: It is possible to place wire on plants at other times of the year but it's effectiveness can be reduced as it may only be on the branch or trunk for shorter periods of time.
When do you take the wire off?
The wire should be left on for as long as possible. Every tree is different in vigour so it is impossible to give accurate lengths of time for any particular plant. So observation is your best guide. When you see the wire starting to put pressure on the branch that is the appropriate time for it's removal. If the wire is left on longer past this point it will start to cut into the branch leaving ugly wire marks when removed.
To enable the branch to have minimal damage to it the wire should in most cases be cut off from the branch or trunk with a wire cutter. It is possible however to unwind smaller gages of wire from the branch with no damage to the plant. That unwound wire can be straightened and can be reused.
Other points to consider
- Always wire in the same direction on a plant that you are wiring. This will make it possible for less chance of crossing wires. Crossing wires are undesirable as it places increased pressure on the crossed sections and will cause that part of the wire to cut in much quicker in that area.
- If wiring a single branch. To anchor it you should place a couple of loops around the trunk to form an anchor point.
- For extra wiring strength you can place two wires of the same or different gages around a trunk or branch to give you increased support when bending thick branches or a trunk.
- If you want a branch to be wired down you place the wire over the top of the joint of the branch where it meets the trunk. If you want to raise the branch you should place the wire underneath the joint of the branch where it meets the trunk.
- You can put too much wire on a branch or trunk. If it is full of wire there is no flexibility left for any movement.