Bonsai tree supplies and bonsai trees - Bonsai of Brooklyn
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Tip of the Week


Tip of the Week  #29
Shaping Your Bonsai By Trimming & Wiring

Welcome to our next installment of  "Tip Of The Week".

 This feature is for the benefit of visitors to this site, If you look in this "Tip of The Week" section for answers to a specific question, and don't find an article that covers it, send an e-mail with your question to and you'll get a personal reply.
Please direct your E-mail to
If your topic is chosen, we will include your first name and city on the page.

Interested in past articles? There's a list at the bottom of the page.
William From Akron Ohio Writes:
I received the beautiful Ficus Retusa bonsai that I ordered last weekend.  It arrived in great shape.  It is obvious that you care a great deal about bonsai and your business.
Two questions.  First, any idea how old the tree is (age, trained?)  Second, beyond the info shipped with the tree, any specific information available concerning pruning and shaping Ficus Retusa?  I've ordered your dvd's and purchased a couple of books about bonsai, but very little information concerning this particular tree.  Thank you very much for your prompt, quality service.

The Ficus Retusa you ordered is in it's late 20's to early 30's.  It was propagated and grown in southern China, in a climate similar to southern Florida.  They start them when they are thinner than a pencil so the trunk can be wired into the "S" shape it has.   It's trimmed every month or so during the growing season to develop shape and fullness.
Trimming a bonsai is similar to any other artistic endeavor.  What you have at any given stage in the process depends on what you see in your mind's eye, and how you execute that vision.   That's why there's only one Mona Lisa, one Venus DeMilo, and one William's Ficus.
To be more specific, you should look at your bonsai and try to see it as a whole composition (or as a full-sized tree growing in nature) while focusing on one branch at a time.  If that branch looks fine to you, leave it alone.  If it's too long you shorten it.  If it has too many leaves, you remove individual leaves.  If you think of a full-sized tree, there are usually no leaves or needles growing at the base of each larger branch.  They begin a bit out from the point where the branch originates (the trunk or an even larger branch.)   As a rule the younger (smaller, thinner) a branch is, the further down the leaves are.   The older (larger, thicker) a branch is, the less leaves there are at or near its base.   Next you look at the position of the branch.  Holding the trunk with one hand for support, move the branch slowly into different positions taking care not to break or damage it.   You will usually be able to tell how far you can go without causing damage.  If you determine that the tree would be better without a particular branch, remove it using a Concave Branch Cutter
If you decide that the branch would look good if its position was changed, wire it.  There are two "Tip of The Week" articles (#15 & #16) on types of wire and wiring.
Once all of this has been done, put your bonsai on a turntable (we offer 3 models toward the bottom of our "Tools" Page) or a Lazy Susan and slowly rotate it.  Pay attention to the outer silhouette of the bonsai, trimming and/or wiring as you go.  If you can turn your bonsai 1 full turn and not see anything that you would not see on a full sized version of your bonsai in nature, you're done for now.  I say "for now" because unlike most other types of art, a bonsai is never finished.

Interested in past articles? Click for your choice below.

#1-Things to do in the spring

#2-Forest Plantings

#3-Planning a trimming schedule

#4-Trimming Japanese Maples (And other trees with opposing Buds)

#5-Trimming Chinese Elms (And other trees with alternating Buds)

#6-Trimming Conifers (Such as Pine, Juniper and Cypress)

#7-Improving Your Bonsai Skills

#8-Things to Remember During the Winter Months

#9-Some Thoughts About Tree Roots. Their Strengths & Weaknesses

#10-Potting Medium: The Foundation of a Bonsai

#11-Growing Bonsai Under Artificial Light.

#12-The Importance of Moss, How To Get It & Put It On a Bonsai.

#13-The Right Tool For The Job.

#14-Root Over Rock Planting.

#15-Wiring - Copper or Aluminum?

#16-Wiring - Basic Techniques

#17-Using A Cold Frame, Garage, or Tool Shed For Wintering

#18-Making A Cold Frame For Wintering Temperate Bonsai.

#19-Wintering Temperate Bonsai Indoors.


#21-Sunlight - Some Further Thoughts.

#22-Is It Really A Tree?

#23-Repotting a "Department Store" Bonsai


#25-Getting Started: Too Much Too Soon?

#26-Wintering Temperate & Sub-Tropical Bonsai.  What Needs What?

#27-Plant Food & Supplements

#28-Moving your Sub-Tropical Bonsai Indoors In Autumn