Bending Boxwood branches

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Bending Boxwood branches

Post  JMcCoy on Thu Apr 05, 2012 3:23 pm

I was asked to show the progression of a shohin Boxwood (Buxus microphylla) from a straight stick to one with curves. This pathetic looking beginning started off from a hedge that was growing under the wide eve of the north side of a house, under the shade of large oaks. All the bushes were 30+ years old, so grew very slowly and were all weak, were very hard and brittle. I had agreed to remove the bushes before seeing them, so didn't feel I could back out. This one was the smallest and in another circumstance may not have been kept.

The trunk was wrapped in Coach Wrap (the kind used by athletes to wrap their ankles or wrists), then 3 heavy copper wires were placed along the trunk and tied in place. Thin wires were wrapped very close and very tight along the trunk, to have the heavy wires in as much contact with the trunk as possible. It was bent and twisted at the same time, but only one curve at first. There were cracking sounds, but it never really broke, so was allowed to rest for a couple of months and then bent further. This was repeated until it had the curves I wanted. Three years of living with "Frankentree" and it felt so good to take the wrappings off. Now, it presents an interesting image, if not a necessarily a natural one for a Boxwood. The bent section is about 1/2". You'll notice I didn't bend the lower section with the Uro and holes, but the upper section which I felt would be less likely to snap, but this technique can be used for branches of 1 inch or more (I've seen it and have pics of that too).
Thanks,







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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  my nellie on Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:18 pm

Thank you for posting this effort of yours! Really remarkable considering the species natural features...
We, beginners, need to collect such knowledge for future use (....endmost future)
JMcCoy wrote: ... ...Now, it presents an interesting image, if not a necessarily a natural one for a Boxwood... ...
Even so, the flow of the trunkline is very pleasing.

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  Poink88 on Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:20 pm

Thanks for sharing this Joey. I am sure this will benefit a lot of members. I really enjoyed it and honestly, the pictures (as nice as they are) didn't do this justice (as in most cases).

Much as I enjoy pics of great looking trees at shows, we need more of this type of (tutorial) threads. Bookmarked!

Thanks again and excellent technique and tutorial (short but to the point)!!! cheers thumbs up

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  Todd Ellis on Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:05 pm

You did a nice job of changing boring material into a cute, pleasing tree. I am now using the flat rubber tourniquets, used by phlebotomists (blood takers), to protect bark with serious bending. The rubber stretches and protects making is easier to wrap trunks and branches.
Todd

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  Mitch Thomas on Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:59 pm

JMcCoy
Now that's how you make some thing out of nothing. From ordinary to exquisite. I have some similar material that I can try your techniques on. Thanks!

Mitch

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  Poink88 on Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:22 pm

Mitch Thomas wrote:JMcCoy
Now that's how you make some thing out of nothing. From ordinary to exquisite.
Mitch,

That (to me) is the hallmark of a true master. Some have great trees in their collection...just because they had a great tree to begin with and not due to their artistic ability and techniques. Of course it is best if you have all of them converge together.

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  pongsatorn.k on Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:27 pm

very good! and also compliment to your vision Very Happy

all the best,
Pongsatorn.K

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  JMcCoy on Fri Apr 06, 2012 1:27 am

Thanks everyone! I've had a lot of fun playing with this little bonsai. This spring it was covered in flowers which were really beautiful, but I didn't get a picture. Fruit were later removed because I didn't want to weaken the tree.

Here is a more extensively bent Boxwood, before and after. Same species, Buxus microphylla. It was owned by Behr Appleby (Grampz from the old forum.. some may remember him!), who bent all the branches here with the same technique. Unfortunately Behr died several years ago. He lived nearby and was a good friend.




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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  JimLewis on Fri Apr 06, 2012 1:39 am

Your hand provides excellent scale for the first tree. Can we see how large the second one is?

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  JMcCoy on Fri Apr 06, 2012 1:53 am

Hi Jim,
Sure, here's a picture of the larger one (still not a big tree, but larger branches on this one)


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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  coh on Fri Apr 06, 2012 2:03 am

Thanks for sharing - very interesting and useful technique.

One question, have you found a particular season to be better for this extreme kind of bending? Or do you just adjust the bend every couple of months regardless of the time of year?

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  JMcCoy on Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:20 am

have you found a particular season to be better for this extreme kind of bending?

The best season to do cambium-related work (grafting, chops, layering, big bending, etc) is usually Spring before the sap starts and the tree's engine is gearing up. It will work quickest and get the most tissue/callous. But being a Boxwood and evergreen, it can be done at any time of year, carefully.

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  MrFancyPlants on Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:46 am

I know this topic came up recently, but how long does it take these bends to set? I would guess there is a range depending on the thickness and growth rate, but what have your experiences been?

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  JimLewis on Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:34 am

I think you can expect to wait two or three years for heavier branches to "set."

I've had guy wires on the left side of this one for a year now (other at back where you can't see them) and every time I reset the wires, the branches spring back to where they were. I've damaged the bark cambium on several of them in hopes that the healing there will help them set.


_________________
Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  JMcCoy on Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:44 am

how long does it take these bends to set?

I think you guessed it in your question, that it depends on the plant, growing conditions, size of wounded area, etc. I left this wrap on for 3 years, but then it didn't have spiralling wire to cut into the trunk. The only marks were some of the longitudinal wires, and really it just made a bit more interest in the texture. Actually I did have to remove some spirals of the outer wire when they looked like they were biting in a bit on the outer bend, I didn't want those kind of scars. The large branches in the second tree were left on for several years as well, longer for the larger branches. Let the branches and leaves on top run to put as much energy into the branch/trunk as possible. I'd say watch the tree and if it looks to be cutting in, there's usually sufficient tissue created to hold. Regularly wired Boxwood branches usually have to be clipped off/unwired after a couple of months though, they thicken quickly.

Jim.. great idea to create scar tissue to help hold the branch. I've tried guy-wires on some trees (for 3-4 years) and they seem to spring right back up to where they were before. Probably the act of tearing some of the tissue in the extreme bending helps to create scars and hold the position. Have you ever tried the "trunk splitter" idea on a Boxwood? It's mostly for conifers, but may work well in Box too. Or they may be too brittle for this, and just split all the way out.

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  Poink88 on Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:17 am

JimLewis wrote:I think you can expect to wait two or three years for heavier branches to "set."
Now it is not just a "long time" or "forever". Good to know there is a set time.

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  JimLewis on Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:31 am

Well, I probably should have added "if it does."

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  lordy on Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:28 am

I have seen other wraps used on this forum. Personally I have used soaked rafia, and that worked OK. On this website I have also seen a shiny black material used. Does anyone know what this is? The bends on conifers using the black material is extreme so I must assume that it protects the bark/cambium well from the wire as well as the bends.
If using wet/dampened rafia, would it help the bend to apply the damp rafia for a bit of time to allow the moisture to soften things before bending?

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  Poink88 on Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:22 pm

lordy wrote:I have seen other wraps used on this forum. Personally I have used soaked rafia, and that worked OK. On this website I have also seen a shiny black material used. Does anyone know what this is? The bends on conifers using the black material is extreme so I must assume that it protects the bark/cambium well from the wire as well as the bends.
If using wet/dampened rafia, would it help the bend to apply the damp rafia for a bit of time to allow the moisture to soften things before bending?
I believe the shiny black material you are referring to is electrical tape. I've seen articles where raffia is used over the branch and the tape after the big wires are placed. It is then wrapped with fine wire as Joey did before bending.

Branch is easier to bend when "dry"...when freshly watered/hydrated, they are more brittle.

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  JMcCoy on Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:53 pm

I used the "coach wrap" on this and others as an experiment, and it worked well, cushioning the trunk. Raffia is a classic choice and works great, but is labor intensive to prep and apply, and I've found will break down too quickly in our Texas summers. Dario is right that you can use black electrical tape (usually over raffia so it doesn't rip bark when removed) or even silver duct tape (which would be EXTRA ugly! Laughing ). There is a silicone "tape" sold at the Big Box stores, used to wrap waterpipes, that doesn't stick to anything but itself and cushions and forms a good seal to hold in moisture, works great! There is also a nice article by Peter Tea on some of the wraps they're using in Japan:
http://peterteabonsai.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/just-plastic-rope/
That rubber that Todd wrote about earlier may be similar. Basically find something local that works, there isn't just one choice.

I've read about bending a dry bonsai and heard some who swear by it, but I never do this. I think it's important to have your tree as healthy and happy as possible when working on it. The stress of putting it in a drought then bending and breaking some of the layers just seems counterintuitive.

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  lordy on Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:35 pm

JMcCoy wrote:I've read about bending a dry bonsai and heard some who swear by it, but I never do this. I think it's important to have your tree as healthy and happy as possible when working on it. The stress of putting it in a drought then bending and breaking some of the layers just seems counterintuitive.
Think how limp a plant is that has been let go dry. Or, a water hose full vs. empty. The empty hose is much more flexible than one that is under pressure of a full charge of water. Makes sense, and the tree doesnt spend long without water. Plan to wire a tree and hold off the water for a day or so. It works for many people.

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  tmmason10 on Fri Apr 06, 2012 8:33 pm

Thanks for the informative transformation. I think I'll be more inspired to think outside the box with material. Very nice result.

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  Poink88 on Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:23 pm

JMcCoy wrote:I've read about bending a dry bonsai and heard some who swear by it, but I never do this. I think it's important to have your tree as healthy and happy as possible when working on it. The stress of putting it in a drought then bending and breaking some of the layers just seems counterintuitive.
Joey,

"Dry" doesn't mean bone dry, just not freshly watered. The branch fibers are more flexible that way. After climbing 100s of trees while growing up, I learned the big difference between a regular and after a rain day. Wink

If you want to encourage cracking (as it seems the case to hasten setting in this case), then that is another story.

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  JMcCoy on Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:15 am

Think how limp a plant is that has been let go dry
Dry" doesn't mean bone dry, just not freshly watered. The branch fibers are more flexible that way.

All true, but this may be more useful in the newly formed sprout branches that haven't hardened off that are more suseptible to change in water pressure. Woody branches (especially old ones where we're making big bends) in Bonsai don't change like that with or without water. It only stresses the tree. Perhaps it's a more species-specific technique that I haven't found the need in my collection. If it works for others, that's fine. Very Happy

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

Post  hiram on Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:08 am

Wow nice work, thank you for sharing. How would this work with corky bark? Thank you for your time.

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Re: Bending Boxwood branches

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