When Is It OK To Have Wire Biting In?

Too much of a good thing can be sad. Just enough is useful. Too little and it doesn’t work. For wiring, we want the middle one, just enough.

Blogs are wonderful for making grand statements that have marginal utility, unhinged to useful reality. Hopefully photos will clarify this commentary about what is just enough…

The wire has been on this Ponderosa branch (above) for 6 years and still hasn’t begun biting in. It should be left there until it does, or the branch will have a memory and spring back.

This pine has wire biting in badly that should have been taken off earlier in the year.

And this pine has wire that is about right. (Sound like the story of the three bears?) It should be taken off now. The moderate amount of biting in will help hold the branch in place, so that any rewiring that is done may be done with smaller wire.

  • The wire should bite in a little bit on a conifer, or the branch will simply bounce back to where it was. Conifers are more flexible, hence some biting in is almost essential.
  • On a deciduous tree, no biting in is preferred. The trick is timing it so that it doesn’t. Badly bitten in wire, such as when the wire is buried in the branch, may leave scars that never really go away for deciduous trees like beech or broadleaf evergreens such as camellia. It may be better to cut the branch off and start again than leave an ugly, permanent spiral scar.

Deciduous trees are often displayed naked without leaves, and any wire scars on them are immediately obvious. Older deciduous trees are normally trained without wire to avoid scars. On conifer branches, bark eventually forms which helps hide wire scars, and they also have foliage year round so scars are less obvious. For a conifer, ‘just enough to be useful’ is wire biting into the branch just a bit. Sounds scandalous doesn’t it…but taking wire off too soon will just waste the work.

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  1. Bob Kazarian says:

    as usual you are right on the mark. Well done; thank you for your comments.
    My Birch and Linden have spiral twists to their trunks. When purchased last year
    The Birch had wire marks up the trunk. Do you think it will ever become less noticeable? They are both in the development stage.

    • crataegus says:

      They will become less noticeable, it’s just how much would bother you… Sometimes the best approach is to grow the tree hard and into the next size larger specimen. That way you have a chance to smooth them out beyond recognition.

  2. Ray Stagner says:

    Your explanation makes total sense. What about leaving the wire on and never taking it off. I came across a blog several months ago stating this is how you create interesting movement on conifers. The bark heals over the wire and holds the bend with no risk of killing the branch. Have you heard of this method? Thank you
    And take care…….

    • crataegus says:

      I have seen this. It tends to result in large bulbous callus growths that might not look pleasing. Sometimes these are then made into shari, for spirals. This was an old technique which created thick trunks fast…but fast isn’t necessarily better. I would suggest rather get your movement into the branch by wiring it, then take the wire off, then do any shari that you want. You will have more options for natural looking shari without being railroaded by what the wire has created.

  3. Scott Jania says:

    Excellent insight. In your experience what gauge wire and wire material Ashe most suitable?
    Thanks in advance.

    • crataegus says:

      Junipers are similar enough that wire gauge should be chosen according to how thick the branch is. Generally copper wire should be about 1/2 the thickness of the branch. If using aluminum, the wire size almost equals the branch thickness. (I prefer copper for wiring conifers, for the strength, but that is another conversation.)

  4. Carlos says:

    Thanks, I always love to learn something view from another perspective. How about to take of the wire and wire again in the other direction? Will leave more marks that way or less? Or will work as well?

    • crataegus says:

      Generally if we wire in the opposite direction we get bulkier wire scars, and also space between the wire and the branch. If there is space between the branch and the wire, it will not hold as well and in bending the branch may be more easily broken, too. So wiring in the same direction but not in the old scars is the best method of rewiring.

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