The tree that is used in this photo series is a Fagus sylvatica/ European Beech. Beech have fairly pliable branches, but they also have thin bark which is marked easily by wire. Similarly, most coniferous trees, such as Junipers and Pines, have pliable branches on which this technique can be used. On the other hand many deciduous species, have brittle growth, that if bent too far, will snap. It is very important that great care is taken that branches are not broken from the use of over-zealous wiring.
The branch in the foreground of this picture is approximately 1" thick; it is growing out towards the front of the tree though it actually emanates from the right-hand side of the trunk. It is necessary from a design point of view, for the branch to be moved so it grows to the right of the tree.
The red arrows in this picture indicate where the branch is to be moved to. When the branch is moved by hand towards its new position, there is only moderate tension in the branch; it will however be difficult to hold into place with just wire alone.
In this picture, the intended new branch position has been digitally super-imposed; though pliable, there are still a number of problems that could occur. The bark on the outside of the bend will be stretched in order to allow the branch to move; it is important that any small breaks in the bark, (indicated by the straight red lines) are supported, and encouraged to heal as rapidly as possible.
If the stress along the outside edge is allowed to concentrate on one point instead of being spread over a larger area by raffia, it is likely that the point of stress could open and snap the branch.
To protect the bark, ensure that the branch is protected and strengthened, raffia is wound around the branch.
Raffia is a reed-like plant material commonly found in most garden centres, it is soaked in water for 30 minutes and then carefully wound tightly, around the length of the branch. In this case, 4 layers of raffia are used. When applied wetted, raffia can be placed in single flat layers; dry raffia is far more difficult to manipulate. As the raffia dries, it will also shrink and tighten slightly, giving the branch more support.
As well as protecting and strengthening the branch whilst it is wired, the raffia also stops the bark, and any small fractures, from drying out which will ease healing.
After wrapping with raffia, two lengths of wire are then applied to the branch; these will not be able to stop the branch returning to its original position on their own, but will again, diffuse the stress of the bending across the length of the branch.
Finally, the branch is moved very slowly into its new position; while doing so, it is important to listen out for the sound any sharp 'cracks' as the branch is moved. Cracking-sounds indicate that the wood inside the branch is breaking and no further movement should be applied.
If there are any doubts as to whether the branch will tolerate further bending, it is better to secure in its current position and allow time for the branch to adopt its current position before further movement is applied.
To ensure that the branch is held in its new position, a guy wire is applied from the branch itself to another nearby branch.
The tree and this branch in particular, will now be encouraged to grow strongly through the next few months to allow the branch to heal and set in its new position.