Just Plastic Rope

Just Plastic Rope

In the last Blog post of Mr. Tanaka’s work, many of you commented on the rope that he used instead of raffia to make a bend on the trunk.  Instead of answering the questions on the comments section, I decided to write a quick post about the rope itself and hopefully you can find something similar to it at your local hardware or garden center.

So What Is It?

It’s pretty much a flat vinyl rope.  There’s no adhesive on one side or anything.  Here in Japan, we have to go to a garden center to get it, but people here refer to it as construction rope.  Apparently it’s used to tie things together so it’s nothing garden specific.  A large roll of it cost only about 10 dollars so pretty inexpensive stuff.  Since Mr. Tanaka can be very practical at times, one day he decided to try using it instead of raffia with great results.

Rope vs. Raffia

The rope itself is very strong and doesn’t stretch at all.  It’s much easier to use then raffia and doesn’t need water.  I’ve always thought that raffia was such a pain to use because of the water and the different length strains.  With this rope, you just cut a desired length and apply it to the tree.  We know it works because we’ve used it on many different trees here at the nursery with great success.  Also, since the rope doesn’t degrade, when it’s time to remove it, it comes apart very easily and clean.  So far, I haven’t found a single reason to go back to raffia.

I remember when I first learned about the use of raffia for bending and the benefits it has.  One thing I heard a lot was that the raffia will retain water and help the branch or trunk heal better after the bend.  What I found with this vinyl rope is that it doesn’t breath and actually holds more water on the branch or trunk then raffia.  I believe this plays a big part in helping the tree mend itself after a bend.

More Details

We have found two kinds of this vinyl rope and it seems like a preference as to which one you’d like to use.  Here’s some pictures to show you up close what it looks like.

Here is the first type.  It’s about 1.5cm wide.  I personally like this type because it’s wide and easy to overlap on itself when applied to a tree.

Though this picture is a bit blurry, it gives you an idea of how thin it is.

In this picture you can see that there are three thick lines connected with thin vinyl

Here is the second type.  It’s only 1cm wide but much thicker and stronger then the first rope.  Mr. Tanaka prefers to use this version because of the extra strength.

This pictures gives you an idea of how thick the rope is

This rope only has two thick lines connected with thin vinyl

Here is the big difference between the two.  This thick version has strains of vinyl within the thick lines of the rope.  This adds a lot of extra strength to the rope.

Use What Suite You

Well there you have it.  Hopefully that clears us the mystery behind this rope.  I’m not sure the same rope is available worldwide but I’m sure you can find something similar to it in your home country.  All in all, it’s about what you like to use and what works best for you.  This rope is just another product that works so I’m sharing it with you all.  One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my apprenticeship is that there a many different methods to get to the same goal.  Go with what works for you.

Thanks for reading.


21 thoughts on “Just Plastic Rope

  1. Julie Trigg says:

    I have tried the wrap that is used to wrap around the legs of horses. It also sticks to itself and comes in several colors (if I remember correctly) and I bought the dark green. The rolls are about 4″ long and I usually sawed the roll in half for some of my smaller junipers. I ordered them through the internet (horse.com) and they come several rolls to a package. It works well for me here in Florida and I have left it on for about a year in some cases.

    • Gene Martin says:

      Julie: did you use SyrVet Flex Bandage or 3M Vetrap Bandaging Tape? Thanks!

  2. BVino says:

    Here in the US, I’ve been using self-adhesive CVS-brand athletic wrap for a while now with great success and I will never go back to rafia. The stuff sticks only to itself, not the bark, which makes it very easy to apply and remove. It is also breatheable, which my gut says is a good thing (although I’m sure it doesn’t hold in moisture like the vinyl rope). It is strong enough that with a couple of wraps, you can put plenty of crank on a branch without splitting. It is also sort of bark-colored, which doesn’t hurt. That being said, I’m always willing to try new things and I’ll be looking for some of the vinyl stuff for a comparisson!

  3. Peter Tea says:

    Very good point Christian! So far, we haven’t had any problems with it here. Normally, the rope is deep inside the tree so it’s somewhat shaded so probably not as hot. The Nagoya Summers here are similar to the Southern states in the US. Hot and humid so Florida is probably okay Julie. We use this same rope to tie trees to the bench and we never found that it was too hot or even very warm to the touch during the summer.

    Of course, having said that, if branches are dying from it, then it’s not good to use. The rope as been used here for the last four or five years without any problems so I can at least say it’s okay for Japan. Usually the rope stays on the tree for about a year and it’s removed.

    Thanks again for the comments everyone!

  4. Julie Trigg says:

    Yes, I also wondered about the black tape or rope, because I live in Florida and the heat that would be attracted to that area of the branch might be too much for an extended period of time.

  5. Julie Trigg says:

    I always love reading your comments. I also love trying to find new and different ways of attackin a problem. Thank you!

  6. Christian says:

    We,ve been using similar black tapes for a while. But we’ve made the experience its important to leave the tape on the branch only for a short period of time.
    Because of the black colour the tape gets very hot in the sun and the branch may die of. Most of he people I know are back to Raffia. It’s more work, but it’s safer.

    Take care.

  7. Peter Tea says:

    Thanks for the comments everybody! Hopefully we can find something like that back in the States. If not, I’m probably going to ship some back home to use. Here are some answers to the questions some of you have:

    There are two ways to tie off this rope.
    1. when you get to the end and you need to tie, cut the rope in two and cross them over and tie. This is similar to how we tie off raffia.
    2. what I like to do is run a length of the rope along the branch, then wrap the rope on itself and once I get to the end, I’ll have a piece to rope to tie to. If this is difficult to understand, I’ll try and get a photo of it in the future.

    Damage to the bark?
    Anytime you apply raffia or any material on trees that have bark, the loose bark will always break away. We always have to take that into consideration when using any material. Not to mention the kind of bark damage that will occur from the bend itself. Sometime a little bit of bark lost if worth the grains of the bends. Plus, bark does grow back. ;o) I haven’t seen a difference in bark loss with this rope compared to raffia.

    Using electrical tape.
    I would be hesitant to use electrical tape because I don’t feel it’s strong enough when compared this rope or raffia. I would also wonder if it’s actually supporting the live tissue and holding it tightly to the the hardwood during bends. That’s the main reason why we wrap branches and I just think that electrical tape would stretch and move if the bend is too heavy and not support the branch. I asked Mr. Tanaka and he said that electrical tape would probably work but we’d have to wrap the branch many more times to get the same effect of one layer of rope. I personally never used electrical tape, but if it works, it works. I suggest everybody try different things and see the results and go with what you like.

    Take care everybody!

  8. Nuno says:

    Hi Peter!

    Great post! I’ve been using rafia since everyone tells me its the right stuff to apply, but I’ve seen that it creates different kinds of problems. The difficulty to remove it from branches is just one of them.
    Just tell me one thing. How do you tie it to the branch? Can you show some pictures of the process?

  9. Keith says:

    The second tape, like you said is a little thicker, does it hurt the bark when putting it on. Rafia when wet seems to contour to the bark and the branch

  10. I read an article online where the author said he uses electrical tape. The first layer is put on the branch sticky side up. Then another layer is put on sticky side down. The author said it is easier to apply than raffia and easier to remove. Unfortunately, I don’t have the article title and author’s name.

  11. Thompson John says:

    Great blog on the rope. Rafia always catches on everything; in the tools box and on any jin or foliage within 40 feet. Plus sealing the moisture in the affected area would be beneficial. How do you tie it off at the end?
    Have you ever used it on deciduous or broad leaf evergreens? With what results?

    • Peter Tea says:

      Thanks JT! I do agree with you on the raffia. If there’s something it can catch on, it will. This stuff is great and easy to use. I’ve yet to use it on deciduous trees or broadleaf evergreens but I would think it should work just as well.

  12. Great post. Gives me ideas to add to the use of electrical tape with the adhesive on the outside of the branch. I hope that we can find something similar here that we can experiment with.

  13. Chris Glanton says:

    I scoured the net, incl HD, Lowes and Menards to no luck. Hopefully someone can find something similar.

  14. Richard Green says:

    I’m going to Home Depot and Lowe’s today to see if I can find something similar…Thanks for the valuable tip.
    I tried a stretchy, non-sticky, tape material called “Miracle Tape”. I liked it but it’s way too expensive. It’s a rubbery, plastic type material that when stretched and wrapped tight around somethind it bonds to it’s self, and no need to tie.

  15. LeAnn Juel says:

    Peter, thank you for sharing a technique that none of us would ever see in the U.S. I am new to bonsai and I love your quote “One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my apprenticeship is that there a many different methods to get to the same goal. Go with what works for you.” I will remember that when I receive conflicting advice (albeit good advice).

    Thank you for your great post. Love them

  16. john weathers says:

    Very interessting post. Thanks for answering our questions about the rope. I hope we can find it here in the U.S.

  17. Judy Barto says:

    If anyone knows where to buy this in the USA, and what product name to look for, it would be great if you could post it here. This looks like it’s a world easier to apply than raffia.
    Thanks Peter!

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