There are many ways to start a bonsai. Growing bonsai in the ground is just one of them, and in some ways, one of the best.
When you see photos of the best bonsai, they all seem to have large
developed trunks. In addition to buying one of these masterpieces, you may be able to create one of your own.
Planting your bonsai in the ground will help your starter plant develop a bigger trunk and more developed roots much quicker than in a container. Actually, bonsai in a container slows down the process. Save your bonsai pots for when the tree is ready.
My first experience with bonsai in the ground was with Fukien Tea In South Florida.
I had the distinct advantage of growing tropical plants in a sub-tropical zone. Almost everything grows quickly under those circumstances.
From small starter plants to large trunks took about five years.
As our business grew, we also planted varieties of Ficus. We found the Green Island variety to be especially good.
We also found a number of temperate trees did well in our sub-tropical environment.
Elms and several types of juniper, including shimpaku, were also very successful.
This juniper was originally a young staked nursery juniper stock plant.
Glenn Hilton and the late Joe Samuels planted it in the ground and let
it grow. As it got taller, the trunk was still pliable, they wrapped
it around a piece of rebar (steel rod) and secured it with ties.
As the trunk aged, curves developed, the ties were loosened and re-wrapped. Glenn continued training the tree, carved out the jin and shari (dead wood) and treated it with lime sulfur.
There are also many advantages of starting bonsai this way in other than tropical climates.
Brent and Susie Walston do their own bonsai growing in northern California and many are in the ground. For an excellent article on developing trunks read Brent Walston's page. Brent gives very explicit details on how to cut trees during training to create great shapes.
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