There are many ways to start 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
can create one of your own.
To be sure, it will take time and it will be worth it.
Growing a bonsai in the ground is a great way to start creating a larger trunk.
It will help your starter plant develop a bigger trunk and more developed roots much quicker than in a container.
Actually, growing bonsai in a container slows down the process. Save your bonsai pots for when the tree is ready.
Here are just two examples of results you can achieve by planting in the ground.
My first experience with bonsai in the ground was with Fukien Tea.
I had the distinct advantage of growing tropical plants in a sub-tropical zone.
Almost everything grows quickly under those circumstances.
I grew an entire hedge of Fukien Tea and called it my "retirement program."
From small starter plants to large trunks took about five years.
The fact that the area was somewhat rocky contributed to the root flair shown here.
(When I began buying imported trees from China, I realized immediately they had also been grown in the ground.)
As our business grew, we 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 very successful.
This juniper was originally a young nursery 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 and 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.
Although still a work in progress, this is how it looked when first displayed at a Bonsai Society of Miami exhibit.
There are also many advantages of starting bonsai this way in other 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.
He gives very explicit details on how to cut trees during training to create great shapes.
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Know the basics? Ready for more? Watch these amazing Colin Lewis bonsai class videos.
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