A New Tweak to In-Ground Growing

treebeard55

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We all know that the best way to put bulk onto a bonsai-to-be is to plant it in the ground for a few years. Let the roots roam, feed the heck out of it, and it will usually grow a lot faster than it would in a growing pot.

But what if you don't have room for a garden on your property, much less a growing field? What if you don't live near enough to a community garden, or an outfit like North Star Bonsai where you can lease a piece of their ground?

That's my situation. The house we recently moved to has a yard just big enough not to be sneered at by a postage stamp, with no place for any sort of garden bed. My wife even grows her lettuce in containers! What to do?

My solution is to incorporate pre-bonsai into the landscaping. We do have room for a couple a small (table-cloth size or smaller) landscaped beds in the front lawn, and my wife definitely wanted me to do something along that line. We talked it over, and a week or two ago I finally got a chance to launch the project. Each mini-bed is built around a red Japanese maple.

In each of the landscaped spots (it almost feels presumptuous to call them "beds") I included an Austrian pine, Pinus nigra; 1-gal size, smallest and youngest I could get. Each shows the start of some good low branching. I'll leave each pine there for two years, pruning and pinching as best I know to encourage compactness and low branch growth. If I do it right, they'll look more or less like shrubs, and that's the role they'll play in the landscaping for the next two seasons.

In spring 2012 I'll lift them, prune the roots, and move them into either growing or training containers. I hope they'll have flourished enough to be ready for the latter. :)

Why only two years -- why not root-prune them and put them back for another two? The Japanese maples (which are not meant for bonsai) will also be spreading their roots over the next two years. Lifting the pines will disturb the maples' roots to some degree, and I prefer to do that only once.

But the next stage of landscaping will probably include an annual bed or two, and what's wrong with a few "shrubs" anchoring an annual bed? ;)
 

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bonsai barry

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We all know that the best way to put bulk onto a bonsai-to-be is to plant it in the ground for a few years. Let the roots roam, feed the heck out of it, and it will usually grow a lot faster than it would in a growing pot.

But what if you don't have room for a garden on your property, much less a growing field? What if you don't live near enough to a community garden, or an outfit like North Star Bonsai where you can lease a piece of their ground?

That's my situation. The house we recently moved to has a yard just big enough not to be sneered at by a postage stamp, with no place for any sort of garden bed. My wife even grows her lettuce in containers! What to do?

My solution is to incorporate pre-bonsai into the landscaping. We do have room for a couple a small (table-cloth size or smaller) landscaped beds in the front lawn, and my wife definitely wanted me to do something along that line. We talked it over, and a week or two ago I finally got a chance to launch the project. Each mini-bed is built around a red Japanese maple.

In each of the landscaped spots (it almost feels presumptuous to call them "beds") I included an Austrian pine, Pinus nigra; 1-gal size, smallest and youngest I could get. Each shows the start of some good low branching. I'll leave each pine there for two years, pruning and pinching as best I know to encourage compactness and low branch growth. If I do it right, they'll look more or less like shrubs, and that's the role they'll play in the landscaping for the next two seasons.

In spring 2012 I'll lift them, prune the roots, and move them into either growing or training containers. I hope they'll have flourished enough to be ready for the latter. :)

Why only two years -- why not root-prune them and put them back for another two? The Japanese maples (which are not meant for bonsai) will also be spreading their roots over the next two years. Lifting the pines will disturb the maples' roots to some degree, and I prefer to do that only once.

But the next stage of landscaping will probably include an annual bed or two, and what's wrong with a few "shrubs" anchoring an annual bed? ;)
Nice solution to a ever-increasing problem. My wife wants to move to a smaller place, which I don't mind, but I don't want a smaller yard!
 

Dwight

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I'm thinking somewhat along those lines. I planted a couple of sea green junipers a few years ago and they are growing like crazu. One is nothing more than a landscape plant but the other.....has the nicest lower trunkand just might need to be replaced.
 

milehigh_7

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Excellent solution that could have many benefits. The obvious being what you mentioned. I don't know about you but the same old landscape plants get really boring. What you may end up doing it popularizing the look of plants that are "bonsai friendly". While it may not help today, it could possibly provide a good source of material in the future. Not to mention, your yard will be much prettier than those around you! ;)
 

bonsai barry

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There are other advanatages to growing in the ground besides faster development. I consider the trees in the ground to be "babysat." They take less care than something in a pot. They also are pretty much risk-free of being stolen from the bench. I have to leave my trees ... oh yeah, and my wife... to work out of town during the summer, I feel better about leaving the trees in the ground than those in pots.
 

yenling83

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I really don't think that in two years u will bother the maples roots enough to matter.
 

treebeard55

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Update

The pine in the picture has done well so far. The other one, regrettably, died, as did a (nursery-grown) ponderosa with which I replaced it. I suspect something in the soil: a colony of insects, or a spot of something poisonous to tree roots.

The buds on the surviving pine started swelling almost a week ago. Today I did some pruning, then wired the tree and put a bit of movement into the trunk. I left the present leader in place, to keep pulling nutrients thru without interruption. But I bent it out of the way to the north, so it wouldn't shade the lower trunk (which is the part of the present tree that I'll eventually use.)

Hopefully, the down-then-up shape of the sacrifice leader will also result in new buds breaking, lower down where I'll be able to use them.

Sorry that the pictures aren't better, especially the first. (Memo to self: check camera settings before taking pictures.) The first pic was taken before I started work. The second is "after," from the same angle as the first; I then moved about 165 degrees clockwise to take the third.
 

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