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Bonsai for beginners, Issue #014-- Bonsai In Ground
July 08, 2008

Bonsai In Ground Planting

It’s mid winter here in New Zealand and for the last few days we have had frost here in Auckland, at least with a frost you can usually expect a fine day to follow. I much prefer that to our usual wind and rain. Earlier in the week the elements went all out to destroy as many of my trees as possible with hail driven sideways by some incredible wind gusts. Fortunately I learned the hard way last year when several of my favorite trees were flipped from their perches to do some serious self pruning as they bounced down the bank.

This year we have tied the trees to their stands and I feel quite smug when I wake up to a window rattling wind outside. I would recommend doing this to any trees you may have. There is nothing worse than coming out to find your tree upside down on the ground with a crucial branch snapped. Even if your trees are sheltered from the wind they are still susceptible to cats or animals walking along the shelf; a bird landing on the wrong branch or a well meaning visitor just picking it up for a closer look. Whatever the cause, the moments inconvenience when you have to liberate your plant to work on it is well worth the peace of mind.

One section of my most exposed trees are on posts that came from off cuts when my poor neighbor had to pound huge logs into the ground to meet council requirements when putting up a tin garage, his loss, my gain. They have been tied down using some nylon fishing line through fencing staple nails hammered into the post. The nylon is a bit difficult to tie and get tight but it is good because it is strong and not too visible from a distance. You must be careful that whatever you use does not start to cut into any exposed roots or the trunk of your tree.

Post Stands

Tied Plant

This weather has been not only ideal for getting another well over due newsletter out but it has given my time to look through a few of the Bonsai forum sites again. I have three that I seem to go back to that have a good following and some helpful people.

Bonsai Site

Bonsai Talk

Internet Bonsai Club

The last link, the internet bonsai club, is a little bit slow to load but well worth a look. It seems to be followed by people who are a little more advanced in the art but even if you are too intimidated to ask questions or contribute to the discussions there are some good threads to follow and some great pictures. I particularly like the fact that it has a pottery section that none of the other ones include.

It seems that in the new to bonsai sections, one of the most commonly asked questions is, I have this bonsai what do I do now? The annoying response seems to always be, take the stick out of the pot and plant it in the ground and let it grow for a while. This would be the last thing you would want to hear if you had just gone to the trouble of creating a work of art and I am sure would put people new to the hobby off straight away. Your newly created bonsai is always a piece of art work that you have put time and effort into and when you show other people its nice if they find some beauty in it and highlight that fact. Telling someone basically to start again is like telling your child their picture is not up to refrigerator hanging standard, keep trying until they reach Picasso standard. Your tree will develop in the pot, it will be a lot slower though. You do however get to look at it, ponder your next move and think about how much better your next attempt will be.

This is not to say there is no merit to the planting in the ground. The whole point of the bonsai process is to slow growth down, so if you start with a small skinny tree and you have in mind developing it into one of those squat thick trunk masterpieces you see in books you will be waiting a while. Stock will develop much faster if planted in the ground and can be trimmed and trained to shape while there so you start with a good thick trunk and a lot of the basic frame of your tree complete before it goes near a pot. This system is particularly good for deciduous stock like elms and maples that can be lifted when dormant without checking their growth too much. The two Trident Maples you see below are both from the same sized cuttings and were planted at the same time two years ago. This year I will cut the tree in the ground down to a approx 20 cm stump probably by air layering off the top section, cos I can’t stand to waste anything. Next year depending on bud development it should be large enough for me to lift and pot

In Ground Development

Another good idea when planting in the ground is to plant on top of an old saucer. This will stop the roots going straight down and cause them to fan out around the base of the tree, perfect for Bonsai.

In case you forgot or missed the airlayering demonstration here’s a link
Air Layering
Good luck with your Bonsai


Oh by the way, I will send a separate note out, but those of you looking for tools I have finally got a few more in. 20 sets to be exact. I have 16 sets left, if you would like a set let me know by replying to this e-mail. I will sell them to recipients of this newsletter for $85 plus postage and packaging which is $6.00 in NZ. If you want to see what I am talking about the following link will take you to a photo of them you will need to scroll to the bottom of the page.

Bonsai Tools

Bye again


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