There are as many ways to grow a plant as there are people growing them. Which is better?
Age old question to which there are many answers because each come with advantages and disadvantages.
- Roots can roam and grow endlessly thereby increasing wood.
- Faster performance due to root growth
- Watering can be missed without fault
- Less maintenence
- Roots grow large due to faster growth.
- Tree can grow knobs and growths much faster.
- Taper is harder to control due to apical strength.
- Root pad grows to large for acceptable pot.
- Ease of movement.
- Can be taken to workshops
- Controlled fertilizer and watering
- Pest control manageable
- Fast growth in large enough pot
- Roots more confined so wood growth is slower.
- Space for pots can be a problem
- Added cost of suitable growing containers
- Added cost of suitable planting medium.
I do not buy into the myth that ground growing is the best method for growing maples. It is the best method for growing large maples fast and turning large amounts of material for a profit for someone else to worry about. It is not the best method for keeping a manageble root system under the tree, keeping the taper smooth, and keeping an unblemished trunk due to knobs and growths which come from fast ground growing. Growing maples in the ground is fast and can be done more cheaply than growing one or two in pots. If I were a grower of trident maple stock I would probably have them in the ground. I can grow them to market size faster and I will not be the one that will have to deal with whats under the soil in the future. If I were growing plants for myself then I would want to grow them in containers where I can more easily controll all the important aspects of the growing process. It just takes a little more time. How much more time? A couple years is all.
Let me show some examples of how tridents can differ in the way they were grown for a specific purpose. This is an example of a field grown trident. The trunk is a great size at about 3.5 inches at the base. The taper is not so bad, it is thinner at the top than it is at the bottom. The problem comes that in between the top and the bottom the trunk gets thick and thin several times. Why is that? That is because pruning back is not carried out at appropriate times and too many branches are allowed to grow from one spot. Too much energy is produced at that spot and then it grows a large bulge there. Some branches are taken out at some point and the tree grows on in height. The next spring a flush of apical growth causes the trunk to once again grow a large bulge and so on and so on.
See how many branches are at the top of the tree. This is why a maple will grow a large bulge. Branches that are allowed to grow over pencil thickness will ruin a trunk very fast. the problem is that by taking off the branches at only pencil thickness, this stops the trunk building momentum which is why the tree is planted into the ground in the first place. This tree will have to be allowed to close many wounds from the removal of branches and hope that some of the teper can be smoothed out. This tree is about four or five years old. I will get a confirmation on that from Steve this weekend. That is some spectacular growth in a short time, all due to rapid growth unrestricted in the ground.
This is an example of a trident that has been grown in a container. This tree was grown out by Ian Price at Lone Pine Nursery. The tree was 10 years old at the time of purchase in 2009 and had developed to this stage. This tree has much better shape due to its training during growing being chopped to add taper. While this is a time consuming process, it is a good way to build a large trunk and then change direction to get the added movement needed to add some interest to the trunk. The field grown tree has not been chopped and so grew straight up. Without doing some sort of chop to change direction the only alterbnative to this tree is to make a formal upright tree. This container grown tree has many possiblities due to the trunk direction changes done while it was being grown in a container. Trunk chops can be done in the ground also and will add movement which is always a good thing. It’s just a little harder to see the directions due to having to lay on the ground to get the correct prospective.
After a few grafts and the removal of all the branches except a couple, I was able in two years to change the whole look of this tree and start it on its way to a decent informal upright tree with a believable taper.
In 2003 I began seriously working on how to grow a large trunked trident. I began a project with medium size trunks of about 1.5 inches. they were chopped down to 2.5 inches from the soil and grown out from there. The trees were grown the whole time in cut down five gallon nursery containers. There are some questions concearning the type of container and what the individual merits are of the containers chosen to do the important growing out of the material. From my point of view I don’t think it really matters what you grow it in. Cut down black nursery can, pond basket, clay pot, Anderson flat, wood box or wonder pot (canvas or felt). The whole secret is the technique. Sometimes in bonsai it’s not who you know…but for growing out tridents it’s what you know.
The biggest secret I can pass on for growing out tridents is:
- Don’t get in a hurry
- Let the trunk sucker down low and leave these suckers all year
- Do not fall or winter prune trident while building a trunk. Take off in spring at bud break and leave 1/4 stub to scar and callus to add girth.
- Use coarse soil lots of water and lots of fertilizer.
- Don’t worry about branches until the trunk is nearly done.
- Ground layer as necessary to keep base small for appropriate pot.
Follow those simple rules and it’s easy peasy.