1st time Dwarf Alberta Spruce forest

Cruiser

Mame
Messages
174
Reaction score
238
Location
Skagit Valley, Washington
USDA Zone
8a
Does anyone have any tips, feedback, or advice on how to proceed with this project?


4/29:
Planted 7 spruce in an 18”x15” seed tray. Approximately 1/3 of the root mass was removed. Used EB stone bonsai and cactus soil. Trees were wired into the tray before branch wiring/pruning to get an idea for the layout. (I realize this may have been a mistake).

The grouping looked alright but was missing variability so I added two more spruce that were previously worked on, a larger tree and a smaller one that were wired back in March. They were my first, so the wiring is pretty jenky. The total is now 9 trees.

I focused on having smaller trees and openness in front, placed the largest tree in the middle of the pot, and so far have kept a lower canopy in the rear. Spacing is somewhat uniform since I didn’t want to cut off too much root mass. Distribution is staggered with a more open understory to the right front of the pot. I plan to leave spike knots and forked tops for realism and possible jins later on.

To help reduce soil erosion I added some local moss. This was the easy part. It was growing 10 ft away on some concrete.

My next tentative step is to thin out the branches and wire to create a more mature looking canopy.

Please advise.
 

Attachments

  • 25BA1174-4DD3-4A0B-BD73-516E06CA70EF.jpeg
    25BA1174-4DD3-4A0B-BD73-516E06CA70EF.jpeg
    291.7 KB · Views: 168
  • 5A50F00D-8603-49E4-9533-4E3E7300E28E.jpeg
    5A50F00D-8603-49E4-9533-4E3E7300E28E.jpeg
    307.9 KB · Views: 137
  • C6D3EE71-51E3-4520-A5BF-DF1C0DAC1419.jpeg
    C6D3EE71-51E3-4520-A5BF-DF1C0DAC1419.jpeg
    430.6 KB · Views: 122
  • 93EBE0DB-C9C5-4F08-9425-F90DE86E2A5F.jpeg
    93EBE0DB-C9C5-4F08-9425-F90DE86E2A5F.jpeg
    350.2 KB · Views: 116
  • 4BD94C88-7A36-4CC9-A68A-39B4B61B9C7E.jpeg
    4BD94C88-7A36-4CC9-A68A-39B4B61B9C7E.jpeg
    380.1 KB · Views: 111
  • 5B9C8C78-94DF-429A-A805-766931E80C54.jpeg
    5B9C8C78-94DF-429A-A805-766931E80C54.jpeg
    277 KB · Views: 113
  • E963F77F-F5C3-46F6-A572-7267E3463A43.jpeg
    E963F77F-F5C3-46F6-A572-7267E3463A43.jpeg
    306.9 KB · Views: 119
  • A9C715BB-57B2-48B8-BB64-B79B45511139.jpeg
    A9C715BB-57B2-48B8-BB64-B79B45511139.jpeg
    293.5 KB · Views: 159

RJG2

Chumono
Messages
659
Reaction score
1,472
Location
Southern Maine
USDA Zone
5b
I'm a novice (only have one forest in the works, which is my first), so take this with a grain, but I think your back is the front.

You want to have the largest towards the front and center to aid in the sense of scale/perspective.

I think after recovery and some wire, this could look pretty nice!
 

Kanorin

Chumono
Messages
569
Reaction score
952
Location
St. Louis, MO
USDA Zone
6a
You could enter this in the Forest from seedling contest that we just started (sapling division). You are off to a good start, although I agree that I prefer the view from what I think is the back.
 

Cruiser

Mame
Messages
174
Reaction score
238
Location
Skagit Valley, Washington
USDA Zone
8a
I'm a novice (only have one forest in the works, which is my first), so take this with a grain, but I think your back is the front.

You want to have the largest towards the front and center to aid in the sense of scale/perspective.

I think after recovery and some wire, this could look pretty nice!
You could enter this in the Forest from seedling contest that we just started (sapling division). You are off to a good start, although I agree that I prefer the view from what I think is the back.
Interesting. I can see the possibility in that front. In that case would it make sense to prune the lower branches from the front trees to open up a view of the larger trunk behind them?
 

Cruiser

Mame
Messages
174
Reaction score
238
Location
Skagit Valley, Washington
USDA Zone
8a
End of summer update on spruce forest..

Back in May, six more trees were added to the group bringing the total to 15.

Overall, the forest did well throughout the summer. There was a good amount of foliage and root growth. Not many needles browned, even with the heat wave in late June. I did lose one tree though. A little one in the corner of the tray. I suspect too much foliage was removed when it was planted.
 

Attachments

  • B514CD30-FB22-422D-ABD8-7192AEDD8335.jpeg
    B514CD30-FB22-422D-ABD8-7192AEDD8335.jpeg
    193.5 KB · Views: 96
  • F2A964C1-B720-4DCB-86B2-7CE63219E292.jpeg
    F2A964C1-B720-4DCB-86B2-7CE63219E292.jpeg
    268.4 KB · Views: 90
  • 7CA86B42-8F7B-4D79-9AD4-DF3514BCA756.jpeg
    7CA86B42-8F7B-4D79-9AD4-DF3514BCA756.jpeg
    289.7 KB · Views: 84
  • 2ED6581B-9298-4551-B6F3-ADA4AD11313D.jpeg
    2ED6581B-9298-4551-B6F3-ADA4AD11313D.jpeg
    181.7 KB · Views: 95
  • 4FDCF8DB-FBF9-47F8-8E3C-1AF30B3AC097.jpeg
    4FDCF8DB-FBF9-47F8-8E3C-1AF30B3AC097.jpeg
    199 KB · Views: 112

QuantumSparky

Shohin
Messages
295
Reaction score
272
Location
Eastern Pennsylvania, USA
USDA Zone
6b
You have a lot more willpower than me, taking on not one but multiple trees of what seems to be THE biggest "bonsai newcomer trap" species 😳

I'm sure I don't have to tell you how difficult it is to make this species look like convincing bonsai, there are a million threads about it, including one of my own where I come to terms with my mistake of buying one

That aside, I think your forest layout looks really good! I think having a few trees planted together helps sell the idea. What are your plans for the foliage masses? Trunks look nice in that arrangement but based on advice and articles, it's gonna be extremely difficult to work on that foliage to make it not look like a puff of needles like it is now.

I have a DAS which I'm strongly considering giving up on. I knew how bad of a subject it is, but bought one anyway. Now it's just a sad disappointment and I can't even bring myself to share a photo of it 😅
 

Cruiser

Mame
Messages
174
Reaction score
238
Location
Skagit Valley, Washington
USDA Zone
8a
You have a lot more willpower than me, taking on not one but multiple trees of what seems to be THE biggest "bonsai newcomer trap" species 😳

I'm sure I don't have to tell you how difficult it is to make this species look like convincing bonsai, there are a million threads about it, including one of my own where I come to terms with my mistake of buying one

That aside, I think your forest layout looks really good! I think having a few trees planted together helps sell the idea. What are your plans for the foliage masses? Trunks look nice in that arrangement but based on advice and articles, it's gonna be extremely difficult to work on that foliage to make it not look like a puff of needles like it is now.

I have a DAS which I'm strongly considering giving up on. I knew how bad of a subject it is, but bought one anyway. Now it's just a sad disappointment and I can't even bring myself to share a photo of it 😅
With more time and vigor I plan to thin the foliage. Once some branches have been removed I’ll wire. I may add more trees and go up in tray/slab size as well. The end goal is for this to resemble a Douglas-fir plantation/western Washington forest.
The spacing between trees right now looks a little too uniform so eventually I’ll adjust that.

I’m aware of the pitfalls with this species but they’re cheap and I’ve learned a lot with them.
One of the trees was wired in April. I recently took it off. Most of the branches have stayed in position but a few popped back up over a few days. I was nit-picky when I wired and some branches got adjusted and readjusted a lot. I think all the movement in those branches may have helped break down fibers and enabled them to set better.
 

hinmo24t

Masterpiece
Messages
2,433
Reaction score
3,002
Location
Dartmouth Massachusetts
USDA Zone
7A
herons bonsai did a garden tour in a video and he showed a similar looking forest, of the same species. it was an intern project i think he said and it appeared they pruned the bottoms, left top canopies, and also had the trees angled/splayed outwards

here it is, amazed i found it
 

Cruiser

Mame
Messages
174
Reaction score
238
Location
Skagit Valley, Washington
USDA Zone
8a
herons bonsai did a garden tour in a video and he showed a similar looking forest, of the same species. it was an intern project i think he said and it appeared they pruned the bottoms, left top canopies, and also had the trees angled/splayed outwards

here it is, amazed i found it
Thanks for the link. Peter Chan is partly to blame for my interest in this species! His other video where he styles a few Dwarf Alberta spruce was inspiring.
 

Cruiser

Mame
Messages
174
Reaction score
238
Location
Skagit Valley, Washington
USDA Zone
8a
I have another DAS grouping composed of the “Jeans Dilly” variety. It has smaller, tighter needles and more ramification. I haven’t done much to it as far as styling goes, but was hoping the branches might set better. I’ll compare how the two varieties respond to techniques, eventually..
 

Attachments

  • 866CF712-A9F2-49B4-9A00-502B39656E0F.jpeg
    866CF712-A9F2-49B4-9A00-502B39656E0F.jpeg
    295.9 KB · Views: 59
  • 05104316-B189-43CA-9B99-9CEE1E249A9B.jpeg
    05104316-B189-43CA-9B99-9CEE1E249A9B.jpeg
    246.8 KB · Views: 65

Leo in N E Illinois

The Professor
Messages
10,263
Reaction score
20,327
Location
on the IL-WI border, a mile from ''da Lake''
USDA Zone
5b
My memory is failing me, and I am not going to take the time to look up the examples of Dwarf Alberta Spruce that I vaguely remember having seen. White spruce, Picea glauca, the "normal form" is actually quite good for bonsai. Branches rise as they exit the trunk. Usually with age and weight of snow the branches settle at a fairly horizontal aspect, rising up a little at the tips. Needle color is medium green.

The geographic race Picea glauca var densata, the Black Hills Spruce likely comes from the most arid environments of any of the North American spruce species. Now the Black Hills Spruce is not a desert plant, it comes from higher altitude where moisture is more available than in the North Dakota Badlands. The Black Hills Spruce makes a great bonsai. Here again the branches come out more or less horizontal relative to the trunk. With age and weight of snow the branches will start out with a slight rise then arc down and up a little at the tips. Needle color is a darker green than the normal form.

The Dwarf Alberta Spruce is a cultivar or a group of cultivars of Picea glauca that are dwarfs and have branches that spring upward much more so than the normal varieties. The branches remain "springy" with little memory. To get the branches horizontal one has to wire and re-wire over and over again. Often a decade of wiring is not enough to keep the branches at horizontal. This upward reach of Dwarf Alberta Spruce varieties is very dominant. But the very short needle length is in scale for bonsai, and model railroad builders. It is quite popular in miniature gardens, fairy gardens and where ever a miniature tree is needed. Key to working with Dwarf Alberta Spruce is to simply accept its biggest flaw, upward rising branches, and work with this trait. I would not bother to try to wire branches to a more horizontal display. That would be near impossible to accomplish. Instead, treat it more as clip and grow, and embrace the upward form. Only use wire to place branches in slightly different positions around the trunks, don't bother trying to flatten out the upward reach. If you embrace its natural character, you will be able to make a better bonsai with it.

@Cruiser - I like the variation in spacing you were able to achieve in your second forest. The first forest actually has enough trees that the uniformity of the spacing is not distracting. So both forests look pretty good. Nice work, keep the growing. I really would only use wire to place branches around the trunks. I would not bother trying to flatten out the branches. Let them reach for the sun. Work them more with clip and grow and forget the Alpine spruce image with drooping branches.
 

Kanorin

Chumono
Messages
569
Reaction score
952
Location
St. Louis, MO
USDA Zone
6a
In the first composition, keep an eye on how those trees in the middle do. You might need to find creative ways to get them a bit more sunlight - perhaps prune the inner-facing foliage of the outer trees a little bit more or bend the outer trees trunks slightly away from center.
 

Cruiser

Mame
Messages
174
Reaction score
238
Location
Skagit Valley, Washington
USDA Zone
8a
My memory is failing me, and I am not going to take the time to look up the examples of Dwarf Alberta Spruce that I vaguely remember having seen. White spruce, Picea glauca, the "normal form" is actually quite good for bonsai. Branches rise as they exit the trunk. Usually with age and weight of snow the branches settle at a fairly horizontal aspect, rising up a little at the tips. Needle color is medium green.

The geographic race Picea glauca var densata, the Black Hills Spruce likely comes from the most arid environments of any of the North American spruce species. Now the Black Hills Spruce is not a desert plant, it comes from higher altitude where moisture is more available than in the North Dakota Badlands. The Black Hills Spruce makes a great bonsai. Here again the branches come out more or less horizontal relative to the trunk. With age and weight of snow the branches will start out with a slight rise then arc down and up a little at the tips. Needle color is a darker green than the normal form.

The Dwarf Alberta Spruce is a cultivar or a group of cultivars of Picea glauca that are dwarfs and have branches that spring upward much more so than the normal varieties. The branches remain "springy" with little memory. To get the branches horizontal one has to wire and re-wire over and over again. Often a decade of wiring is not enough to keep the branches at horizontal. This upward reach of Dwarf Alberta Spruce varieties is very dominant. But the very short needle length is in scale for bonsai, and model railroad builders. It is quite popular in miniature gardens, fairy gardens and where ever a miniature tree is needed. Key to working with Dwarf Alberta Spruce is to simply accept its biggest flaw, upward rising branches, and work with this trait. I would not bother to try to wire branches to a more horizontal display. That would be near impossible to accomplish. Instead, treat it more as clip and grow, and embrace the upward form. Only use wire to place branches in slightly different positions around the trunks, don't bother trying to flatten out the upward reach. If you embrace its natural character, you will be able to make a better bonsai with it.

@Cruiser - I like the variation in spacing you were able to achieve in your second forest. The first forest actually has enough trees that the uniformity of the spacing is not distracting. So both forests look pretty good. Nice work, keep the growing. I really would only use wire to place branches around the trunks. I would not bother trying to flatten out the branches. Let them reach for the sun. Work them more with clip and grow and forget the Alpine spruce image with drooping branches.
A well written and informative post.

I am willing to work with the upward growth habit of the branches. This trait can be seen in large sitka spruce out here.
But I do wonder, what is the mechanism that causes the branches to grow upward? Is it high amounts of lignin in compression wood on the undersides of the branches? I wonder if it’s possible to damage the wood at the crux of the branch to stop it from “pushing” the branch upwards..
 

Leo in N E Illinois

The Professor
Messages
10,263
Reaction score
20,327
Location
on the IL-WI border, a mile from ''da Lake''
USDA Zone
5b
I don't know, but it seems to me the wood of Dwarf Alberta Spruce stay "springy" does not lignify as quickly as Black Hills Spruce or other spruces. Maybe that is why it springs up even years after being wired.

So I really don't know why. But I would guess less lignin rather than more lignin.
 

Similar threads

Top Bottom