Alpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa)

darrellw

Mame
Messages
244
Reaction score
1
Location
Vancouver, WA, USA
USDA Zone
8
A few weeks ago we had a company picinic at a nearby lake, and one of my favorite nurseries (Tsugawa's, in Woodland, WA) was right on the way. Even though it is less than 30 min from my house, I don't get there often enough. They have a selection of pre-bonsai and styled trees, though many are just above Mallsai in quality, very expensive, or both. But I did come across about a dozen Alpine Fir (also called Subalpine fir, go figure), all of which would make better bonsai at a fraction of the cost of their bonsai trees! Anyway, I picked out this one from the group, for the sum of $35. It is a little under 24 inches tall (60 cm), and has a wonderfully twisting trunk. I pulled it out of the nursery can, which was filled with (even for a nursery tree) poor compost. It pretty much fell away from the root ball, except at the top where the tree had started to send out some new roots. I probably won't do much with this guy for a couple of years, since it is obvious that it was recently collected.

I believe that Rich and maybe Jason have a few of these, anyone else have any? They seem a natural for bonsai, but I would be interested in any experience anyone has with them.

-Darrell
 

Attachments

Last edited:
Messages
2,776
Reaction score
15
Location
Michigan, USA
USDA Zone
5
I have never worked with this species but this one appears to have a lot to offer.
 

tom tynan

Mame
Messages
144
Reaction score
0
Location
new york state
Darrell:

I had a collected Alpine Fir - that unfortunately did not survive. I posted it late last year or early this year. I had taken the tree far from it's original home [Oregon to NJ] - so that may have something to do with it. The heat/humidity here in the Northeast may have something to do with it as well; not to mention the serious change in elevation!! They are not as adaptible as say, a Ponderosa Pine.

Check out the book Bonsai Workshop by Herb Gustafson; he has some nice examples.

They back bud very well, have a wonderful aroma, and get a beautiful grey, crackled bark. Some amazing deadwood on larger specimens as well. The wood is so dense/heavy it is reported not to float...

My bonsai friends Jason G. and Rich L. from Oregon Bonsai can add more info./detail as well -

Some bonsai work may be truly regional - due to climate, etc. Well - you are in the right part of the country to work with Alpine Firs..Good Luck. Tom
 

rlist

Shohin
Messages
294
Reaction score
4
Location
Portland, OR
USDA Zone
8a
Hey Darrell. Nice find!

I have about 6 sub alpine firs collected from various locations of the NW, including one from Tsugawa's. I agree with Tom that they are hardy and back bud very well. I collected one last May, and it is already budding 50% of the way down on a 30" tall trunk. I collected another in May, with ZERO roots. It lost a lot of foliage, but is pushing new buds and fine roots are growing out of the A flat. I collected one from Tsugawa's the day Jason and I visited your house in late winter, and bare rooted it that next day. It had virtually no roots - but after 6 months in a pond basket it is thriving.

I treat mine just like spruce - lots of water, fertilizer and sun, but somewhat protected from the late afternoon heat. That said, I do have one that I collected from a local mountain as a test last fall, was not super happy with the tree, and planted it in the yard. It gets a full blast of sun, all day long - and is thriving, as it had similar exposure on the mountain.

I think you will find them very hardy and tough here in our mild climate, and think that you will enjoy working on them - as I am starting to gain a very fair appreciation of them.
 

Tiberious

Yamadori
Messages
88
Reaction score
1
This is all very good information to know. I just purchased two sub alpine firs. They are relatively young but were basically free, so I wanted to work with them. I noticed they abandon most of their lower branches very quickly as I have a mother and daughter style going on right now, the daughter is really young and is already starting to shed almost all of her lower branches, tons of growth just on the apex. I have heard plenty that they back bud well. Im not really aiming for a literati, but this looks like the only option until I can work some branches down lower. Would any of you know how to accomplish this? I removed only 1/3 of the tree off the top so far and slightly shortened up long branches near the apex as it was starting to abandon inner needles, so just pruned back to the nearest healthy needles. I left the lower branches alone. No more work will be carried out on this tree until I it responds favorably to my intentions. I probably wont have to worry about too many candles this year, but am researching spruce, since many have said they are similiar. But for now, I just need to focus on getting some lower branches as I have none right now. I dont want to air layer since its not really worth it since trunk caliper is only about 3/4" right now. Any help would be greatly appreciated thanks
 

tom tynan

Mame
Messages
144
Reaction score
0
Location
new york state
You do not mention whether you put the tree back in the ground, or in a training pot/container. Getting rid of the native soil and going with a lava/pumice mix is probably the single most important step for long-term development for sub-alpine fir. The roots are prone to rotting in the container, esp. after the first year if too much native soil is retained. Once this step is accomplished - you follow good horticultural practices; lots of sun, water and fertilizer. Protect from very hot sun during the hottest summer days. Then see how the tree reacts over a one to two year period. If all goes well you should get new buds and growth. Forget about air-layering. These trees may naturally ground layer - but I doubt whether you can layer one yourself. Hopefully the Alpine Fir guru's - Jason G. and Rich L. will offer some advice as well....good luck with your trees....Tom
 

Tiberious

Yamadori
Messages
88
Reaction score
1
Thanks for the info Tom. It was in burlap in a large nursery can when I got it. Growing in thick clay mucky soil. I also got a hemlock, same story. However, they both looked exceptionally well growing in this medium. I took them out of the cans and most of the roots on both trees were really tight in a neat ball. I planted the hemlock with mostly the same stuff it came in and mixed some orchid bark in with it as the old stuff was mostly decomposed. I would never normally do this, but it looked like it was growing healthy, so I didnt want to bareroot it right now, (not sure if its even the right time) I read that hemlocks like real moist soil, so not sure what to do with it at this point.

The alpines are growing together. I bare rooted and used good bonsai soil with a little bit of peat (it gets real hot here) and put it in a growing box (plastic storage container). Its in morning sun for now since I chopped the top off.

Ill do what you recommend and just take care of it and see how it does. Removing the apex hopefully will stimulate some new growth down low when it starts to grow. I guess while Im growing it out, I will just keep the apex in check and let the lower branches develop, unfortunately I have no sacrifice branches for the trunk, and I would like some jin there in the future. If all else fails, I could thread graft, but that would be last resort.

Anyway Tom, thanks again your help
 

Tiberious

Yamadori
Messages
88
Reaction score
1
mmm, no info, thats cool, this isnt the most common species to use for bonsai thats for sure. Anyway, I took the hemlock out of that clay mucky crap. Its hard when you have a tree in this stuff because the roots tend to get more damaged getting it all out. So the hemlock was barerooted, I didnt lose too many fine feeders, Ill keep my fingers crossed. I saved the top for both of them that I chopped to see how long it takes for the foliage to die and dry out, so I can compare it to my live one, since they take so long to tell you if you fuct up or not. Ive been misting the foliage on both the alpine and hemlock daily until the roots are all good. These trees are beautiful, even If I accidently kill it, I will have to go pay another $100 for one. The nursery is a horrible place to get trees tho, they dont really take care of them, you can tell the trees have been sitting in the same pot for like 10 years. I dont blame the business, its just I have come to appreciate pre-bonsai alot more and am willing to pay a higher price for better material now. These trees are a pain to bareroot!
 

Tiberious

Yamadori
Messages
88
Reaction score
1
Alright so its been a few weeks and my Alpine is starting to back bud. Just to recap, the tree is tall and slender with no branches on the lower 2/3 of the trunk. This is not good for me, but if I dont get any branching lower down, its ok, I will make a nice bunjin. So a few weeks ago I chopped the main growth off at the apex (about 12" worth) and shortened up the long top branches that were remaining. As of last week their are new buds along the branches that I shortened and the old needles appear really dry and falling off. No budding down on the trunk tho, so I hope this will happen either this season or next. I am very hesistant now to remove the old growth that is dying back to the new growth as I dont want the new buds to start drying out. I am not sure if the old needles are falling off due to the trunk chop or the shortening of the branches or both?? So, I am going to wait until new growth hardens off some and try to shorten back to new growth on one branch just to test. Its a good sign the tree has formed new buds all along the inner portions of the branches.

Hemlock update: The hemlock had the apex chopped as well and was planted into a bonsai pot, but only because its roots needed heavy development and their is plenty of room for them to congregate into this particular pot. When it outgrows it, I will either put it into a growing box or a final pot, depending on whether I get more branching down low. This is basically the same situation as the alpine, it has been very reluctant to backbud on the trunk. New chartreuse buds are appearing at the ends of the little branchlets but I am not as enthuisiastic about this tree because im not getting as a vigorious response as the fir is. The tree has been in only morning sun and shade the rest of the day. After looking back at one of my books :Miniature bonsai, Herb says to give Hemlock full sun in his species guide. He also says this with Alpine fir, so in the sun she goes. I feel I have to because needs are falling off sparingly on the hemlock and the buds arent really extending. Its also rather legging looking so may benefit. The buds not coming in as fast also could be due to colder temps this last week. I dunno but many people have said Hemlocks like shade, but then two of books say full sun. Nothing to lose except a $120 tree I guess :rolleyes: We have some around town and their in full sun, and look pretty good, so I think I will give it a try!
 

JasonG

Chumono
Messages
786
Reaction score
15
Location
NW Oregon
Hi T

Can you start a new thread so we don't continue to hijack Darrells? Then we can get into the care of your trees. I would also like to see some pictures of each tree. Get pictures of the branching as well so we can see how the older needles are drying up and dying off.....

I collect both Mt. Hemlock and Sub Alpine Fir.... I know they do not like wind while they are recovering from root work, give them sun but not the hot afternoon sun and make sure to water the folaige daily when watering the tree. Both of these species are fairly touchy and caution should be taken when wiring branches, cutting the trunk and root work at the same time....

Start new posts with pictures so we can help.... The one on my blog is growing like crazy now... I did a major trunk split with it....but it was very established in a pot, 5 yrs or so.

Also fill out your profile so we know what part of the country you live in... it is important when giving info.... :)

Jason
 

Tiberious

Yamadori
Messages
88
Reaction score
1
Please accept my upmost apologies for hijacking Darrells thread. That surely was not my intention. I will get some pics up and make a new thread. I searched far and wide for Alpine threads and when I found this one I got excited and took the wind :D
 
Top Bottom