Big Chunk of Doug Fir


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Port Orchard, WA
In the Pacific Northwest we are surrounded by huge Douglas firs, but they are reputed to make crumby bonsai for various reasons. This guy was cheap by the pound at Bonsai Northwest, so I threw caution to the wind and thought I would try my hand at what looked like one of the more promising specimens.

Spent a day repotting and initially styling, and here's the start of a progression thread. The photo impresses me with the notion that the lower left branch/foliage either needs serious re-positioning, or needs to go entirely as the foliage above it is developed - probably the latter.

A bit over 3' tall.



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Don't think I'd agree with you on that loose the branch Will. The higher foliage isn't that far ahead that with harder pruning atop, and let the lower branch procede the balance would take place sooner than later. Maybe it's just when I think the branch gone it doesn't look as good. IMHO anyway.

Interesting piece anyway, definately some thick bark in there, makes the jin stand out.
Wow... talk to me about the jin... I would like to know what part of it was natural, and what you enhanced.

The initial styling is looking great... I counsel patience before anything else goes anywhere... I think it could be wired a little differently on the branch you referenced, but I don't want to see it gone just yet.

Are you planning on extending the jin into a shari down the trunk? I would like to see something break the hold of the "collar" of healmark going around it. Thoughts... plans?

Can't wait to see it in person...

Another nice tree grouper, thanks for sharing.

Just out of curiosity, do DFs backbud and fill out easily? I came close to buying a big collected DF a few weeks ago, but the foliage on the tree was very sparse. I also saw various collected DFs exhibited at our local show that have been in development for 10+ years, that also had very sparse branching. So, I was wondering if one of the challenges with working with the species is that it's very hard to fill out foliage pads.
Hi Will,

Not sure if you meant this for critique yet or not...but here is my 2 bits worth.

The material, for me, is not ideal...definitely a bit of a challenge. However, I think your moving in the right direction with your initial actions. I find the bottle neck at the living tissue and deadwood a large visual distraction ... definitely makes me feel uncomfortable when viewing. I think if you could extend that down the trunk it would help tremendously. The interplay between the living apex and the apex of the jin is confusing...they compete. I realize this is an initial styling and has a long way to go...but still would like to see a direction reflecting where this maybe going.

Other questions I have are is there any sort of nebari? If not, how do you plan to put generate interest at the base. Also, in the image the tree appears to be leaning away from the you plan on a new potting angle. I agree with Ms Vic that for now patience is the keyword.....producing back budding will show what can be done with this piece of material.

As always I'm sure you'll surprise us, as you have done in the past. Thanks for sharing!


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Hey Will....This is a very cool piece of material; the collar of live trunk that has healed around the top jin is one of the key areas of this tree and probably the most risky. If you cut thru it to extend the jin into a shari on the trunk - you may loose some of those critical branches that are being fed from that area. The best branch you have on the right side looks to be connected to that collar area. This area has really swelled over the years. Some careful carving to reduce the mass of that collar might help - but I keep thinking you need to get it healthy so you get more back budding and a fulller crown behind the top jin - not sure if want that look - but it is an option. Good luck with your DF - not commonly seen as bonsai material.....Tom
Thanks everyone for the comments and critiques. And Tom, thanks for the virt - that's roughly where I'd like to take it, if it'll go. (See below)

It came to me in very poor soil. DFs generally have fairly shallow roots for their size, and are very prone to fall over easily here when the winds kick up after a rain. This tree's roots were fair, but I expect they will gain in vigor now.

The nebari are about what I might expect for such a collected DF. What you see is what you get, although perhaps they look a wee bit better in real life. Same goes for the overall uninteresting trunk line - actually better than most.

The deadwood is pretty much as it was found, merely cleaned up a bit and LS'd. There is a lot of evidence of some sort of worm or grub or wood ant infestation or somesuch right above the callous, and undoubtedly resulting in the jin and hypertrophied callous.

There is only one remaining branch - only one. The three secondary branches all come off of that one. It ups the ante for mucking around in too cavalier a fashion with the nearby callous, IMO, especially since few people have worked much with these particular trees as bonsai, and especially since the future shari area would be directly above most of the tree's roots, though quite a bit away. I will take it slowly, and only after it's recovery is quite assured and it is in vibrant health.

It does back bud, and has done so at various areas all the way back onto the one branch, although only sparsely so, and the foliage - while it should fill out quite a bit - will probably never be extremely dense.

I'll post updates as it develops, if it is the will of Allah.
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Hello grouper52..What about something like this..shari up the left side all the way up the trunk. This will make the trunk look thinner and more in proportion to the composition, then shorten and carve the jin. This is what I did in virt 1.. Virt 2 is that one living branch brought away from the trunk just a little bit to see the composition better. You could also remove the foliage and branch on the right side..even if you didn't move the living tree away from the trunk, I still think the tree would look great.
I have seen these compositions where there is a small tree on one side of a trunk, so to speak... I think this would be very possible with this tree.. Providing you like it.



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update on your doug fir?

was wondering how this tree is doing?

SW Oregon
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Yea , you arn't allowed to promise updates without actually folling through , even if it looks like a chunk of firewood :)
Yea , you arn't allowed to promise updates without actually folling through , even if it looks like a chunk of firewood :)

Sorry, Dwight. It burned brightly, leaving a great bed of coals that glowed with great warmth long into the night, but I forgot to take a photo of the fire to post here.

Actually, it's doing OK. Some of the foliage died, but other parts are looking quite healthy. I did a bit more preliminary carving down the trunk last fall, but we're still too cold and wet at this time to do much work to it so far this season. If spring ever arrives, I'll probably get on it. If spring never does arrive, I probably will throw it on the fire to stay warm.

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