Sub-Alpine Fir Ugly duckling

grouper52

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I was doing some semi-annual trimming and wiring (mostly photoshopped out :) ) on this guy yesterday, and thiught he was controversial enough to post and perhaps generate some discussion.
This yamadori Sub-Alpine fir was purchased two years ago from Jason down at Oregon Bonsai. I can’t recall what it cost, but I recall it was cheap - considered an ugly duckling for some strange reason. They often sell to Walter and Boon, but those guys obviously overlooked this prime piece of bonsai real estate. LOL. About 2 1/2’ tall, BTW.

At least around here, the true firs - all firs except Douglas firs - are dying off from an apparently untreatable condition called terminal bud blight. It hasn’t hit my trees yet, but it’s probably just a matter of time. No one anywhere up here that I know of has any firs in their collections, and I’ve never seen one at Bonsai Northwest. Regular nurseries are phasing them out, and yard trees are dying off.

Anyway, I’ve got this guy and an old Alpine fir, and neither seems hit by it yet, but they are “dead trees walking”, so to speak. So I’m just kind of enjoying them while I can, not putting too much store by any long-term plans.

I’ve been encouraged to jin the entire top and develop the first branch, but I’ve resisted that particular call to reason. I’m still hopelessly convincing myself that a sort of upright literati with double cascades would “work”. Hah! I may at least reduce the foliage even further on the lower area tonight in response to studying the photo. I continue to think that the current styling trajectory, however, has a high likelihood of producing a sort of tree that would not be too unreasonable to expect high in the Western mountains out here, but a more naturalistic, less stylized and less lush treatment of the foliage may pull that off better. I might trim it back a bit (or a lot) more tonight and re-post.

As it is, he’s a tall, lanky fellow, much too much so - “teetering in his pot” as it was described elsewhere - with a marginal base to prevent the teetering or to suggest stability. He’s putting out fine roots, though, and that should correct over time. If he had much of a prognosis for reaching a ripe old age I would probably put him in the ground for a few years, but he doesn’t. There are also areas I noticed yesterday and will explore today, where there seems to be an uro at the base, which I might explore and develop.

It’s currently sitting in a too-small “literati pot” which I then nestled inside an antique Tokoname pot of subtle refinement and better size just to see how it looks. It looks much better, so I’m leaving it in there for this season, and will repot into the larger one late winter.

This guy breaks lots of rules and expectations, :eek: and seems controversial and just plain not very much to many people’s liking, which is fine, so I don’t mind the stuff flying around if it generates a robust dialogue to enliven things here. Even hack it up with virts and turn it into a formal upright sumo if you like, or cast unthinkable slurs in my direction - whatever you like. Have at it! :D
 

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rockm

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I think you overestimate its ugliness and controveriality :D. It's a terrific tree, fits what I'd expect a high altitude tree to look like. Here in the east, Red spruce and even deciduous oaks in the higher elevations of the Alleghenies look exactly like this...
 

irene_b

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Although I also do not find it as the Ugly tree I wanted to see what it would look like trimmed..
Forgive my crappy virt attempt.
Irene
 

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Ang3lfir3

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It's a terrible tree... I'll do you a favor and come take it off your hands... So you won't have to suffer looking at it anymore :p :)
 

noissee

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I think all it really needs is a few more years of ramification, and it will begin to look fairly convincing. I have seen trees like this in colorado.
 

redvw5

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Maybe I am a fan of uglieness but I don't think its that bad. Its a shame about the fir blight that will really change the scenery in the northwest. Have anyone researched this diseaese and found any causes. I would like to see some more views from different sides. It looks like there could be a nice gentle curve there. Have you thought about jinning lower branches to accentuate a literati starkness. I tried playing with image but my vituals only make it look worse.
 
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grouper52

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Wow! I get off work early and come home to THIS?! Where's the abuse? Where are all the snide comments? The hacked up virts? I'm confused - the sliming I got when I posted this tree elsewhere a few months ago was horrendous, and led me to stop posting there. I feel like I'm among friends here. Who woulda thunk it? :)

Yes, to me it DOES look very much like trees one would see out in the Western high desert mountains. I thought it had some ability to emulate those trees, which is why I bought and worked with it, and will continue to do so until either it or I pass on. I'm very happy you all can appreciate it for what it is.

Irene - I really like that virt - perhaps I should give more thought to the less-is-more approach for this tree. Certainly, a lush foliar image would be incongruous with the sort of tree I am trying to portray, which is why I resisted the foliage pad approach to this guy. Thanks.

I'll post some other views, and an update after some further pruning, this evening. Thanks, everyone. :)

Will
 

Martin Sweeney

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Grouper52,

I like the starkness and height of the tree, with both areas of foliage. I think the long dead jin has been done enough and find your approach to this tree refreshing.

I would like to see a little more openness in the remaining foliage; a sparser look if you will. I am having trouble finding the right words to describe what I am thinking. I am not talking about fewer branches necessarily, more of a less needles approach.

Is this Abies lasciocarpa?

Regards,
Martin
 

grouper52

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Grouper52,

I like the starkness and height of the tree, with both areas of foliage. I think the long dead jin has been done enough and find your approach to this tree refreshing.

I would like to see a little more openness in the remaining foliage; a sparser look if you will. I am having trouble finding the right words to describe what I am thinking. I am not talking about fewer branches necessarily, more of a less needles approach.

Is this Abies lasciocarpa?

Regards,
Martin
Abies lasciocarpa, yes.

Here are four views after further trimming tonight. The more it is trimmed this time of year or later into the fall, the more back buds it will produce, and the needles may be smaller next year as well, both of which will add appeal. It looks a bit sparse after the trim,perhaps, but this is the second time this season, and it's very robust and should come back quite nicely in the spring. Enjoy.
 

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Yamadori

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It is a great tree and the 4 photo series is fun to click through when they are all loaded. It is like a video.
 

JTGJr25

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This tree would be much better without the top section of foliage. I would create a jin out of the top section and develop the foliage below. The only problem i see after that is the root base.


Tom
 

grouper52

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I love it when people ignore the entire thread before posting. :D:
 

grouper52

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I'm posting a few trees I photographed at end of season, and this is one. It's finally starting to come into its own, I think. I was surprised at the very nice comments it received from one of the Japanese-trained headliners at the convention here. :) Enjoy.
 

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darrellw

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Looking good!

As always, your photos are superb. Can you share a bit about your set up (in particular, what you do for lighting)?
 

grouper52

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Looking good!

As always, your photos are superb. Can you share a bit about your set up (in particular, what you do for lighting)?
There is a tutorial I wrote over at the BonsaiSite Forums a few years back that should be of help. The last time their site crashed and they upgraded, the photos did not re-load in order, but all at th end. Maybe it's corrected, but even if not, the writing should be clear. (I suppose someone less old school would have just posted the link. :) )
 

Attila Soos

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Very interesting design.
I am torn between the current one, and the one that would be if you cut off the top half of the trunk into a jin. The current one is more complex, therefore interesting. Sculptural.
The short version would be more like a tree. But I can't make up my mind. It's a big decision that I'd rather not make.
 

grouper52

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I've thought of that too, Atilla. It came this way, with that top foliage, and I think I'll tend to honor that for now, especially since I'm a little too prone to jin tree tops as it is. But nature might have other plans and kill the top off - although these firs seem very resilient trees. I wouldn't mind if it died off naturally, leaving only the lower part, but for now I kind of like the unusual quality of the second top.

This seems to be a "love it or hate it" tree design, I find; many people really hate it, and not just the top, but the tall, lanky, unsteady-looking nature of it as well. Eric has always loved this tree much more than I have, and he was in charge of choosing trees from our club for the exhibition at our regional convention two months ago, and this is one of mine that he wanted there. Like I said, it seemed well received by several of the judges, and it received especially kind words from the best known and most traditionally trained of them - surprised the heck out of me, but what do I know!

Will
 

Attila Soos

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I would have probably done the same, and leave the top. If I am not absolutely convinced about removing something, I always choose to leave it as it is.
 
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