Bonsai Study Group Forum

General Category => Evergreen Bonsai Discussion => Topic started by: Mnmbjc on May 08, 2013, 07:00 PM

Title: Douglas Fir
Post by: Mnmbjc on May 08, 2013, 07:00 PM
How well do Douglas fir do as bonsai?I know very little about these trees so any help is appreciated.I am attempting to collect some of Americas tallest and biggest trees to train into bonsai.
Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: PaulH on May 08, 2013, 07:27 PM
You very seldom see a Doug Fir bonsai. Usually when that's the case its for a good reason. Native species that work well usually are used frequently. That said, I have a large Douglas Fir that I am working with. Not collected, but a nursery tree I bought in a 24" box. This spring I flat cut the bottom and planted it in a shallow training box and it is budding out nicely. We'll see how it does.
Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: Dan W. on May 10, 2013, 11:11 AM
I have one that's doing well. (You can also find several nice ones on Ryan Neils web site.) I think this may be a case where these just havn't been experimented with enought yet. The Rocky Mountain Bonsai Society is using them quite a bit too.

-- Be careful when bending branches.... they split very easily ;)
Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: augustine on May 10, 2013, 11:53 AM
There are one or two photos of Douglas Fir Bonsai in Bill Valavanis' book from his 2010 National Exhibition. Real fine specimens.

Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: base797 on May 25, 2013, 01:24 PM
I have over 10 Douglas Firs that I have collected and it fantastic material. I reside in Colorado and here they do very well in container culture. I'd be happy to address any specific queries.
Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: Mnmbjc on May 25, 2013, 03:22 PM
Growth rates and how these trees react to general bonsai techniques are a couple of things I would like to know.Also what about the extreme heat being in eastern nebraska I do get the extremes in weather.I have an unheated garage that has insulation so it never falls below 32degrees in the winter so winter isn't a problem.Eventually I want to add the Douglas fir and sitka spruce to my redwoods.
Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: base797 on May 25, 2013, 04:37 PM
These are simply my observations, I have been collecting D. Firs and working with them since 2008.

Growth rates are similar to spruce, single spurt in spring, hardening off by mid June (this is when you want to trim shoots to encourage back-budding, but be sure to leave a small amount of the new shoot on the branch). Pinching can also be done when buds push into "paintbrushes", but I have found that method does less to promote back-budding.

All of mine are collected so I use a scoria/turface mix as a medium and after a couple years in a box.  I basically try to wash the rootballs clean, but very little reduction/cutting of roots on that first repot.

I fertilize very aggressively, both foliar (daily almost) and something like ozmocote for the soil as I have too many plants to do it iindividually. I have noticed needle length increase fairly dramatically on some that get less light or with less foliage. 

I do wiring in the fall and it typically stays on for 2 years. Branches can be brittle if  the temps are too cold, so be wary of working on them below 40 degrees.

As far as extreme heat (to me that's hotter than about 95), I would keep them out of the late afternoon sun. Mine do not move over the course of the summer and we get up towards 100 here in Boulder at least a few times per year. However, most are in dappled sunlight basically all day. A few are in full sun too and I have never lost one. They seem to be happiest in the mountains on NW slopes, so that tells me that too much heat or sun could be unhealthy ultimately.

Let me know if there is anything else I could comment on for you. Also, you can find a video of Marc Noelanders styling one of my raw Doug Firs from the International Bonsai Convention in Denver last year. I think it was "of bonsai" that put it up on YouTube.

Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: Mnmbjc on May 25, 2013, 08:20 PM
Thanks for all the info.So you would say that the trees respond well to most bonsai techniques.So now I just need to find some good trees.Do you know of anyone that sells Douglas firs the trees I have found are all to young?
Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: base797 on May 27, 2013, 12:26 PM
You are welcome. I have lots of trees that are available and my best friend does as well. However, I typically do not ship the collected trees because they tend to be in wooden boxes that are heavy and I hate the idea of damage occurring during shipping. I guess if you wanted to come to Boulder, I am certain you will find some plants you like. I have about 100 collected trees in my garden, many of which I might part with. If you are interested, I can send you some pics, texting would be best for that, let me know.

Got this englemann yesterday.
Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: reddog on May 27, 2013, 01:38 PM
You might try Andy Smith.  He can ship if you are interested. (
Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: Dan W. on June 07, 2013, 01:52 PM
I just posted a bit about mine on my blog, here: (
Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: Gaffer on July 05, 2013, 12:08 PM
Gaffer here
The reason you do not see too many established Doug firs is because it is a North American tree and yamadory material  for use in  bonsai is still a very young proposition . Ask again in 50years and perhaps there will be some great examples fir trees as bonsai. I have been using that species for bonsai for years because of accessibility . If wired  properly right to the ends, they can look  almost pine like but with a smaller needle. I live in the Pacific Northwest so I have lots around to pick from.
Good luck
Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: John Kirby on July 05, 2013, 03:34 PM
Well, Dan Robinson and many others have collected them for years. They have had difficulty in getting established in pot culture, probably because the roots were not adequately cleaned up for bomsai culture. The more recent cadre of professional collectors seem to be doing a lot better with historically difficut natives.

The two Doug's I have had, and lost while in Arkansas, had limited roots several years after collection.
Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: Gaffer on July 05, 2013, 05:06 PM
I don't think you understand . If people have been collecting them for years it will probably take another 50 years on top of the age they are now to really understand them. I think they are closer to the Yew. Where I live the yew and the Doug fir live together in the same condition. I have been working with a few of them over the last few years and when grown in a bonsai culture they respond very well. Roots and all.
Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: John Kirby on July 05, 2013, 06:36 PM
Gaffer, I fully understand, however there are a number of natives thst have become highly refined and very well understood in the US. It won't take 50 more years, look at how far the Japanese have come in the past 40 years and others in the past 15. You build on prior knowledge, not recreate the wheel. With some of the firs I have seen flourishing in the past couple of years, including one in the DC area last weekend, it won't be long.
Title: Re: Douglas Fir
Post by: Gaffer on July 05, 2013, 08:47 PM
I am sure you are right. It is just that our trees are often compared to Asian trees and for the most part these trees are 150years old. Doug firs have great bark in some cases as good as some red pine. Let us see what this new crop of artists can accomplish over the next decade and then we can decide.