Douglas fir

Douglas fir is flexible and has amazing small needles

Seen less often, the Douglas fir has real potential for bonsai. Dominique Bosch discovers the virtues step by step.

A fir that is not a fir

This is a Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga), also known as Oregon fir, which we bought at a bonsai nursery. It is a simple garden purpose-grown tree we discovered was suitable for our step-by-step project. The Douglas fir can grow immensely tall in nature and although it grows quite fast it can reach an age of at least 600 years.

The common name honours David Douglas, a Scots botanist and collector who was first to report the extraordinary nature and potential of the variety. It is misleading because it is not a true fir, not a member of the genus Abies, but has its own genus inside the family.

As bonsai it is used less frequently. This is strange as it has many good things to offer, like its flexible branches and its tiny and densely-growing needles. Let’s have a closer look.

Analysing the tree

Removing the unnecessary branches

Studying the options, I can see a fine tapering trunk line here, it only needs some branches removed.
The fir has lots of long side branches; some, like this one, are just too weak, so these are removed.

Making jins

The stumps are made into jins to spice up the very dull trunk a little and to make it look older, too.
I use jin pliers to squeeze the bark to loosen it from the wood.
You can then peel it off as I show here.
You use knob cutter to strip some fibres off the wood and create a rugged image.
Creating the jin.

Wiring the branches

In this case it is not necessary to wire the trunk as I don’t really want to change it. So I concentrate on wiring the side branches using the trunk to anchor the wire. It’s vital that the wire stays put so that, when bending, you have the maximum advantage of its strength.


Positioning the branches

Now that the main branches have been wired, I can start by positioning them. The top part of the trunk is bendable so I can give it a more elegant shape. When satisfied with the overall design, I will detail wire the smaller branches.

The final image of the first set-up. Over the coming years I will need to develop denser foliage pads.
To give you an idea of how the future image might look, a photo-montage shows the denser foliage and the tree is planted in a pot.

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