How to Create a Douglas Fir Bonsai Forest

The Douglas Fir will grow outside but may show some frost damage dieback or heavy coning after a deep freeze. I suspect that while hardy, they may be suseptible to some root damage or shoot damage after a rare deep freeze if exposed suddenly. The firs I care for exhibit snowline characteristics like twigginess and top dieback (which is feel looks natural).

Video Transcript

Today i’m going to be working on my douglas fir forest these trees were collected out west by my friend lesheck and he flew into ontario with the trees folded up in a suitcase i planted them right away and that was back in 2018 so ever since then i’ve just been trying to get the strength back in the trees and it’s been a slow struggle i don’t know if they’re ideally suited for these this ontario environment but i keep working on them last year was the first year i did some initial pruning on it and this year i’m going to do a little bit more with this planting i imagine myself walking through the forests of british columbia and all the douglas firs growing tall and mighty all the trees in this planting survived except for the one little small one at the back which is too bad but i got three good douglas first and a few smaller ones too the weather outside is quite a bit warmer today it’s hovering right around the freezing mark and inside the greenhouse here it’s 14 degrees celsius i’m going to start today by working on the tree on the left hand side here the one with the thickest trunk i’m going to try and bring it in as compact as i can get it and still have nice green needles on the end of each branch i’m going to start today by reducing the height of this tree i have a new shoot coming out the front of the trunk here so i could cut this entire world of branches off of the top of the tree and reduce the height down all right here i go removing the top of the tree with the ratcheting pruners just like that i’m hoping that by removing the top of the tree that all that energy that’s stored in the roots and trunks and branches over the winter will come up and be redistributed amongst these lower branches so you can see on the trunk here i’ve got a few shoots coming off the trunk and these lower branches so if i get more of those i can reduce some of these longer branches back and grow new branches from these little buds so that would be really good my next step is to reduce the length of the upper branches wherever i can so this branch you can see it comes out and it divides into four here so i just want it dividing into two so i’m going to do some pruning so i can definitely take the tip off to reduce the length of the branch so here i go like that that leaves me now with three branches this branch has some sub sub-branching it divides into two so that’s a good one and so does the one at the back here it actually has one two three branches on it this is the straight branch so i think i want to redirect i don’t want this branch to just keep growing straight so i’m going to take this middle one out keeping these ones and i think that’s about as far as i can go there is some buds in here that will develop this year but i’m going to leave the branches as they are and hopefully get some back budding that i can reduce them back further in the future this branch out to the front here i pruned it off last year pruned the tip off and i’ve got two new buds on that wood which is quite nice so this one also divides into one two three and if this one lives four so i’ve got to reduce that back um so i’ve got to pick my best branches this one kind of crosses over the trunk of the tree so i’m going to remove that one like that so that now leaves me with well two branches with foliage on them and we’ll see what happens to this one so there is a branch back here that i could possibly reduce this whole branch back and use this branch as the new branch leader i think that’s a little bit risky it would be nice up in the apex to get everything compact but i think i’m going to wait i think i’m going to wait and see what happens in this area if i get more buds back on this branch then maybe i can reduce it back rather than using this as the new leader for the branch because it’s it’s a vertical branch it’s not the greatest direction so we’ll see what happens there there’s a branch at the back here the branch comes out i have a living branch to the left here another little one to the left one to the right one to the left one to the right and a central one so i can definitely reduce this branch back and i’m thinking i’m thinking right back to here so here i go again leaving a stub for die back there is a bud right here i wonder if i should try and keep that butt alive i think i will i’ll prune up here instead so here i go taking the branch tip off just like that a branch like this it’s quite healthy it is possible you know i could cut it back and get budding back further in here i don’t know if i should do it this year or maybe next year um i can’t be pruning it too much until the tree gets really established and really growing well yeah i don’t want to take any chances you know i don’t want to lose the tree so here’s another branch that’s really healthy i could probably prune it back there’s there is a bud here so i can prune the tip off at least i’ll do that like that this one i don’t think there’s any buds back further no there’s just a bit of debris there so this one only has the buds out at the tip so i’m going to leave that for another time this one i think this is just debris in here i don’t think there’s any actual buds no again you know i could prune the tip off and hope something back buds here but it may or may not it probably would but i’m going to leave it for now i’d rather be safe than sorry on these trees they can’t be replaced i’ll continue the pruning working my way from the top going down to the bottom of the tree trying to get those branches more compact always tough decisions but the tree isn’t going to get more compact on its own you have to do some pruning to get it to bud back and get it more compact here’s a look at the main tree pruned up it doesn’t look much different but i do have a good pile of branches down here that came off the tree here’s a look at all the branches i removed on the tree today i’m going to begin pruning up the other two trees now again getting them as compact as i can get them so here’s a branch here it comes out lots of buds back here that’s good so i don’t want to take too much vigor out of the branch because i want to develop those buds but i can remove some of the tips where it divides from one to three call keep this one that gets out a little more compact i could even take that whole tip off here like that up top i’ve got a branch here take that vertical part off reduce the tips hopefully stimulate some back butting there is some buds already developed on that branch tip this one i can take out the center branch not a lot of branches on this tree so i’ve gotta you know be very careful there’s one back here i’ll reduce it from three branches down to two at this one junction here there’s a weak one up the back here i’ll just leave that alone and that’s about it there’s only you know one two three four five six seven living branches on that tree so now i’ll do the back tree here again trying to reduce there’s a really really strong shoot here this is what they should all look like that is super strong this branch here really nice and healthy and dense so hopefully you know these trees will gain strength and have lots to work with in the future so i’ve got to reduce this one back i gotta you know get some of those vigor evenly distributed amongst the tree here the other branches i’ll take the top off here like that some good strong side shoots i’m going to take the middle one out here not a lot of pruning but just some take the middle one out here i think no maybe not i’ll take this one out sometimes if you’ve got three branches and you take the middle one out this the branches that are left are too wide looking they kind of fan out too much so sometimes you’re better to take one of the side ones off and keep a tighter v-shaped with the remaining two branches and you know there’s other cases where you’ve got the three branches and one sticking out towards the viewer so you might want to prune that one off and keep the other two it’s not always the middle one that you’re pruning out yeah lots of vigor in this main tree here it’s doing really well and that is the one that i’m hoping will become big lonely dug someday i’ll replant it straight up and down the tree is quite straight it just needs some straightening out and this planting i think i’ll let it one more year and then the next spring i’ll repot it i think it’s too early to repot it yet i’ll check out this one yeah there’s some good vigor in this main tree that’s exciting to see it’s done really well it’s really gaining strength these branches because they are so vigorous i’m pruning the tips off them there’s no back buds in here but i think it’s so strong that it’ll back butt in this area anyway good strong apex there now i could reduce that stump back at the apex here so i think i will here’s that apex so this is my new branch leader here and i’ve got this stump here so i’m going to reduce that back so i’ll cut it on an angle using the ratcheting pruners i think right about here so here i go just like that there’s a look at the cut there so that should heal over eventually as the apex thickens up you can see i’ve got some really long branches at the tip here so hopefully i can get those reduced back in the future there’s another branch here i can shorten some pine needles out of there so this branch i can shorten take the top branch off and then i’m dividing one to three here so i’m just going to actually take the whole tip off like that when i cut that stub off the top of the one tree i counted the rings and it looks like it’s about 13 or 14 years old and one thing you can notice is the rings are really really tight when it was grown in the mountains and now you can see the growth rings are getting larger on it so that’s a good sign it means it’s healthy and putting on growth really quickly here’s a look at all the branches that i’ve taken off now not a whole lot but you know considering the tree the trees aren’t really full of branches they’re kind of sparse still it’s quite a bit so i’m hoping you know i’m getting lots of back buddy on this trunk here i’m hoping i get more of that i can see buds everywhere so that would be good like this one really gained a lot of vigor last year it’s looking really strong so that’s what i want them all to be so it’s just a matter of waiting taking the best care of your trees that you can watering them well fertilizing them well giving them good placement and that’s all you can do with the collected tree is just do the best you can and wait for the health to restore to be restored and wait till they start growing with a lot of vigor and then you can start the bonsai process so i did a little bit today just to get them on their way and yeah we’ll just wait for spring and hopefully get a good summer of growth on the trees [Music] [Music] so [Music] [Music] in the last video on my douglas fir forest i go back in time and i show lesheck bringing the trees to me planting the trees my styling ideas for the trees and a bit of pruning so i’ll put a link to that video in the description below and you can see how this forest has progressed over the last four years and that’s all for today i’m nigel saunders thanks for joining me in the bonsai zone [Music]

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