Postcards from Portland: Part 4

Posted by on May 21, 2015 | 2 Comments
Postcards from Portland: Part 4

In the coastal ranges of northern California there are Douglas Fir trees that grow quite well in a large range of locations. Near San Francisco in the Marin Headlands and in Point Reyes National Seashore the trees can get nearly as large as some redwood trees. My house, built in 1903, is framed almost exclusively with the wood from some of the old growth trees that were harvested at the time. Looking at the range map in Northern California you might get the impression that you’ll not be able to escape the shade of Pseudotsuga menziesii.

And old and nearly-dead P. menziesii at Point Reyes.   This type of branching is unusual but I've seen it in a few places.

And old and nearly-dead P. menziesii at Point Reyes. This type of branching is unusual but I’ve seen it in a few places.

But, in bonsai one is rarely looking for large and straight trees. Thus I had not really considered P. menziesii a candidate for bonsai use until I ran into the Rocky Mountain variation while touring gardens around Portland. The growth habit of the foliage is similar, but the bark on the specimens is much more interesting, quite old and there is deadwood and movement in many of the compact specimens. In contrast to even the best candidates from California; like the deer-pruned trees inhabiting windswept coastal bluffs and forming mats of dense foliage with squat but still straight trunks, these trees are truly interesting for bonsai.

The Colorado type is a named variety: Pseudotsuga menziesii subsp. glauca. The examples I saw while touring Portland were quite a bit more interesting than just a big straight tree.

An unstyled tree with a promising trunk.

An unstyled tree with a promising trunk.

A recently styled tree with some great character in the bark, movement and shape of the trunk

A recently styled tree with some great character in the bark, good movement and and interesting shape in the trunk

A sinuous trunk with an interesting counter-balancing jin and a nice crown with some foliage that's starting to tighten up.

A sinuous trunk with an interesting counter-balancing jin and a nice crown with some foliage that’s starting to tighten up.

A tree that seems to be approaching maturity as a bonsai.   Once the lower branch fills out the tree will be complete.

A tree that seems to be approaching maturity as a bonsai. Once the lower branch fills out the tree will be complete.

All four of the trees above were in the Bonsai Mirai garden of Ryan Neil.

Scott Elser's D. Fir currently being used for a 2-year long demonstration with the Bonsai Society of Portland.

Scott Elser’s D. Fir currently being used for a 2-year long demonstration with the Bonsai Society of Portland.

Perhaps the Portland community can keep surprising me with native species that are suitable for bonsai for some time to come.

2 Comments

  1. Jeremiah Lee
    May 22, 2015

    Love the post, it’s great to see a variety of different native material being used. These trees are very beautiful!

  2. TdC
    May 22, 2015

    I agree with Jeremiah, the trees are beautiful. I hope to see some of them here in California soon.