Dwarf Alberta Spruce: From Dwarf to Bonsai

November 2010

Here is your very basic – and very conical – Dwarf Alberta Spruce that I picked up at the local nursery. I hadn’t yet worked with this species, and I had an idea of what kind of Bonsai it could be made into.

As you can see below, there’s no going back now.

With a large portion of the foliage cut away, and many of the needles painstakingly removed from the base of the branches, the trunk line is beginning to take shape. I mean really, can you think of a better a way to spend a cool and quiet Virgina November night?

And here’s where it ends, for this season anyway.

Tall, dignified and showing its “age,” this stately exhibit will need a long rest before I continue training it. It’ll spend the winter in a quiet, and wind-free corner on the porch. In the spring, when new buds emerge and the pads of foliage start to fill out, I’ll consider repotting in a real bonsai tray.

April 2011 – Next stage: The big bend

Surprisingly, this young guy survived the major work done in the fall.

My worries were that after the I did the major pruning and made the long intentional scar that runs the length of the trunk, I thought that it might not pull through. It was a major shock to the tree, no doubt, and probably not the best thing to do to such a young tree right before going into winter.

Nonetheless – it made it, and is thriving this spring with much new growth. I’ve been pinching back many newly emerged budding shoots, to help maintain thickness in the foliage pads and keep the desired shape. Nature has a funny way of working things out too.

As you’ll notice since last year, the tree dropped two main branches that I had left on after the initial hard prune. This was more a blessing than a curse, I think, as the tree looks better now.

With the branches well defined, I felt comfortable introducing the big bend that I had envisioned last year. The thing with these Alberta Spruce is that they are incredibly springy little conifers. I could leave that bending apparatus on for a year I bet, and it would still spring right back to being straight within a week or two. But we’ll see. After second thinking, it’s still too early to think about re-potting. So I can leave it just as is for a few years any way.

Next fall, or maybe even late winter, I intend to prune back the top a bit, just enough to bring the tree’s outline more into being triangular, which is ideal for conifers. (their natural grown habit is typically conical.)

I added some surface moss and a rock for a small effect. My thinking here is that a round, smooth rock creates a strong visual tension against the linear, rough lines of the tree, thus complimenting each other.

The next step this summer, which I started already, is to finely work the detail of the scar along the trunk. I need to give it more attention with the Dremel, and then lime sulfur will be applied to it, which will bleach and define it, making it look realistic.