This is the story of a small subalpine fir, Abies lasiocarpa, that I collected in the fall of 2008. My Dad wanted to go mushroom hunting, so I used that as an excuse to steal away for a n October day and do a little collecting of my own. This little tree stands only twelve inches tall and is just over two inches in diameter at the base of the trunk. It was growing in a crack/pocket in solid rock with a small root pad I was able to get mostly intact. The top of the tree must have been broken off which is why the tree never grew taller and it must have been in a fire as the shari on the base of the trunk had blackened charcoal in the recesses of the exposed wood. What a story this one might tell if it could speak!

I potted it in one hundred percent pumice and used an eight inch plastic pot. I put it in the greenhouse to get it through the winter and the buds opened in the spring, so I knew I had a keeper. I let it grow freely and fertilized regularly until spring of 2010, which is the first time I took a picture of it:

This was a quick shot before I potted it up in its first ceramic training pot; I didn’t feel it was ready for anything in particular, I just wanted to get it out of that plastic pit 😉 The next shot is just after potting and I think I used straight pumice for this stage of development as well:

I see little nuggets of akadama there, so it was in a 50% pumice 50% akadama mix after all. Not much to look at in this stage,  finally able to get a good look at the base of the trunk. I did remove a small branch that was growing downward and wired a couple of branches only to find spring is definitely not the time to wire your subalpine fir! So I stopped there and stuck to watering and fertilizing for the rest of the growing season. It responded very well to its new pot and was strong enough to style the following fall. Next up is what it looked like after that first wiring:

This tree, like most yamadori, had few branches to work with and the tree is built with only two branches; the first branch on the bottom left is actually a back branch and you can see it was necessary to wrap it with raffia and use heavy copper wire and a guy wire to get it into position. The second branch that includes the rest of the tree and the apex emerges near the top on the right side of the trunk. This species of fir has pockets of sap just below the outer bark that one must be careful with but the branches are generally flexible–very much like a spruce in their flexibility. A note here about the bark on subalpine fir–it takes a very long time for their bark to get the gray flaky plates you see on a spruce or a pine. A tree can be quite old and still have bark that is smooth and light gray. I know this little one is quite old because the bark is acquiring a rough texture and a gray color. If you look up towards the apex, you can see there is still some of the smoother bark up there. Do you see the little mushroom to the right of the trunk?

This styling was done in November of 2010 and by spring of 2011, I was already starting to notice some of the wires biting into the bark. I spent the summer and fall of last year slowly removing those wires that had to come off and the branches quickly grew upward and out of their positions as you can see in the last photo to date on this tree. This spring I decided it was time to get the tree into a little better pot that suited the fat little trunk. I tried tilting the trunk to the left when I was re-potting it but it didn’t do what I expected it would for this tree. So the tree is planted as you see, still in a slant style in a slightly better pot. The next step will be to wire it again this fall; I’ll update this thread when that happens.

And a closer look at the trunk:

I’ll leave you with a little accent I’ve had since 2000, harebells, Campanula rotundifolia with a little mushroom growing in with it. It looks like a chanterelle to me–what a bonus if it is! This is potted in an old tuna can that is slowly rusting away…Ah, wabi sabi 😉