Sequoias near Durango, Colorado
This web page is a log of the author’s “horticultural
experiment” to get a grove of Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron
giganteum) trees to grow adjacent to the author’s home some 6
linear miles west of Durango, Colorado. Hopefully, this log will
also help others (e.g. provide a “how to” guide) who might be
interested in growing Giant Sequoias.
No, the author’s Giant Sequoia trees aren’t this big
. . . yet. The above photograph shows a real cabin (now
a museum) in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park. Credit
should be given to Charles Webber © California Academy of
Sciences. The original photograph and photographs of
other Giant Sequoias can be seen at:
At one time, Sequoias were native to Colorado as per
the picture below which shows a fossilized stump of a Sequoia in
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. (About 185 miles
northeast of the author’s home.) The picture is courtesy of the
NPS - the original photo can be seen at:
“The massive petrified Sequoia stumps at Florissant are some of
the largest diameter petrified trees in the world.”
They were probably still living in Colorado up
to 7 million years ago, but changes in weather patterns brought
about by the “ice ages” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleistocene
finished them off in the local area. As of now, their only native
habitat is restricted to several dozen small groves on the western
slope of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sequoia_groves
The side effects of climate change and pollution
(e.g. ozone) are beginning to threaten their existence in these
last groves in the Sierras. (Please see “The IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species - Sequoiadendron giganteum” at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/34023
) There are multiple locations around the world where they have
been introduced, and seem be living OK. If the author’s efforts
are successful, perhaps we can add “Successfully reintroduced to
Colorado” to this list.
The sections below give more information about:
1) Local climate/Growing conditions for the “Giant Sequoia
2) Links to Internet sources for information about growing Giant
3) The “Horticultural experiment” - a log of the author’s efforts
to grow Giant Sequoias from seeds as well as seedlings purchased
from commercial nurseries
4) The sad ending to the experiment. I have removed the Giant
Sequoia trees as per the request of the local district board. As
detailed at the end of this page, it is my opinion that the Giant
Sequoias would have added to local property values as well as
providing biodiversity protection for potential beetle attacks
against our singularly predominant local tree - Ponderosa Pines.
Elevation: 7,400 feet above sea level
Average winter nighttime temperature is about 5 to 10
degrees F with extreme lows down to 10 below F. (USDA Zone 6)
Daytime summer temperatures average in the low 80’s with extreme
highs near or slightly above 90 degrees F. Precipitation averages
23 to 24 inches per year (Local average measurement by the
author - Giant Sequoias normally prefer double this amount.) May
and June are dry with average rainfall of about one inch each
while July, Aug., and Sept. average about 2.5 inches each.*
The ground is usually snow-covered from early-mid
December through mid-late March. Humidity is low throughout the
year with summertime dewpoints rarely above 55 degrees F. Winds
are mostly light which is important during the critical winter
The last frost in spring is usually late May while the first frost
in the fall is about late September.
*Climate change (global warming) appears to be changing previous
precipitation patterns. Winter snowfall may tend to become lighter
while the summer “monsoon” is a local phenomenon that may be
expanding its time extent. (e.g. Historical records show that July
used to be drier than what has been observed recently.)
distribution of average precipitation
Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul
Aug Sep Oct
Nov Dec Tot
7.48 7.70 6.65 4.77 1.79
0.43 0.11 0.17 0.44 1.55
4.10 7.91 43.11
SNP-GF61 6.43 6.19 5.88
5.18 1.71 0.40 0.08 0.42
0.66 1.40 6.43 7.23 42.01
2.08 1.81 1.80 1.09 0.86
2.37 2.61 2.41 2.06 1.85
Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul
Aug Sep Oct
Nov Dec Tot
37.7 36.2 40.0 25.6
4.6 0.3 0.0
0.0 0.1 1.8 12.8
N/A N/A N/A
N/A N/A N/A
N/A N/A N/A
N/A N/A N/A
22.6 18.4 10.4 0.7
0.0 0.0 0.0
0.0 0.9 12.2 19.0 108.9
N/A = Not Available
SNP_GF31 = Sequoia National Park - Giant Forest - Avg. from 1931
SNP-GF61 = Sequoia National Park - Giant Forest - Avg. from 1961
(Most Sequoia groves have an underground water supply for the dry
Durango = The author’s measurements 6 miles west of Durango. (July
1998 - present) This location will be wetter and cooler than other
local measurements from valley locations - including observations
taken downtown and at the Durango airport. Durango averages will
change with time.
Primarily Ponderosa Pine ( http://coopext.colostate.edu/4DMG/Trees/pndrosa.htm
Gamble Oak ( http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/4DMG/Trees/gamble.htm
some Juniper ( http://www.colostate.edu/Depts/CoopExt/4DMG/Trees/juniper2.htm
and open meadows. Shady moist areas have a few native Aspen Trees.
Local soil is derived from layers of shale and
sandstone. The trees will be growing in decomposed shale which
tends to form a very hard, dry clay. Soil pH is probably slightly
alkaline (but not measured). (For example, see: http://www.sanjuanmountainnurseries.com/faqs.php?id=2
) Giant Sequoias prefer soil that is neutral to slightly
acidic. The local terrain slopes toward the north and east, and is
information for growing Giant Sequoias
The following websites have additional information for anyone
interested in growing Giant Sequoias.
Grow them yourself
Nurseries (if you want to order seeds, seedlings
via the Internet)
Welker’s Grove Nursery (best source for seedlings) http://www.giant-sequoia.com/homepage/
Best seed price (Packet = 100 to 500 seeds)
(Note: If you are thinking of buying seedlings, “bare root”
shipping to reduce shipping costs will greatly reduce the
probability that the seedlings will survive.)
General information on Giant Sequoias
(Cultivation, Horticulture, etc.)
And remember, for more information: “Google is your friend”
Oct. 4, 2007
While on a vacation trip that included a visit to
Sequoia National Park, I caught a case of “Giant Sequoia Fever”.
While browsing through a gift shop at one of the visitor centers
in Sequoia National Park, I noticed that they were selling seed
packets with the following headline:
“From this tiny seed
The world’s largest tree can grow
Grow your own Giant Sequoia”
Package by Sequoia Natural History Association
The seed packets were “talking to me”. The local
climate west of Durango, Colorado is similar to that in Sequoia
National Park except total precipitation averages about 23-24
inches per year (11-year average as measured by the author)
instead of the very heavy winter precipitation in the Sierras. Our
local native vegetation is predominantly Ponderosa Pine Trees
which I also noticed were adjacent to some of the Giant Sequoia
groves in the park. I was wondering: “Would it be possible to grow
Giant Sequoias at home?”
I bought a seed packet with “Approximately 50 sequoia
seeds”, growing instructions, etc. The “horticultural experiment”
Mid to late Oct. 2007
After returning home from my vacation trip, I searched the
Internet for information, growing instructions, etc. for Giant
Sequoias. This included nurseries for supplies/pots.
Nov. 5, 2007
Ordered 100 more Sequoia seeds from eBay store “Bergs
Enterprizes”. The seeds arrived Nov. 14, 2007
Ordered sixty one-gal pots from http://www.greenhousemegastore.com
My game plan for the seeds is to give them a controlled “man made
winter” and germinate them in the spring. (Buzzword is
Nov. 11, 2007
Ordered five 8-12 inch seedlings from eBay store “PJC98's unique
trees and shrubs”. http://stores.ebay.com/PJC98s-unique-trees-and-shrubs
This was an attempt to have a few Giant Sequoia trees that had a
2-year head start on my seeds.
Nov. 17, 2007
The five seedlings arrived from PJC98 - plants looked healthy but
were shipped “bare root”. (Soil had been washed away from the
roots to reduce shipping costs.) I have my fingers crossed about
the bare roots. Planted them outdoors that afternoon. Used
“Hyponex, Eco, and Miracle-Gro” potting mixes for “nest” material.
2 gallons of water (for each) were poured into seedling nests.
Nov. 23, 2007
First snow - about 5 inches.
Dec. 1, 2007
Heavy rain, some snow.
Dec. 7, 2007
More rain and wet snow. Seedlings were bent over from wet snow.
The snow was removed from each seedling and snow was piled up
around seedlings to help them remain upright from subsequent
snows. Most of the seedlings had significant discoloration
Dec. 9, 2007
Six inches of snow. Seedlings mostly buried.
Dec. 11, 2007
Another snow. If the seedlings weren’t buried before, they are
Dec. 15, 2007
Temperature is 2 below. Seedlings covered by snow.
Dec. 28, 2007
Temperature this morning is 8 below. Seedlings covered by snow.
Feb. 4, 2008
Snow depth reaches a maximum of 46 inches. Snow measurements
indicate ground is not frozen underneath the snow.
Feb 17, 2008
I started the “stratification” process for the seeds from Bergs
Enterprizes and “Grow your own”. Soaked all seeds for 9 hours
(overnight) in cool water. Used Hydration Station water (purified
water) for all operations until seeds were in pots. “Grow your
own” advertised “Approximately 50 sequoia seeds” - actual count
was 83. Bergs Enterprizes advertised 100 seeds. Actual count was
Feb 18, 2008
Slightly dampened “sandwiches” of paper towels with seeds in
middle. Both seed batches were placed in 3.5 x 6 x 12 inch plastic
boxes. The top of each batch was lightly sprayed with Schultz’s
Fungicide, and each batch was placed in the refrigerator. Boxes
had ventilation holes, and tops were left slightly ajar - then
checked seeds daily for germination/moisture.
Additional information on starting Giant Sequoias from seeds can
be found at:
March 27, 2008
Snow cover finally gone from one of the bare root Giant Sequoia
seedlings. Others still buried. Tree is folded over from snow
burial and upper branches may be dead. Lower branches are
partially green. All branches are bent from snow burial.
April 1, 2008
All 5 of the bare root seedlings have emerged from the snow. It is
questionable at best if any of them will survive.
April 6, 2008
All 5 bare root seedlings look like they are not alive. Subsequent
checks showed that none had survived, and thus all efforts
defaulted to the seeds. (The bare root seedlings probably never
had a chance to survive the winter. They may have done better if I
planted/started them in warm weather when the roots could adapt.)
Small fungus spots on paper towels in “Grow Your Own” seed box.
Replaced paper towels and sprayed both boxes with more fungicide.
April 18, 2008
Removed plastic boxes from refrigerator. Kept slightly damp in
dark area at room temperature. As seeds germinated, carefully
removed them (didn’t touch root) from boxes/paper towels and
planted them about 1/4 - 3/8 inch deep in pots. (One-gal. nursery
containers.) Pots were filled with “Miracle-Gro Moisture
Control Potting Mix” with a “nest” of Perlite. Pots were initially
placed in bright areas indoors but with minimal direct sunlight.
Pots were watered whenever the surface (Perlite nest) began
April 30, 2008
So far 36 “Grow your own” seeds have germinated and 30 Bergs
Enterprizes seeds have germinated. Bergs seeds are running a few
days behind the “Grow your own” seeds. All that have germinated
have been planted in pots. Most were planted in small “nests” of
Perlite with the rest of the pot filled with potting soil. A few
were planted in just the potting soil.
May 2, 2008
4 more Bergs seeds moved to pots. Total of 70 pots so far. Plan on
moving them outdoors to the tent on Sunday, May 4.
The picture to the right shows the
white, yellow, and blue temporary “greenhouse”. The Welker trees
(see below) were subsequently planted in the open meadow in the
background. A significant number of the seedling crop will also be
eventually planted in the same meadow.
May 4, 2008
Last 4 of Berg’s seeds planted. Rest of seeds discarded. Total
germination was 36 out of 83 for “Grow your own” and 38 out of 100
for Berg’s. Most seedlings moved to camping tent today. Have “heat
tape” wound through pots in tent ready to plug in for cold nights.
As seedlings break the surface, I moved them outdoors
into an ordinary 8’ x 9’ (yellow, blue, and white) camping tent.
Tent provided shading from direct sun, protects them from late
frosts, and has easy access and ventilation. Tent is in full
sunlight, has open mesh top (but with cover) with door to north -
open during daylight hours. May temperatures are frequently near
freezing at night.
May 17, 2008
As of this date there were 68 seedlings growing in the tent.
May 23/24, 2008
The tent partially collapsed from 3.6 inches of wet snow. It would
have totally collapsed if I hadn’t placed two card tables inside
the tent earlier in anticipation of snow. At first glance all 68
seedlings look OK.
May 25, 2008
Seedlings/pots moved from tent to underneath a pine tree. (Gamble
Oak is next to seedlings.) Tent cleaned and stored for future use.
May 26, 2008
Left for vacation trip. A neighbor (Carrie Slifka) watered
seedlings while I was away.
June 23, 2008
Returned from vacation trip. Seedlings are in pretty good shape -
moved them out into brighter light but still lightly shaded.
June 25, 2008
Ordered two premium Giant Sequoias from Welker’s Grove Nursery. http://www.giant-sequoia.com/homepage/
Trees are 3 years old, which means I’ll have something of
reasonable size 3 years sooner than what I’ll get from the seeds.
(Joe Welker/Welker’s Grove Nursery also sells via eBay at http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZkylerkris
June 30, 2008
Giant Sequoias are shipped from Welker’s Grove Nursery via
July 3, 2008
Giant Sequoias arrive. Shipping box was beaten-up “a bit”. Each
Giant Sequoia had a support stake, but one support stake was
completely broken and the other was badly splintered but still in
one piece. Giant Sequoias are OK. Moved Giant Sequoias outside to
light shade area next to seedlings. (They were in a dark box for
at least 3 days, and the idea was to let them gradually get used
to light again.) Replaced broken support stakes with “tomato
July 4, 2008
Started preparation of planting sites for Welker's two Giant
Sequoias. Each will be planted in a nest/basin. The soil
immediately outside the root-ball area will be potting soil. Then
a ~1.5 foot radius will consist of the following layers. (from the
undisturbed ground on up) Potting soil, original dirt from
nest/basin excavation, thin plastic layer using plastic trash bags
(liberally punctured to let rain through), a thin layer of gravel,
and finally a Red Cedar bark mulch on top. The idea is to favor
root growth several inches below the surface, and let rain water
in but retard surface evaporation.
July 5, 2008
Took photos of the Giant Sequoias. Giant Sequoias from Welker’s
Nursery are 3-years old (2005 seedlings) and about 30 inches high.
Moved the two Giant Sequoias to sunnier area. (Welker’s Grove
Nursery is highly recommended for the quality of the trees, speedy
shipping, reasonable price, etc.)
Fastest growing seedlings are about 2 inches high with some
already developing branches. Total surviving seedling count is 65.
I expect that some of the “runts” won’t make it. The “white stuff”
on the soil surface is particles of Perlite which by now have been
well scattered by periodic watering.
The above photo shows the entire inventory of Giant Sequoia trees
as of July 5, 2008. The seedlings are gradually being moved into
July 7, 2008
Late this afternoon I planted the two Giant Sequoias that came
from Welker’s Grove Nursery. http://www.giant-sequoia.com/homepage/
diagram below is a schematic diagram of how they were planted.
Thoroughly soaked each tree immediately after all layers were
branches U Tree branches
ground Mulch Potting
Mulch Undisturbed ground
Loose dirt Undisturbed
- - - - - - - Potting soil - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - Potting soil - - - - - - - - -
<- - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - Undisturbed ground - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
<- - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - Undisturbed ground - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The rim was constructed so that buckets of water could be poured
into the nest/basin, and it would all have to soak down into the
soil around the tree. Diameter of rim was about 5 feet.
Mulch = Red Cedar mulch
Gravel = A thin layer of loose stones/gravel
Film = A plastic film from an ordinary trash bag with
many slits cut into it. The idea is to let rain water through but
to block evaporation from the ground underneath.
Loose dirt = Dirt that was excavated to make the
nest/basin and then replaced. The plan is to encourage the tree to
develop its root system just under this layer.
Potting soil = This is the zone where the tree should
develop its root system - especially the layer several inches down
under the loose dirt layer.
July 8, 2008
Took photos of the Giant Sequoias in their new home - to record
“The early days”. The Giant Sequoia to the east of the house is
about 29 ½ inches tall while the Giant Sequoia to the south of the
house is about 30 ½ inches tall. Each day (or every other day at
worst) each Giant Sequoia got a bucket (2 gallons) of water.
(Thirsty little monsters.) Drainage is not a problem as each is on
July 15, 2008
Warm weather fertilization plan. Every 2nd week (1st and 15th of
each month), each Giant Sequoia will be fertilized using the
following mixture. Add one tablespoon of regular Miracle-Gro
(24-8-16) and one tablespoon of Miracle-Gro for acid loving
plants* (30-10-10) to a two gallon bucket of water. Each Giant
Sequoia gets a full bucket. (Alternately, two tablespoons per
bucket of Miracle-Gro Evergreen Tree & Shrub Food (28-10-10)
should work just as well.) They got their first dose today. First
fertilizer application (each year) will be June 1. Last fertilizer
application (each year) will be Aug. 1. (Cut-off date will let
trees start getting ready for winter dormancy.) One’s imagination
sometimes gets carried away as Scotts Miracle-Gro advertises:
“Grow plants twice as big!” (As trees grow larger in the future
they will get multiple buckets, but after 5 years or so they will
have to make it on their own.)
*Actual ingredient used was Miracid which is the old name for
Miracle-Gro for acid loving plants. The ingredients (including
acidic content) are identical and Miracle-Gro recommended Miracid
for “all evergreens”.
Both Giant Sequoias have grown about an inch, and both have many
new shoots beginning to grow - including from the main trunk just
above ground level. Overall they look “happy”.
Aug. 10, 2008
Won an eBay auction for another 3-year old Giant Sequoia from
Welker’s Grove Nursery. The two earlier trees from Welker continue
to look healthy. One of them had a double top. (Right tree in the
first Welker photo.) One of these tops was clipped off and
currently is in a pot in an attempt to root it. The seedlings (see
photo below) are separating into groups of fast growers (3 to 4
inches high), slow growers, others that probably won’t make it,
and casualties. (Casualties include several that deer sampled
before they concluded they weren’t too enthused about them. There
have been several recent mountain lion sightings within a few
miles - including in downtown Durango. I may start rooting
for the cats as they prey on deer.)
The above photo shows the fastest
growing seedlings as of Aug. 16, 2008.
Aug. 16, 2008
The new 36-inch tall Welker tree was shipped on Aug. 11, 2008 and
arrived late on Aug. 14. As per usual with Welker’s Grove Nursery,
it’s a great looking tree and arrived in good shape. (e. g.
Rootball still was still damp.) It was thoroughly watered and
given mostly shade on Aug. 15 (to recover gradually from a dark
box), and about 5 hours of direct sunlight on Aug. 16. Late on the
16th it was planted in an area that gets full sunlight. Planting
methodology was similar to the earlier trees except I didn’t
bother with the gravel layer.
The first two Welker trees appear happy in their new home. They
have grown a few inches vertically, have active growth on all
branches, and even have large numbers of new shoots sprouting from
the trunk as low as two inches above the soil level. So far
there’s minimal if any “brownout” on the older branches/trunk, but
brownout is expected to begin in the not too distant future as
nighttime temperatures are already dipping into the 40s.
The trees were subjected to their first hailstorm today with brief
hail to 5/8 inch diameter. A couple of small twigs were broken off
the first two Welker trees, and one of the seedlings was split.
Overall, they faired pretty well. The new Welker tree hadn’t been
planted yet, and the author dashed outside to move it under cover
before the larger hailstones fell. They will have to get use to
occasion hail storms as the local area tends to be “hail city”.
Oct. 13, 2008
55 of the original seedlings are still growing in pots although
growth has stopped for the year. They are currently back in the
tent undergoing a gradual winterization. (On cold nights the tent
is covered with a tarp and the heat tape is plugged in.) Their
temperature environment will be gradually reduced to the 35 to 45
degree range, and about Nov.1 they will be moved into the garage
for the winter. They will be placed in a sheltered area, and the
heat tape (see tent, above) will be used to keep them slightly
above freezing. (Temperature will be monitored.) A “grow light”
will be used for minimal lighting (normal daylight hours - via a
timer), and they will be watered occasionally just so they don’t
The three 3-year old trees from Welker will of course have to
spend the winter outside. “Tomato/plant stakes” have been inserted
around the periphery of each tree, and eventually plastic trash
bags will be placed over the stakes (and tree) to help protect the
trees from cold winds and heavy winter snow. The north side of
each bag will be left open. The purpose will be to prevent the
trees from being bent by winter snow and shade them from winter
sunshine. (Note: A completely closed bag could get too warm during
Also, the ground within a 2 foot radius of the trees has be
protected from early winter cold by covering it with cut branches
from a large Juniper bush. (The temperature on Oct. 13 got down to
15 degrees.) It’s a long winter here, and the ground on shaded
north-facing slopes usually freezes about the first week in
November. (The Juniper bush is actually an “ugly”, nondescript
looking bush, and the @#$%^&* thing needed major trimming
The 3 Welker trees still look healthy although they are not as
bright a green as they were during warmer weather. So far there
hasn’t been any winter discoloration (brown, red, purple colors)
although this may show up later.
Finally, a year ago, my wife bought a seed package with a mixture
of Giant Sequoia and Coast Redwoods seeds. She hasn’t done
anything with it and has said that I can use it. I don’t have much
hope for the Coast Redwood seeds (Coast Redwoods couldn’t survive
in the local climate), but will run another
stratification/germination sequence for these seeds this winter to
see what happens.
Nov. 10, 2008
First significant snow - about 5 inches. The 55 Giant Sequoia
seedlings are safe and sound for the winter in a sheltered area
under a stairway adjacent to the garage. They are in their own
private indoor greenhouse completely enclosed by a tarp. (Perhaps
“bluehouse” might be a better name.) In any case their temperature
will be held in the 35 to 45 degree range for the winter. They get
several hours of artificial light per day (controlled by a timer),
and the heat tape is wound around/through them if/when it starts
to get too cold. They will need water about every 2 weeks through
the winter, but will be checked weekly.
The three (outdoor) Welker trees have been mulched for the winter.
They have a slight browning on their south and southwest sides due
to a combination of sunshine, our normal low humidity, and several
nights of temperatures that have already hit the single digits.
Overall they appear to be in pretty good shape. The snow arrived
sooner than expected so I haven’t put up their “trash bag roofs”
yet (see above), but I’ll have these in place before full winter
The Sad Ending
The Giant Sequoia tree
shown to the right is growing in a park in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
It is an example of what might have been. The original photo along
with a reader’s comment of “What a whopper!! Beautiful tree” can
be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/gnarlodious/2344307375/
The local district board (Durango West II Metro
District) has informed me that I must remove the Giant Sequoia
trees as they are “non-native”. Since they were planted in our
local “Green Belt” and not on my property, I of course have
A quote from a representative from the Arbor Day Foundation. (The
ADF is the organization that awards “Tree City USA”
“Sequoias are native to the USA and to say that they're not native
to this tiny corner of Colorado is uninformed. There are
non-native trees which don't belong in Colorado forests, that's
for sure. But these are from China or invasive or otherwise
dangerous to the existing eco-system.”
It is my opinion that a small local grove of Giant
Sequoia trees would have added to local property values within our
development. Sequoias are unique. They designate national parks
(also state parks) for them. It seems reasonable that a local
grove of Giant Sequoias would have enhanced the desirability of
living in our development. Thus the banning of the Giant Sequoia
trees by the Durango West II district board may have depreciated
real estate prices from what might have been.
It is also my opinion that the biodiversity of having
Giant Sequoia trees would have added an insurance policy that
would increase the probability that we would still have green
trees in case our local Ponderosa Pine trees were wiped out in a
beetle attack. There is a case study of exactly this happening.
A Los Angeles Times newspaper article (“A Lofty Plan
to Reforest” http://articles.latimes.com/2003/dec/28/local/me-trees28
) describes what happened after a “bark beetle” attack wiped out
the Ponderosa Pine trees in the San Bernardino Mountains.
After much controversy, the local residents decided to reforest
the area with something with properties that were “drought-, bark
beetle-, ozone- and fire-resistant, grow three feet a year, and
live thousands of years”. The local Masonic Lodge brought in
30,000 Giant Sequoia seedlings for the reforestation project.
Think of the green trees they would have had if they had started
the Giant Sequoias 20 years before they “were hit hard by wave
after wave of bark beetles”.
Added Jan. 26, 2009
The potential threat of a bark beetle attack that
could kill most of our existing Ponderosa Pine trees was outlined
along with related news stories in many newspapers.
“A new study led by the U.S.
Geological Survey and involving the University of Colorado at
Boulder and Oregon State University as well as other research
institutes indicates tree deaths in the West's old-growth
forests have more than doubled in recent decades, likely from
regional warming and related drought conditions.”
“The increase in tree mortality rates documented in the study is
further compelling evidence of ecosystem responses to recent
climate warming,” said Veblen. “The findings are consistent
with other well documented, climate-induced ecological changes,
including increased wildfire activity since the mid-1980s and bark beetle outbreaks that are occurring at
unprecedented levels in western North America forests, including
The three Welker trees were dug up and placed in
large pots. One of them was given to a friend (a “master
gardener”) who will plant and take care of it, so it’s in good
hands. The two other Welker trees and the crop of seedlings were
moved to a small area under a stairway off the garage. A makeshift
“greenhouse/tent” was set up using assorted trash cans, pieces of
lumber, lawn tools/furniture, etc. with an ordinary tarp covering
the sides and top. All the trees were moved inside along with a
couple of table lamps that were hooked up to a timer to provide
several hours of light per day. Finally, the 60-foot-long gutter
heat-tape was wound among the pots to provide heat if/when as
needed. A remote thermometer was used to keep track of the
Thus the entire crop spent the winter at about 40 to
45 degrees. The seedlings had been green all along as they had
been sheltered from freezing weather. The two remaining large
trees had turned moderately brown from cold weather before they
were dug up. Over the course of the winter they gradually turned
back green again.
About late April the tent was set up again and the two
remaining Welker trees and the crop of seedlings were moved
outdoors. Once again, the heat tape was wound around the inside of
the tent for use on cold nights. (The tarp was also used as an
extra cover over the tent on cold nights.) The two large trees and
most of the seedling crop survived the winter in good shape.
Of the two remaining large trees one was subsequently
given away to another friend. She is an “avid learner” and I
helped her plant the tree. It is also in good hands.
The Last Welker
The last of the three Welker trees was replanted the
first week in June. This time it is on private land and hopefully
it will have a chance to live long and prosper.
The Giant Sequoia Tree shown below is the same tree
that was pictured earlier just above the July 8, 2008 label. Over
the last year, the tree has endured:
1) Packaged in a carton and shipped nearly 1,000 miles from
2) Beaten up en route so that the support stake was broken.
3) Taken out of its home (the original pot) and planted.
4) Dug up and placed back in a large pot for the winter.
5) Replanted again. (Similar planting technique to the earlier
The good news - compare what it looks like now
(below) vs. what it looked like a year ago. (The earlier July 8,
The above photo shows the last of the Welker trees as
of July 15, 2009. So far “the world’s most pampered Giant Sequoia”
has 7 inches (and counting) of new growth this year. The branches
have filled in considerably since a year ago. The trunk is an inch
and a quarter in diameter and beginning to look like a “Louisville
Slugger” - including new branches that keep popping out all the
way down to ground level.
In addition to being watered frequently, it gets
fertilized every two weeks according to the fertilization schedule
given earlier. I have great hopes that this will become a “Legacy
Tree”, and will update this page from time to time in the future.
There is still one big test to go. It will have to
spend this next winter outdoors. I will be putting something
around its base to help protect its roots from freezing, but it’s
a forgone conclusion that the top portion of the tree will turn
brown from the cold. The big test will come about next April/May.
The picture above shows the seedling crop as of July
2009. (The makeshift barrier is to discourage deer.) A few more
seedlings from the original crop have died off over the last
several months, some are alive but are obvious runts, and others
are growing rapidly. I haven’t any plans yet as to what I will do
with them, but they will have to spend the next winter inside
similar to the way they spent last winter.
On the night of Oct. 22, 2009 a male (buck) deer used
what had been a very vigorously growing tree as a “scratching
post”. While deer rarely eat the foliage of a Giant Sequoia tree
due the prickly nature of the leaves, it appears that in the fall
(rutting season) male deer will rub their antlers against the
trunk of small tree to remove velvet from their antlers.
The last of the Welker trees, which over the summer
had grown well over a foot and had added nearly an inch to its
trunk diameter, has suffered severe damage from such an attack.
Over one half of the branches have been broken off. Worse yet, a
large amount of bark has been scraped off including about a four
inch portion where the bark has been removed all the way around
the tree. (Completely girdled)
While I have tried to patch the tree as best as
possible using tree wound paste and banding material, there
is little chance the top half of the tree can survive. There is a
reasonable chance that surviving branches near the base can take
over and eventually start a new main trunk. However, even if the
tree can recover, it may look more like a Giant Sequoia “bush”
until a new trunk can take over.
If you live in an area that is populated by deer, an
ounce of prevention may very well save your tree from similar
damage. Put some kind of fence around the tree that is strong
enough to prevent male deer from reaching the tree.
I still have a large number of potted seedlings with
many of them now over a foot high. I’ll try planting a couple of
these next year followed by planting the rest in 2011. Thus I’ll
be continuing the experiment to see if Giant Sequoias can grow in
our local climate.
Two days later, a buck deer was killed in a car-deer
collision on U. S. highway 160 (65 MPH speed limit) just a few
hundred yards from the author’s home - which appears to close out
the deer’s portion of the story.
A couple of days after the “Deer Disaster” I bought a
small roll of 48-inch high welded wire fence and support stakes at
a local farmers coop supply. These were used to construct a 5-foot
diameter fence around the tree with one end of the wire only
loosely fastened to complete the circumference. (This allows easy
access for weeding, etc.).
In mid November, a temporary insulating layer of
tree-branch mulch and pieces of tarp were spread around the base
of the tree to protect the root system from early cold weather.
(These will be removed in the spring.) The first big snow fell on
Dec. 8, 2009, and there has been over one foot of snow on the
ground for the rest of the winter. By late January even the
battered top of the tree was buried, and it’s still buried as of
late Feb. (Snow depth peaked at over 4 feet - but this is normal
for Giant Sequoias’ native growing area in the Sierras.) It’s most
unlikely that the top of the tree will survive, but the lowest 15
inches of the tree and the root system were not damaged. When
spring finally gets here, it’s highly probable that it will be
able to start over again.
Meanwhile, the seedlings have been “enjoying” another
winter in the garage in their own private storage area. A tarp has
been used for a makeshift tent. Ordinary gutter heat tape is wound
through the array of pots and turned on whenever the temperature
in the storage area threatens to go below 40 deg. Ordinary table
lamps have been hooked up with a timer to give them a few hours of
light per day. Finally, they are watered every few weeks just so
they don’t dry out. As of late Feb., I still have more healthy
looking seedlings than I have room to plant them. I’ll give most
of them away when they are ready to plant.
The photo above was taken April 8, 2010 and shows
what is left of the tree after the deer attack and a long winter
buried by snow. As of May 21, there appears to be little hope that
the top 2/3 of the tree will survive. I’ll wait another couple of
weeks just in case before trimming off the dead portions.
The base of the tree spent the winter under layers of
mulch, small tarps, and a couple of boards to hold the tarps in
place. When these were removed there were new green shoots growing
from the lower trunk. It also looks like a couple of the lowest
branches that are visible in the photo are also going to make it.
Thus it looks like the tree will survive to try again, but for a
couple of years it’s going to look more like a Giant Sequoia bush
as opposed to a Giant Sequoia tree.
The seedling crop was in a sheltered area in the
basement over the winter and has been moved back outdoors to the
tent for a few more weeks of partial shelter. About two dozen of
the seedlings are 10 to 16 inches high and look like they are
ready to start growing vigorously as soon as the weather warms a
little more. (We still are having frosts as of late May.) Another
two dozen aren’t quite as high, but look like they will make it OK
too. Finally, there are several stragglers that may or may not
make it, but I’ll be giving them a chance as long as they have
June 8, 2010
The top 2/3 of the Welker tree never showed any signs
of life and unfortunately had to be trimmed off. The good news is
that the bottom 1/3 is not only surviving but growing vigorously
as if to make up the difference. There are many new shoots growing
from the trunk as well as from the surviving branches. It will
take a year or two before one of these shoots takes over as a new
trunk (with maybe some pruning help), but it looks like it may
regain a name of “Giant Sequoia Tree” as opposed to “Crippled
The seedling crop is also thriving. The more rapidly
growing seedlings already have an inch of new growth. They are
getting full sunshine, I’ll start their fertilizer routine in a
few days, and most importantly, they get lots of water. (If you
are growing Giant Sequoias in pots, make sure they don’t dry out
as potted plants can dry out very quickly.)
Sept. 4, 2010
The picture above shows the Giant Sequoia “Deer” Tree
after it’s had a chance to recover. The photo location and view
direction are similar to the April 2010 picture. Several branches
have grown over a foot with a couple of these trimmed back to help
the shape of the tree. More importantly, one of the new sprouts
that started directly from the top of the cut-off trunk has grown
over a foot since April. This new spire looks like it will take
over as the new trunk. It will take another year for the tree to
regain its former height, but at the rate that it is growing, it
won’t take more than half a dozen years or so before it’s 10 or
more feet high.
The fence is somewhat of an eyesore, but it will have
to stay put until the tree trunk is large enough so that deer will
ignore it. This will probably take about the same half dozen
Meanwhile the seedling
crop continues to grow, and four of them have been planted
outdoors. Planting technique was similar to the diagrams that I
gave earlier except I ignored the gravel bit. Ordinary mulch
spread directly on top of the plastic garbage bags seems to work
Two of these seedlings are shown in the photographs.
The boards on either side of the trees are just temporary anchors
for upside-down tomato cages. (Deer won’t eat the leaves because
they are prickly, but the tomato cages will prevent them from
poking their antlers thru. Late this fall I will be removing the
tomato cages and placing large pots upside-down over the
seedlings. Then they will get further protection – especially over
their root systems to insulate them from cold weather (and drying
sunshine) before they are buried by winter snows.
I will be experimenting with another G. S. seedling
as a “house plant” just to see what happens. Giant Sequoias
usually aren’t considered as “house plants”, but I’ve still got 35
other seedlings to play with so I can try a few experiments.
The rest of these 35 seedlings will be kept in the garage for the
winter. (Similar to last year.)
One item of note if you are growing Giant Sequoias in
pots. Earlier this summer, the seedling crop was kept on the
(sunny) deck. The dark pots got quite warm in the sunshine, and I
suspect that the combination of heat and the moist soil led to
fungus infections in the potted soil. I sprayed them with an
ordinary fungicide and moved them so they wouldn’t get as hot. The
seedling crop seems to be fine now, but it’s something to keep in
mind if you are growing Giant Sequoias from seed.
As a rough rule of thumb, if you are growing Giant
Sequoias in pots, try to keep the soil temperature below 80 deg.
F. If the soil temperature goes above 90 deg. F, the combination
of the warm temperature and moist soil is asking for fungus
problems. If you have Giant Sequoias in pots and the pots feel
warm, temporarily move them to a lightly shaded area.
As of Sept. 12th, we’ve already had our first light
frost. All of the planted Sequoias have continued to grow up to
now, but from here on they will be getting ready for winter. Also,
the third of the original Welker trees (the 36-inch tree) has been
returned to me and is a very sick puppy. It was still in the
original pot and looks like it had been sitting in water (in a
large saucer) to the point where most of the roots have died. All
of the branches have died, but after I had a chance to dry it out
and replace some of the rotted soil in the pot, it looks like its
trying to grow new sprouts from its trunk. I’ll keep it inside
over the winter to try and nurse it back to health. (The other
original Welker tree that I gave away was properly planted and
looks like it is doing OK as of a recent check.)
Nov. 28, 2010
The picture above shows the “Deer” tree as of mid
Nov. 2010. The new central shoot (which will become the new trunk)
grew another couple of inches after the Sept. photo before it
settled down for the winter.
The light green stem near the center of the upper
growth is the “new trunk”. Some of the outer branches were trimmed
back to make sure the central shoot will have a clear space to
grow. Several of these cuttings have been successfully rooted and
will be grown indoors this winter.
Several inches of trimmings from the Juniper bush
(lighter green) have been spread around the base to protect the
root system from early winter cold temperatures. The first light
snows have fallen as of Nov. 28, and the ground should be covered
for the winter by mid Dec.
The 4 planted seedlings are getting their share of
“pampered” treatment for the winter. The picture above shows one
of these. (Same tree as the first seedling photo in the Sept. 4,
2010 update.) Each of the 4 seedlings has several inches of
Juniper branches for mulch followed by a plastic garbage bag to
cover this temporary mulch. Finally, each has a plastic end table
(deck furniture) for a “snow umbrella”.
Last winter we had 14 feet of total snow with a
maximum depth of 52 inches. Young Giant Sequoias are very
flexible, but the snow umbrellas should prevent any possible
squashing of the trees.
There are still some 3 dozen Giant Sequoia seedlings
that are in pots. Several of these will be grown indoors over the
winter - similar to ordinary house plants. The rest have been
stored in the garage as per last year.
Finally, the Sept. 4th update mentioned one of the
original Welker trees that had been returned to me. At one time it
looked like some of the small sprouts might have a chance for the
tree to start over again, but it never made it. The roots were
hopelessly rotted with a disappointingly inevitable result.
July 4, 2011
The 3 photos below show the late June 2011 status of
the same 3 trees as shown in the Sept. 4, 2010 update. All 3 trees
turned a greenish brown color over the winter. In late spring and
early summer, last year’s growth returned to normal green colors
as shown - along with rapid new growth. The only casualty was the
new central shoot on the “Deer” tree. This “promising” central
shoot died over the winter with the result that as of early summer
there isn’t any apparent new “central shoot” to take over as a new
The photo above shows the “Deer” tree as of late
June. (The photo was taken from a different direction than earlier
photos of the “Deer” tree.) The only casualty of the winter was
the new “central shoot”. As a result, it is still a Giant Sequoia
“bush” until some other shoot tries to become a new main trunk.
The photo above shows the first of the 2 seedlings
shown in the Sept 4, 2010 update - but as of late June 2011. The
seedling turned a mostly brown color over the winter, but then
returned to a green color with warmer weather. It has already
added several more inches of new growth.
The photo above shows the 2nd of the 2 seedlings that
were shown in the Sept. 4, 2010 update. Similar to the other
trees, it turned a mostly brown color over the winter but returned
to green with warmer weather. Just like the other trees, it is
also growing rapidly again.
The other two planted trees have similar stories in
that they turned brown over the winter, but are back to green and
growing vigorously again.
Finally, I may be moving to a new home later this
year. I still have a couple of dozen other seedlings from the
original seeds plus cuttings from the “Deer” tree. They will be
used to start another “mini grove”. The Giant Sequoias that have
been featured on this page will have to make it on their own, but
that is what the experiment has been all about since day 1.
December 3, 2011 Update
I have moved into my new home (Google Earth generated
picture above) and left the planted Giant Sequoia trees at their
old location as they were too big to dig up and move. As the
photos below show, the planted trees are doing well. However, I
have some 30 other trees that are a mix of the original seedlings
plus rooted/potted cuttings from the planted trees. My new home
has over 5 acres of land that is mostly a Ponderosa Pine Tree
forest. Guess what is about to become Colorado’s 2nd Giant Sequoia
The pictures below show the
original Welker tree (deer damaged tree) plus all 4 of the planted
seedlings as of Sept. 30, 2011.
The picture above shows the “deer damaged”
Welker Giant Sequoia tree. The top of the fence is exactly 4
feet above ground level. You can compare the tree's current
status with the “Charlie Brown” status of the same tree as shown
earlier in the “Spring 2010” section.
The picture above shows the status of one of the
Giant Sequoia seedlings. The seedling is the same tree that can
be seen in the last photo shown in the July 4, 2011 update. (The
“Deer” tree can be seen in the background.) The circular rungs
in the protecting tomato cage are 10 inches apart - which will
give a pretty good idea as to how much the tree has grown in the
last few months.
The picture above shows an update of the 2nd of the
previously shown seedlings. It is the same tree that can be seen
in the middle picture of the July 4, 2011 update. The “deer”
tree and the other seedling (shown earlier) can be seen in the
I’ve previously mentioned that I had planted two
other seedlings, but up to now, I haven’t shown any pictures of
The picture above shows the first of these other
seedlings. (The “deer’ tree and one of the seedlings
described above can be seen in the background near the upper
Finally, this 4th picture shows the last of the
planted seedlings. Similar to the other trees, it is doing well.
As of early Dec. 2011, all of the above trees have
been given a layer of mulch to protect their root systems from
winter freezing. In their native habitat in California, Giant
Sequoias are rarely subject to subzero weather, but here in the
mountains of Colorado, subzero weather can occur before a
protective snow layer has had a chance to cover the ground. The
root system in older trees will have a chance to grow deeper
underground, but young trees will need a year or two before they
reach this stage.
As I mentioned earlier, I have moved to my new
home. (I haven’t sold my old home yet so I’m still the caretaker
for the trees described above.) I have about 30 trees in pots
and over 5 acres of land to work with. I will be busy again next
Nov.1, 2012 Update
Another growing season has gone by, and it’s time
for an update on the Giant Sequoias.
The bad news is that it has been a very dry year and the
“1st grove” of Giant Sequoias didn’t get anywhere near the TLC
(i.e. watering) that they had the prior year. The good news is
that all the trees are green and growing although the growth this
year was much less due to little water supply. I’ve also got 10
seedlings planted at my new home and still have a bunch of potted
seedlings that will be planted next year.
The photos below shown the 5 Giant Sequoia trees at
my old home as of Aug. 31, 2012
The picture above shows the deer-damaged tree. Last winter’s
weather got what looked like what was going to be a new main
trunk. The rest of the tree is still growing, but once again, it’s
a Giant Sequoia bush.
Seedling 1. The next 4 photos show the same 4 seedlings (in the
same order) as those shown in 2011. Most have grown about 6 inches
which is much less than the prior year’s growth, but then again,
they didn’t get much water either. The fact that they survived a
year on their own, is encouraging.
Seedling 4. The 4th seedling is having a little bit more trouble
as some of the lower branches have died off. However, it has new
green growth on top, and I’m hoping it will eventually do OK.
Sept. 25, 2014
Two years have gone by since I last checked on the
Giant Sequoia trees. We have had two more dry years, the trees
have been neglected – and 4 of the 5 trees are green and growing.
They would be growing more enthusiastically if someone had watered
them, but the fact that they have been neglected and are still
making it on their own is encouraging.
The photos below show how they looked as of Sept. 25, 2014
The photo above shows the “Deer Tree”. It still looks
more like a Giant Sequoia bush, but the fence is about 4 feet high
and the top of the tree is now higher than the fence.
The photo above shows Seedling 1. The “Deer Tree” is
to the right along with other bushes and trees in the background.
The photo above shows Seedling 2 as well as the first
two trees further back. Grass and weeds have grown up around the
tree showing how it has been neglected, but the Giant Sequoia is
making it on its own.
The photo above shows Seedling 3 as well as the other
trees in the background. Again, it has been neglected, but it’s
Unfortunately, Seedling 4 is gone. When I last saw it
2 years ago, it was struggling, and assuming it was also
neglected, it didn’t make it.
As for the seedlings that I’ve planted at my new
home, they are having a more difficult time. The “soil” is mostly
rock, and what soil there is doesn’t drain as well. Several of the
seedlings have survived for a couple of years, but they are having
a rough time. I’ve bought some more seeds which have sprouted in
pots. I plan on planting them next spring.
Aug. 12, 2016
Another two years have gone by since the last update,
so it’s time to check the trees to see how they are doing.
Happily, they are doing well and “growing like weeds”.
The photos below show how they looked as of Aug. 12, 2016
The photo above shows the “Deer Tree”. It’s now over
7 feet tall. Also it’s developed a central trunk so it’s beginning
to take on the profile of a regular tree.
The photo above shows Seedling 1 as of Aug. 12, 2016.
It still has some dead branches, but it’s beginning to become
The photo above shows Seedling 2. It’s now a good 7
Finally, Seedling 3 is still alive and growing. It’s
on top of a small hill and doesn’t have as much ground water, but
it’s about 5 feet tall. None of the trees look like they are being
watered which in a backhanded way is a good sign. They are making
it on their own. Of course they would have to do this sooner or
later, but as they grow larger, their root system will expand to
tap into whatever water is available.
The New Giant
A dozen Giant Sequoias have been planted at my new
home. A video showing them as well as the above trees can be seen
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