The ‘Helix Root’ Limber Pine Styling-

Until a couple of years ago, I’d never worked with Limber Pine, one of our North American white pines. It’s growing on me. Buds back well, nice short needle, strong. Has a nice name, Limber Pine, which comes more trippingly off the tongue than Loblolly Pine, for instance. And it has great deadwood features.

This Limber Pine was styled in a Seasonal Workshop a couple of weeks ago. It was collected by a student of mine, Steve Varland of Backcountry Bonsai, who was able to be in the Seasonal to help style it.

Photo essay follows our journey with this tree-


Limber Pine from one side…


…and from the other side.


And a couple of shots of the base, with the ‘helix’ roots.


Other side.


We discovered that a large area of the trunk was dead. That is, not obviously dead. We might call it ‘pre-shari’, because it looked just like the rest of the trunk. The bark was still adhering very well, but 50 years later out in the wilds it would be shari. So we took the bark off in those areas to speed up the process a bit… Steve and Bobby work at it.


Jim and Steve beginning the foliage preparation for wiring.


Some big bends were planned for this styling , so on goes the raffia-


The first big wires…Bobby without stripes for some reason. He did well enough without them. Hm.


Setting the branches…


Finishing up…


Our completed tree. Well, mostly completed. For a container next spring, we were thinking of maybe a deep narrow oval, to show off those curious double helix-like surface roots. 32″ high.


  1. Rick Johnstone says:

    Gorgeous specimen. I’m writing from southwest Florida and we can only dream of pines like this. Of course we do see some interesting tropical.
    Love your blog, keep it coming.
    Rick J.

  2. Bruce says:

    I love this tree. Period.

  3. Brian says:

    Reminds me of the Loch Ness monster with the roots along the surface. Wonderful tree!

  4. backcountrydan says:

    Awesome Job! Wish I could have been there. Hopefully next time.

  5. backcountrydan says:

    Reblogged this on Backcountry Bonsai and commented:
    Steve and Jim (A friend and local club member in WY) just returned from a Seasonal with Michael Hagedorn. Here’s a bit of what they were up to. This Limber Pine is one that Steve collected several years ago. It turned out great, and I’m excited to watch it develop! I wish I could have been there. Maybe next time! 🙂

  6. backcountrydan says:

    No stripes!?!? Well, I guess the tree turned out great anyway. But imagine how it would look if he were wearing the lucky stripes….

  7. chandrakant says:

    superb !very nice work done . cograte to all.

  8. tim duncan says:

    Hello, this may be a silly question. However, I’ve heard from a few people that Limber pine die after many years as Bonsai. Apparently they do great for several years, but really long term they decline in health. I would think this is foolish and if their trees die it’s because of poor care. However if I understand correctly, I heard Boon generally grafts white pine onto Limber for this reason. I’m wondering if you think this could possibly be true? Maybe Limber pine just does not do well long term with the amount of foliage we allow it to have as Bonsai or maybe for some other reason. Any thoughts about this? thanks!

    • crataegus says:

      It’s an interesting question. There are lots of reports of Common Juniper not being very dependable in a pot, and get touchy after about 4 years. I’m curious if any in Europe are having that problem with them, too.
      But Limbers, I’m not sure. They seem very tough. Also I’d think that those who live in very mild climates would do better with grafting something else onto it. It’s a high mountain tree. I remember at least one tree that Boon grafted, and it makes sense, where he lives. Those that are here in the Pacific Northwest seem very strong.
      As for general statements about particular trees dying over time I’m often skeptical, and tend to agree with your hunch, that it’s mostly poor care. From what I see of how some take care of their trees I’m never much surprised.
      But not a silly question at all. There are real differences in how some trees respond to being in a pot, and our natives, well, we’re still learning a lot about them.

  9. Tony says:

    Did you cut the needles on this pine ,and if you did what time of the year was it done.

    • crataegus says:

      Some of the old needles were cut off (completely), but no needles were cut in half, and the tree was not decandled to create shorter needles either. Hope that answers your question.
      All of this year’s needles were left on the tree, and some of last year’s as well. If all the old needles are taken off it will often weaken the tree.

  10. Steve says:

    Mr, Michael,
    Impressive job blending the freshly uncovered deadwood with the old exposed and checkered deadwood.

  1. […] It has been a while since we’ve shown this familiar wood paneling from Michael Hagedorn’s workshop. BTW: the tree is a Limber pine styled by Michael and friends. […]

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