Future Arboreal Projects…

A tree prequel….here are three trees that have me intrigued and looking forward to playing with: A Mountain Hemlock, a Vine Maple, and another Mountain Hemlock-


We brought back this massive Mountain Hemlock from the PNBCA convention in Victoria, BC a couple weeks back. Very curious descending branch. This tree was collected by Anton Nijhuis. We’ll be restyling this tree soon, and will be sure to have photos up here for you to laugh and jeer at-


This was an interesting recent capture. I collected this in the Cascades this fall, a Vine Maple in the rocks. It had a massive tap root which I recut when we made the box, and out of curiosity I took a loupe and counted the rings… 180 years old! And with some strong young branches, too. One of those examples that makes you rethink the common conceit that understory trees and shrubs have short lifespans. It’s all about how that tree grew, what the local environment was. Quite thought provoking.


Another recent capture, this Mountain Hemlock nearly slaughtered us trying to move it. Nearly 8 feet tall, it has apexes that all go to the right by pure happenstance. But they all go back at 45 degrees as well, so when you’re standing at this front, it feels like the wind is at your back. One of the most evocative trees I’ve encountered in a long while. Looking forward to doing very little with this one…as opposed to doing quite a bit with the other two!

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  1. Jeremiah Lee says:

    Very excited to see the progression with these awesome trees!

  2. judy fister says:

    The last group of trees strike me as rather anthropomorphic and beg for a name or title…maybe, ‘the caretakers’….

  3. paul3636 says:

    The soil the vine maple is planted in looks all white.
    Is it 100% white pumice???????????

    • crataegus says:

      Yes, that’s all pumice.
      Vine Maple is a curiosity, in one year a collected tree with only a few scraggly roots can fill a box of pumice so densely with fine roots that it’s hard to move even the top surface particles, and not get a chopstick in anywhere. It’s got Herculean root growth!

      • Thomas Urban says:

        Hi Michael, what is the status on that huge vine maple? This is the first time I’ve seen it!


        Thomas Urban

      • crataegus says:

        Tree doing great, we did a major cutback a month ago. In one year it had filled the box with roots from only a few gangly ones collected, and produced some strong shoots.

  4. Ronald Scarborough says:

    Wow those specimens are great especially the last Mountain Hemlock.

  5. Rodney Clemons says:

    that’s one fine Mtn. Hemlock….wow!

  6. backcountrydan says:

    Great finds!!!

  7. Chris Cochrane says:

    Truly looking forward to your restyling of the Mountain Hemlock collected by Anton Nihjuis, Michael.

  8. Ron Davis says:

    Wonderful potential in all three. Congratulations on having a successful bonsai hunt. Looking forward to seeing them in person in a couple of weeks.

  9. andy brokenshire says:

    The mountain hemlocks are incredible but so tall. Is your plan to reduce the height so that they are more in the “acceptable bonsai height-zone”. Or will you leave them the way they are. Is there a height where a tree is no longer considered bonsai?

    • crataegus says:

      They’ll be left that tall. Throughout the world including Japan, there is a strong urge to have some very large trees that are trained as bonsai, in very large containers, in the garden. They are not technically bonsai, as you point out. But they do serve as a scale shift that is very interesting as a theme-setting, or as a counterpoint to our mostly much smaller bonsai.

      It used to be that above 3’/1m a tree was no longer a bonsai. Now that height limit has been stretched even for those to be considered truly bonsai. I think the answer is still be decided, frankly. But many very large trees that are four or five feet tall might certainly be considered in the realm of bonsai. Many of the Imperial trees in Japan, for instance, are very large.

  10. Ross Munro says:

    Great trees, all of them. Your comments on the Vine Maple’s age bring to mind some observations I’ve had on them. They can seem almost immortal, stretching out and then being crushed into the soil as other trees fall over them, but rooting into the forest floor and spreading from there. Yours is a very beautiful specimen.

  11. Graham says:

    Nice finds Michael,
    Like others I look forward to seeing the transformation. Like the Vine Maple, I’ve found that Douglas Maple (Acer glabrum) has the same robust rooting habit….a survival mechanism for sure. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. chis says:

    Great finds all the way around on these trees. Looking forward to progressions on the hemlock and vine maple.

  13. paul3636 says:

    Have you ever worked on Canadian hemlock. They are more available to me then mountain hemlock.

    • crataegus says:

      Yes I have. Much like our Western Hemlock. The Mountain hemlock is the odd one of the bunch. Try to keep your hemlocks in deeper pots and don’t be as aggressive in repotting. They appreciate moistness and light shade in the summer. Always cut back to a bud. And they don’t break back on old wood, so don’t try to push a tree to do that, it will sulk at us…keep more foliage on the tree.

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