Very Large Mtn. Hemlock Clump-
This is one of those trees I’ve had in my yard a long time, and never done a follow-up post about. For one thing, it’s so large it’s hard to photograph. For another, I just didn’t get around to it.
All of the trunks come from one base; it’s one tree. The snows are so heavy where it came from that the young branches were brought down, and those branches later grew upwards and are now the trunks that create the clump.
This was the tree that started all my madness around finding new solutions for the slab question. Ironically, it’s the last tree I’ve put on a slab. This hemlock sat on a plywood slab for years, with me just dreaming about it, while completing other slab experiments. So, it benefited from other tree’s mistakes. Or my mistakes with them, I should say. Finally in 2014 it went onto a stronger slab option than the nylon boards that I was using for smaller trees, using instead the countertop material Corian.
I should mention that Mountain Hemlock is not a tree for beyond the Pacific Northwest, USA, or even east of the Cascades. East of the mountains and down south are too hot and/or arid for these fellas and they get terribly grumpy, and then quietly perish. But…come and visit us and the trees will be here.
Here’s an earlier post which shows how we made the mound of soil and the sloping left wall: https://crataegus.com/2010/03/22/hemlock-group/
Enjoy the (relatively long) photo essay-
Mountain Hemlock in 2010 about two years after collection, with the strange cobbled together and sloped box I built for it.
The day we created the ‘mound’ that would end up staying on this plywood for a few years (while I scratched my head). 2010. This was the tree that started the adventure with putting trees on slabs of unusual materials (I’m not referring to the plywood…)
Now we’re fast forwarding a bit to 2013, the second time I’d wired the tree. I think the first time was in 2011. The high snows where it came from had already brought all the branches down to have great acute angles with the trunk, so this tree really only needed minor adjustments with placement.
Some parts of the tree needed a stepladder to work on…this is about the middle of the tree.
Detail of a branch showing the delicacy of the foliage. The needles come out in 3-D, making it a bit different from other hemlocks. I think if the Japanese had this species, they’d be much more enthusiastic about hemlock than the native one they have over there.
Again fast forwarding a bit, this is the summer of 2014, being brought into the studio by Bobby and Konnor.
…about to be shifted onto the Corian slab (right), our choice for this big tree for its strength.
Konnor marking the footprint of the soil mass…
…and cutting the slab with a jigsaw.
Our feet for this project.
After shifting the tree over onto the cut slab.
Side view (right) of the tree on its rock platform in the yard. We liked the 45 degree cut on the Corian, which we painted dark grey. We thought the bevel gives this tree a much greater ‘floating’ feeling, lessening its visual mass.
Another detail from the front. Lots of Polytrichum (the bright green star-shaped moss) and other kinds of moss and lichen, and a curious dark green, small-leaved Oregon Box (left side and rear) that was also collected in the mountains here.
Yet again fast-forwarding, this is January 2015, and we’ve once again brought the tree in for some wiring. Bobby in his stripes. As usual. You can see the continuity of his clothing from the earlier sessions with this tree.
We were lucky to have Matt Reel drop into the studio, and so we had a real Portland Bonsai Village day of it, with some visitors dropping in to see the garden, too.
Yes, occasionally I DO put down the camera and fiddle with trees. We wired this tree lightly. Matt and I discussed how over-wiring a hemlock would simply destroy its natural grace.
And this is how the Mountain Hemlock looks today, in January, 2015, after minor wiring touchup. More and more I’m inspired by what I see in the local mountains, which do not have as severe an environment as the Rockies, featuring moister, calmer forests that yet exhibit decay and entropy, and a ridiculous amount of wabi-sabi. In the nearby Cascades and Coast ranges I’ve been very taken with the relationships of trunks, just visually, and also the communities of trees ecologically, and have sought out trees for bonsai that might communicate this. I tried to present this hemlock as simply as possible—without a pot or visible slab—to highlight those features.
This tree made an appearance at the 2016 U.S. National Show, where it won the ‘Finest Evergreen Bonsai.’