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:

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.

DSC_0809 - Version 2

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 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.’

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  1. tmmason10 says:

    Outstanding tree and creative container! Top notch material and you’ve now made this tree/clump/forest just amazing.

  2. Rob Lanahan says:

    Absolutely creative masterpiece that speaks ah natural.

  3. Peter Chapman says:

    Beautiful result, Michael! It’s clear that good things come to those who wait!

  4. Rory says:

    Gorgeous! Guess I’ll have to move to Washington or Oregon. How far into northern California will they thrive?

    • crataegus says:

      Probably not south of the Sebastopol area or inland from there, but that’s just a guess. The coast there in northern Cal is pretty cool and moist for the most part.

  5. paul3636 says:

    Glad u used the Corian. I always thought it was to porous. Tried Lexan but it buckled and I had to use 2 additional SS nuts and bolts in the center. It did work for my scots pine Raft.

  6. backcountrydan says:

    Stunning! Always improving 🙂

    Who will you have build the display stand for it? — You know.. . to get it up to eye level for proper viewing.

  7. judy fister says:

    Fantastic forest group–too bad mountain hemlocks need Oregon weather!
    An inspiration for planting and ‘container’ ; keep pushing the envelope there.
    Now about your outfits in the dept. of “continuity of clothing….” maybe bring donations to the Artisan Cup this fall?

    • crataegus says:

      Yes, very thoughtful idea, the apprentices and teachers in the Portland Bonsai Village are a ragged bunch in desperate need of more varied clothing. Sniff.

    • August Day says:

      “too bad mountain hemlocks need Oregon weather!” Not sure what you mean by this but Hemlocks grow on the East side of Oregon up high (5-7000′ where there is certainly snow in the winter but not the moisture the rest of the time like the West side. It can get pretty hot and dry also with low humidity in those areas.

      • crataegus says:

        Ha! Yes, that was my opinion at the time, I think since then there’s been success with Mt. Hemlock in parts of the northeastern US and Canada.

  8. backcountrydan says:

    It looks like Bobby is in good company. Matt is also wearing stripes! I guess they’ve earned them by now..

  9. rawbonsai says:

    Reblogged this on rawbonsai and commented:
    I am glad so many people are coming round to Hemlocks, and seeing these fantastic results it is easy to see the advantages of the species. Well done

  10. phlkrg says:

    Excellent forest clump…! I noticed you leave your moss on the plant. Is that to retain moisture and you will remove it or leave it on all the time?

    • crataegus says:

      The moss is left on all the time, yes, partly for aesthetic reasons and partly for erosion control and moisture retention. Many kinds of moss actually improve water penetration, contrary to popular belief that they impede it.

      • thomdec says:

        I agree with you. What kind of moss is best used for moisture retention and erosion control? This is a topic of debate. Maybe, a future blog?

      • crataegus says:

        Initially, shredded or sieved sphagnum moss (orchid moss, not peat moss) on newly potted trees. That provides a good foundation for getting live moss started, which should be a short, clumping moss rather than a spreading, tendril moss which will also climb up on trunks. I think mosses that are not bright green are best. They can take away from the trees.

      • thomdec says:

        Yes, using different types and colors of mosses add depth and texture to the ground cover and look much more natural and interesting than a solid bright green blanket.

  11. bonsai eejit says:

    Reblogged this on Bonsai Eejit.

  12. brad says:

    you have featured lots of gorgeous trees on your site. but very few, if any, are as evocative to me as this. put a few puffs of fog through those trunks, and i’m standing on the coast looking up at cliff jutting out over the ocean. really beautiful.

  13. Ron Scarborough says:

    What is you’re method of watering this guy and how often?

    • crataegus says:

      It’s watered the same as all my other trees. No particular difference with frequency. Because it’s a deep soil mass, though, I do pass over with water about three or four times before it’s soaked.

  14. Ron Scarborough says:

    your, sorry!

  15. Sage Smith says:

    Wow, that’s an amazing clump bonsai. Thanks for sharing. I truly love Tsuga. Unfortunately hemlocks have been decimated by the wooly adelgid here in western North Carolina.

  16. Andy Brokenshire says:

    In awe. Looks like you just shrank a little piece of the forest.

  17. Linda Soliven says:

    Speaking of clumps or logs as bonsai…. Happy MLK day, All. Linda


  18. Jeremiah Lee says:

    Beautiful and inspirational! Love it!

  19. Keith says:

    Nature created,skilled hand perfected. I think you should name it “Hernia forest”.

  20. Ron Scarborough says:

    Just noticed the barber chair base in the one pic. Very clever!! 🙂

  21. LM McWilliams says:

    Except for the recent issue with a new insect pest… Eastern hemlocks thive east of the Mississippi from Canada to at least as far south as the Carolinas, at least in the mountains. A humid environment, but it does get quite hot in summer. And they hardly have anything that northerners would consider to be ‘winter’, but Tsuga canadensis is happy with -20F winter temps. Does it get that cold in the range of the mountain hemlock?
    Their needles lay flat, but they have their own majestic beauty, and a habit (form) not that different from your mountain hemlocks.
    The passenger pigeon, once so numerous that flocks took hours to pass… (and yes, the animals are part of the forest), all the Atlantic salmon runs gone from the East coast… then the chestnut- once as many as 1 tree in 4 in Eastern forests… now the ash and hemlocks are under attach that threatens to eliminate them from our forests…
    The rivets that hold together the life-support system of spaceship Earth are coming undone.
    All the more reason to celebrate bonsai which remind us of the ecosystem as a whole!

    • crataegus says:

      Thanks for the comments- Mountain hemlock seems to be a zone 4 plant, short summer and cold winter near the treeline in some cases, so yes it does get that cold where they live. They really don’t do very well at all outside of the Pacific Northwest, although the reasons for that are subject to discussion.

      Interrelationship is one of the directions we can explore with bonsai, for sure-

  22. Tanluwil says:

    This is the most stunning clump-style bonsai I’ve ever seen in the US. It totally captures the unique beauty of the Pacific Northwest. I would say it rivals those in Japan. This piece transports the viewer. Now I’m inspired to work towards a clump style piece for pitch pines or white pines that grow here in the Northeast. Well done and thank you for sharing!

    • crataegus says:

      Thanks for the kind words— I came from the east coast and enjoyed the clumped pines over there, good luck on your efforts with them-

  23. Spencer says:

    Beautiful tree! Do you have any tips for promoting back-budding on hemlocks? I have a western hemlock that needs a new branch, but I am afraid this is a species that does not back-bud well. I have not been able to find much information on the subject.

  24. August says:

    I’m a little late on this but I have found some MT Hemlocks East of the Cascades in Eastern Oregon and would like to collect a few and try them out. From your experience, is it better to collect these in the spring or in the fall? Any other helpful collecting techniques would be appreciated. Thank you Michael. August

  1. […]  January, 2015. Michael Hagedorn’s freshly touched up Mountain Hemlock clump. From Micheal’s Crataegus Bonsai blog. […]

  2. […] Hemlock – more at Very Large Mountain Hemlock Clump […]

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