Very Tall Hemlock Clump Styled

This photo essay ends with a couple of movies… They’re too short for popcorn, but long enough to sit down for.


Mountain Hemlock before branch removal or wiring. Here are some pre-work branch close-ups:

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Last week this Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) was styled with pruning and wiring. It’s an unusual front, as the apexes all flow 45 degrees to the back and to the right. For me it was a haunting tree to find the wild, as if felt like the wind was literally at my back, and so I was determined to keep a windy feeling in the styling. Given the surrounding trees, it was not a naturally wind-influenced tree, and the identical movement of the apexes was happenstance.


Bobby progressed from standing on a crate…


…to standing on a ladder.

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I loved the height of this Hemlock. Although it’s more than twice the height of most bonsai, it’s got a tall foresty feeling about it that seemed wrong to reduce. So we left it really tall and it will be more of a ‘garden tree’, placed on the ground, probably on a slab. 7’ 4” from the top of the box. I won’t let it get any taller, so the apexes will slowly round a bit and look older with time.

My apprentice Bobby Curttright, who is doing some very fine wiring these days, was joined with Matt Reel whose wiring is always exquisite, made a team of three (with me) and we finished it in hours rather than days.




From exhausting experience wrangling big trees through a normal sized doorway in the studio in Japan, I built mine to be 8’…never expecting I’d actually WORK on a tree that large. Bobby and Matt struggle the tree through the threshold while I helpfully utilize the camera.


7′ 4″ / 224 cm  This is all one tree, a natural, root-connected clump. For inspiration on how to handle this styling, I thought of the trees in that curious and expressive mountain zone just below the small and stunted krummholz zone, where the trees still have some height and make up small forest groups. The bottom branches of the trees in this zone often have environmental stability, while the apexes are sometimes windblown. So this tree was suggestively treated that way. This clump continues an exploration of our Northwestern forests in bonsai, the first being another Hemlock group designed some time back:

First Hemlock Clump

And! As promised, here are a couple videos of this Hemlock styling, sporting Daft Punk in the background. Occasionally you just have to dip into French house music at the end of a wiring day. Bobby and Matt wire the tree in the first one, the second gives a 3-D feeling to the clump and branching:


  1. Wood says:

    Excellent!!! Sir Hawthorne.

  2. Jeremiah Lee says:

    Love it, you guys created a really beautiful image!

  3. Ron Scarborough says:


  4. zclayton1 says:

    Beautiful. I have seen many trees like this in Wyoming and Colorado.

  5. Miguel says:

    Good job on the tree. The video made think that it would be great to see a garden tour. There are many that can’t travel to you easily. Just a thought.

  6. crust says:

    A-freaking-mazingly beautiful retaining and honoring the mountain grace and superannuated details.

  7. bonsai eejit says:

    Reblogged this on Bonsai Eejit and commented:
    I love tall trees so this is right up my street, a stunning image. The second video close up shows some unusual branch selection and placement which would have been removed by many but works perfectly here in the tall image. Excellent work 🙂

  8. Don Erickson says:

    Love the trees. They will look gre

  9. MoniqueV says:

    Gorgeous tree, a fine piece of art !

  10. Jeffrey Robson says:

    Michael, When was it collected?

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