Shore Pine…on a Metal Post…

For a few years I didn’t know what to do with this tree. I’d collected it with Anton Nijhuis on Vancouver Island, Canada, and remembered all too well the long, thick, stick-like root that would make putting it in a small pot one of forcing it to be there. Which isn’t a happy solution.

So it ended up on a small slab support, bolted to a 3″ metal post…

…which makes me happier than had it gotten into a bonsai pot. Now it hangs off the shade cloth structure in the rain. Like an orchid.

Enjoy the photo essay-

Our Shore Pine (Pinus contorta subsp. contorta), as it sat in the yard for three years, pre-styling.

The chosen inclination for styling…

…and the styled tree. The decision was to retain the whimsicality of the tree rather than to constrain it into a typical bonsai framework. Which would have involved wood removal and a lot of horsing around, and, frankly, would have destroyed what I liked about this tree in the first place: A certain freedom of expression.

This long root limited some potting applications, such as a pot of the proper dimensions for such a small tree.

Pondering the slab possibilities. This once again is one the nylon slabs that I prefer for smaller projects like this. The material is not strong enough for the larger ones.

Tying the tree onto the slab. This is one side…

…and here’s another side. The ‘front”—which I put in quotes because there were a few views of this once bolted in place on the post which were just as fun as the assumed front.

A muck wall holds the soil in place.

Root work on the platform finished. And Andrew’s arm snaking into the photo to the left.

The Shore Pine on its post. 24″ / 61 cm high. The flange of metal and a bolt are visible to the right…truth in advertising?

And another view, from the left. Truth in advertising not seen. Over time moss will grow over the muck and the grey-tinted sphagnum, hopefully making this weird thing more palatable to the eye. For now, it’s the only ‘pine-orchid’ in the yard.

🤞Sign up for the blog!

We don’t spam! Read more in our privacy policy


  1. yenling29 says:

    Love it!!

  2. Ronald Scarborough says:

    I like it! Quite clever approach

  3. Vern Maddox says:

    Love the strangeness and unique look of this critter.

  4. Laraine Heirakuji says:

    Thank you for preserving it’s character…love it.

  5. Mac McAtee says:

    What kind of wood are those posts made of? Odd markings and color.

    • crataegus says:

      It’s a metal post, just 3″ square, 1/8″ steel that I was originally thinking of painting, but a friend suggested I just let it rust. Glad I took his advice.

      • Mac McAtee says:

        Ah Ha! Now I see it. I agree with the, “Let it rust.” option. They look good hope they hold up for the long run.

  6. This is brilliant! ‘Twould be interesting to have Austin make a stand for it that it bolted to.

  7. Rodger Kessler says:

    Michael can you post picture of how t will sit on a table?? Rodger

    Rodger Kessler Ph.D. ABPP Sent from my iPad


    • crataegus says:

      Planning on a modular approach here, we’ll unbolt it and put it on another structure that would be a stand / support for it on a table. Haven’t yet dreamed up that one yet though.

  8. Ray says:

    Nice Job!

  9. Susan Carpenter says:

    Here is a prime example. Just because you can cut off the root doesn’t mean you should.
    The integrity and charactor of this tree is kept in a most natural way.
    I really like this solution. 
    Michael, may I ask what is your recipe for the muck?

    • scott Irwin says:

      Was going to ask the same question abut the muck. havent really had any that I liked

    • crataegus says:

      I’ve been trying something new this past year, having never been happy with traditional keto muck because of its hard and nearly water-imperviousness when dry. The first time was with my first apprentice Bobby Curttright, with the hemlock growing out of the rock that we did last spring. Since then we’ve used this several times, and I continue to appreciate it’s flexibility of use.
      This idea comes from Hawaii, adding corn starch as a binder. Roughly (and you can adjust proportions according to need): 1/3 small akadama plus dust, 1/3 long fibered sphagnum moss (not peat), and 1/3 corn starch. The trick is how you treat the corn starch. Before adding them together, take the corn starch and mix it in some water, then pop it in the microwave. You might have to add more water and cook it several times, but you want a jelly. Then add that to the others.
      We’ve found that more corn starch than 1/3 is often needed.
      It’s very pliable, and forms a dense mass once it’s dried a bit that has great penetrability when watered.

      • knappaknapp says:

        It would be interesting to see a blog post about creating this corn starch muck. Thanks for excellent reading material, lots of great inspiration.

      • Hi Michael, do you grind the sphagnum moss into small fibers or do you use long strings for the mix ? Very nice work and I’d like to try your mix for my first slab planting, with a spruce.

      • crataegus says:

        Hi, thanks for the question! We leave the fibers long for use in muck. Ties everything together better.

  10. I really like the angles on this one.

  11. crataegus says:

    Thanks! And thanks to the other kind comments here too.
    Was a fun adventure.

  12. Graham says:

    Another very creative “out of the box” solution Michael. I didn’t see any drainage holes or is it you don’t need them? Would pumice dust work instead of Akadama?

    • crataegus says:

      We poked holes in the bottom of the muck wall for drainage. Also the slope is so great that we didn’t need any in the bottom of the slab.
      I don’t recommend pumice dust for much of anything, other than maybe growing cuttings. I want to grow moss for one thing, and moss doesn’t like pumice very much.

  13. Susan Carpenter says:

    Hi Micheal, thanks for the muck recipe. i will see what I can find in Aussie to replace the small Akadama. We do export it in however it is expensive, difficult to get and I have never seen the small one. I am told there are two types of Akadama hard and soft. Just guessing you would be using the soft?
    Also as a suggestion to an indoor display stand for exhibitions, if possible?? A floating wine bottle stand was the first thing that came to my mind when thinking about how I would display it.
    I still like your solution very much. Please keep us updated on the final solution for indoor stand.

    • crataegus says:

      If the sifting is fine, it doesn’t matter what the hardness of the akadama is. And I will certainly do a post about the indoor display stand when we get around to it…!

Leave a Reply to Mac McAteeCancel reply