Potting up a Hemlock-

Some of you may remember the restyling of this large, old Mountain Hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana, a few years ago. This spring the wooden box it was living in was replaced with a low ceramic rectangle. The following is a photo essay of this final step in the progression-


This was the hemlock in December 2014, before the restyling. For a trip down memory lane, try the first post about its restyling with Bobby Curttright and Matt Reel: Very Old Mountain Hemlock Styling

And this is the tree in spring of 2018, in the studio on potting day. One of the many curiosities about this tree is that it is a rooted branch that self-layered in the soil.

Starting the adventure with a low rectangle being prepped for the container

Apprentices Andrew Robson and Jarryd Bailey are joined by friends Dave and Alan for a long awaited day

The tree is stabilized with wire, but an obnoxious root needs removal before moving on

Alan removing the unwanted root

Sculpting the future root mass with muck

An unmolested side of the old root ball showing white mychorrizal growth

The quiz for the helpers this day was how to improve this composition. Answer: With the addition of some native plants as on-site companions to the tree. With chopsticks indicating likely companion positions, the vaccinium are attached to the soil mass.

Potting finished, the Hemlock is off to the greenhouse for a couple of weeks of restorative time, soaking in hot tubs and getting daily massages

Close up of the top of the Hemlock

Close up of the low branch and base

The completed composition, 36″ / 91 cm. We patched in some moss to jumpstart the desired result of full eventual coverage. The environs of Mountain Hemlock often have great views, high up on rounded terrain with vistas. The cascading drop branch does remind me of being in high country, brushing the clouds, where I’ve often see them. Very old Hemlock in this zone often have idiosyncratic branching, and in the restyling a few years back we tried to feature the lines of these unusual branches that were created in the wild, without influence or manipulation in the studio, simply by choosing an inclination and front that showed off the branches to the best advantage — the decision being that the branches were more interesting than the trunk. In the potting this spring it seemed advantageous to make a high mound to show off the lowest branch, leaving the container with a very minor supporting role.


  1. Crust says:

    I really appreciate your unrestrained design decisions. To me it is the processes of cutural connective design, the essence of an authentic path in art. Thank you so much for sharing and for your willingness to follow your own speaking heart.

  2. Ray says:

    Great job Michael, Andrew and hands on deck. I like the more upright replanting. Looking good!
    What composition of much did you use to coat the root ball??

  3. Hector says:

    Well done! This is an brilliant composition and helped push me forward in what design can be with Bonsai! Wow!

  4. David Wheeler says:


    On Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 3:04 AM, Michael Hagedorn wrote:

    > crataegus posted: “Some of you may remember the restyling of this large, > old Mountain Hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana, a few years ago. This spring the > wooden box it was living in was replaced with a low ceramic rectangle. The > following is a photo essay of this final step in the” >

  5. Rodrigo Almeida says:

    Amazing job!!!

  6. Garen says:

    Michael, your garden and since of style for each individual tree shows the passion you guys have!

  7. Lance says:

    Living piece of art. Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Don G Erickson says:

    Nice job! Many hands sometimes get in each other’s way. Great to see these amazing workers making this turn out so well!

  9. crazyplantnerd says:


  10. Leonard Rosenband says:

    This tree is elegant yet reflects struggle within a challenging environment. Beautifully done.

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