Revisit: Twin Trunk Hemlock on a Nylon Board—

The last post about a Hemlock suggested that I might as well start a series on revisits from past work to see if they’ve gotten worse with time, stayed the same, or improved. Today we revisit one of the weirder things we’ve done here, putting a tree on a plastic cutting board…

At the finish of the day when this Mountain Hemlock went on a nylon slab in March, 2012.

The Hemlock in question was collected eons ago when I was a few years younger, and has changed a bit. The main change happened without my input. A borer, or rather four of them, decided to settle down and carve out their dwellings inside the top part of the main trunk. I first noticed a strange discoloring of the foliage in the top part of that trunk in mid-summer, with the needles turning an olive drab. That wasn’t encouraging. When we brought the tree into the studio to remove the dead branches and the bark, I suggested to my then apprentice, Bobby Curttright, that he keep an eye out for borer galleries. And there they were. Flat head borers, already deep into the heartwood, settled down next to their fireplaces and tucked deep into their blankets, snoring with books on their laps and getting ready for a long winter. It was distressing to disturb them.

But we did show them the door and now the tree is restyled.

I grudgingly admit that with borer-crafted ingenuity this tree is much better designed. I was humbled and yet still irritated at them (mostly because I hadn’t thought of it myself).

April 2018. This photo shows a forced liaison between invertebrate and vertebrate design. Following the insect usurpation of the original design, a couple years of branch adjustment to the new reality was in store, with compaction of the branching and filling in the new canopy on the left trunk. Cast your votes on whether the new design is improved, stayed the same, or is worse…

It’s now 6 years after the first composition. That, however is another story, which you can find here: Mountain Hemlock on Levitated Nylon Board

The original story was also covered in more detail in Bonsai Focus, Sept/Oct 2012

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  1. Rodger Kessler says:

    When presented with borers, make borscht… great improvement!

  2. I vote for the latest “revision” in design.

  3. RAY NORRIS says:

    Wow Michael it has evolved into a fantastic
    Bonsai. I remember the borer issue that killed the

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. Beautiful!

  5. beulah says:

    The new design! Such a creative solution to borer damage. Fantastic!

  6. Linda says:

    The pads have filled out more and it looks more mature now, and looks healthier. Somehow, I like the austerity of the earlier iteration. Still gorgeous. You do good creative work!

  7. Todd Morgan says:

    I, also have had lots of “Nature’s Help” with some of my junipers (post-thinning) and apples. The helpers were mice and wood rats. A couple of the junipers even turned into improvements…
    I suppose that is the way it is in the wild, though. The few that survive end up being gnarlier…

  8. Melvin Zamis says:

    I love the new design. So elegant

    Sent from my iPhone


  9. Sage Smith says:

    Truly, you are a magician. Redefining bonsai with every trick. Thank you for who you are and what you do

  10. Graham says:

    The subtle branch adjustments work really well. I’ll go with improved, the first initial design gave the impression of two independent trees (perhaps just dating lol), whereas the last photo shows the two trees much more interconnected (married perhaps).

  11. acstratten says:

    Dem bugs did a fine job.

  12. Chris Koehler says:

    Amazing refinement, this tree looks superb! Q: Perhaps it’s silly I ask, but how did you remove the borers? And insure you removed all of them at once?

    • crataegus says:

      We took the bark off, and the galleries were evident, but more than that, there were holes where the borer larva ‘bores’ into the heartwood, to pupate and spend the winter. If we had missed any, there really wasn’t much to lose as the adult just punches a hole out of the bark and emerges the next spring. The real damage– the nibbling of the cambium— was all done already.
      Usually the tree will you where to look for them, with dead branches and sap perhaps coming out of the bark on the trunk. Once you find the galleries, just remove the bark on top of the dead areas until you find the living tissue again. Now you have some natural borer-made shari or jin!

      • Colin Tracy says:

        Michael – I have a priorities question about a hemlock I collected just this spring. It’s old & gnarled, with many dead branches and a large natural shari at the base. Almost all dead wood still has its bark. Should I be removing the bark now to expose possible pests/eliminate hiding places, or is hands-off recovery time more important at this point? I rather prefer the look with the bark still on the branches . . . but if it’s a liability, when’s the time to remove it?

      • crataegus says:

        Good question. The main thing would be to let it get established—and yet you don’t want to let the beasties have their way if they’re around. I’d spray the trunk with Safari, and get some in the soil too. If you don’t have or can’t get Safari you might try one of the Bayer products that will work for flathead borers. These insecticides are benign for the plant and are ok to use on recently collected trees. (Avoid spraying areas where you see bees drinking water, flowering plants, etc…)

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