Snow Falling On A Yellow Cedar-

Apologies for the appropriation from David Guterson’s novel, Snow Falling on Cedars, but his suggestive title was roughly what I was attempting with this styling: When there’s enough of it, snow is heavy, and transforms that beneath it. 

This is a Yellow Cedar, Cupressus nootkatensis; a good sized tree, nearly 3′ across.

The branches were long and flexible and there was no trouble maneuvering them. Yellow Cedar is exceedingly limber, almost as flexible as Mountain Hemlock.

This tree was collected by our friend Anton Nijhuis of British Columbia, Canada. Enjoy the photo essay-

Yellow Cedar, rough front
Right side
Left side

Our front / inclination choice, before work
Using the ‘revealing secrets’ carving technique of pulling fibers, with hand tools
Lime sulfur follows carving; we used 1 part lime sulfur / 2 parts water for this one
Some overly long branches were unnecessary in our design and were cut off
Many guy wires were used to compact the design—our ‘faux snow’
Here’s the finished tree. 32″ / 81cm W x 24″ / 61cm H. My guiding intention was to suggest the heavy weight of snow. Usually bonsai have a 45 degree slope on the sides, which represents a mildish environment. Here I thought much less, like 30 degrees, suggested a more weighty environment. I went for simplicity in this design: An off-center cross, composed of a snow-condensed horizontal foliage mass to the left balancing an active tangle of substantial deadwood rising to the right. 

To see how the foliage refines over time, try this other Yellow Cedar post.

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  1. Graham says:

    A great transformation, what are your thoughts on a pot/container?

    • crataegus says:

      I’m still nibbling on that idea. The root mass is high in the back, so I’m thinking some sort of slab-mound with the forward deadwood cascading a bit. Maybe.

  2. crataegus says:

    Incidentally….our student for this session, Maciek, said that the snarl of wood on top was like the head of Cthulhu, the monster from H. P. Lovecraft’s horror novels. I was blissfully unaware of this reference. Was.

  3. mtgilboa says:


    This is reminiscent of the Nick Lenz eastern cedar now in the Federal Way collection. Although I think they have changed the original design too much.

  4. Jesse Strong says:

    Beauty! Love it. Man, Anthon comes across the most spectacular trees. Sadly he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. I’d confidently say that I’ve spoken to more Americans that know who Anthon is than Canadians. He does like to keep a low profile, undoubtedly … but I think it’s quite sad that many bonsai enthusiasts in his own country are unaware of his contribution to North American bonsai.

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