Twin-Trunk Hemlock on Slab: Rework

This Mountain Hemlock was the first tree I put on a nylon slab, back in 2012. We reworked it this week.

Before work, January 2023. This composition was put together 11 years ago.

After the initial round of work. The right side of this composition has felt foliage-heavy the last few years. The skinny trunks don’t visually support that.

We were considering options of how to lighten the foliage mass on the right to match the airy, left side, when we had a distinguished visitor: Daisaku Nomoto from Japan. He was in town teaching at the new Shohin School here in Portland, headed by Andrew Robson and Jonas Dupuich.

I asked Daisaku what he would do. (This technique I can’t recommend highly enough: when in doubt, wait for a Distinguished Visitor to arrive, who will make the decision for you.) Daisaku recommended removing a couple pads and reducing others, to allow for the airspace that the left side had.

Carmen (my apprentice) and I tweaking the tree for balance. Often when you “think” you’re done, it’s a good time for a break. Step back. Consult a Distinguished Visitor, should any be present. Take photograph. Write some letters. Chase the cat. And then return with renewed purpose, fresh eyes, and covered in cat fur for final tweaks.

The last two photos are correctional in another sense, too. Several recent comments suggested they didn’t believe I existed, having not seen me in recent photos. These last two prove I was around this week, at least. Usually I’m behind the camera…

After the rework. Our choices of branches to remove and others to thin allow for sneak peeks at the right-side trunk. This thinning also reduces the heaviness on that side. Skinny-trunked trees often get overburdened by foliage density. This lightening brings the attention back to the trunks.

When the Hemlock grows out in the spring it should return to “about right” density. This is a tad thin for show. But the thinning in the fall or winter sets the tree up with space to grow.

For the 2012 creation of this composition please see Mountain Hemlock on Levitated Nylon Board.

Bulletin Board January 2023

  • For those who have signed up to be on “The List”—those waiting for one of the Chojubai bonsai we’re making here—good news: We’ve started to sell them. About six a year, admittedly not a lot, are being potted up and offered to the ever-growing list of Chojubai fanatics. I will send the link to the hidden “Chojubai Humane Society: Up for Adoption” website (images, backstory, favorite superhero, etc.) as I work my way down the list. Thanks for your patience!
  • A big thank you for all who continue to read blogs! Dinosaurs have their place. Apparently.


  1. Ray says:

    Thanks Michael for this update. Always loved this composition . It’s always nice to get another bonsai pros suggestions when one is stuck in a quandary. Thanks to Bob and Mel we can assess trees when restyling and getting ready to show trees.

  2. Jim Horton says:

    I’ll have to start putting some coin aside, in the hopes that my name has made it onto the hallowed chojubai list!

  3. Ayla Baha says:

    Great post and photos! How does one get on the Chojubai bonsai waiting list, Michael or Carmen?

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