A Two-tiered Hemlock Presentation-

This Hemlock is a yard favorite of mine. Collected by the great Anton Nijhuis, the snaky set of trunks made me so snake-curious I had to buy it.

We “potted” this Hemlock last week onto a stepped slab thingy. Enjoy the photo essay!


This is where we began in 2020…with a raw, unstyled tree.


In 2023 we had a styled Mountain Hemlock, rewired once, and grown in this box for three years. The boards under the right side are for the styling / potting inclination.


Once again we turned to Corian as a slab material. Corian has grown on me as a rock substitute for slabs. If you want to get inventive, it’s much easier to work with than rock. Doesn’t chip and isn’t brittle. Cuts, polishes, and drills easily.


My collaborator Erich Raudebaugh test driving the construction. Erich has yet to think I’m nuts. As far as I know.


The bottom—clearly printed for use in bonsai “THIS SIDE DOWN”. Most countertop installers will know this already.


The thinking behind this was a combination of things. Firstly, the broken structures we see in sedimentary rock inspired the second level, and secondly, the void beneath the second level lofts the tree to enhance the windswept feel. I hoped both would add air and movement to the composition.


Prepping the root ball for attachment on the slab thingy.


Final tweaks before attaching. For these long-term projects that remain indefinitely attached I prefer plastic-wrapped steel wire. Masaki and Erich assist.


Our muck about to be mixed: Sphagnum moss (unsifted), akadama fines, and cooked corn starch. Roughly 1/3 of each.


Mucking mostly complete. The muck formed the exterior walls behind which we poured our soil media.


Closeup of slab thingy. The metal brace hidden from this view. Erich cut the slab edges at a nifty 15 degree angle and then polished it with successive finer sandpapers until it was glossy. In retrospect I don’t think we needed to polish it to suggest rock. This has a hint of glassy obsidian.


20 degrees to the right, with a view of the metal brace Erich welded.


And at day’s end. A lot of these off-the-wall presentations can feel cold and clinical out of the gates. The right angle is to me too harsh at the moment but I expect when moss and lichen colonize the muck it will soften and begin to meld with the tree. We shall see. Other oddball compositions which seemed too harsh and edgy at first did that. I will at any rate revisit this one in another post down the road.

For notes about the first styling of this tree, try: Windy Mountain Hemlock Styling

🤞Sign up for the blog!

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


  1. Ray says:

    Excellent construction and imagination👍.
    Do you grate the sphagnum or just pull it apart to mix in.
    Can’t wait to see the moss and lichen take hold and of course the evolving styling
    Thanks Michael and team

  2. Ayla Baha says:

    Hi Michael! Wow, what a beautiful tree! It does indeed ‘recalls a hydra’. Didn’t know about Anton Nijhuis as a collector. Sounds like he collects some wonderful trees. I also love the slab you, Eric and Masaki created. What a wonderful tip to use Corian as a slab material! And, it does hint of glassy obsidian. Impressive work! Really looking forward to seeing this creation in person. Thank you, Ayla

  3. James says:

    Great stuff once again , how do you inoculate the moss and lichen? In the mix or will it just be in the air in your yard. Is there anything about the corn starch that is inviting for moss and lichen to use as a food source.

    • crataegus says:

      True, as the corn starch breaks down it will be food for the moss. The lichen gets its food mostly through the algae in the fungus ‘leaf’. But as for inoculation, we just grind some up over a soil screen and add it to the mix before applying on the plant.

  4. Alex Deruiter says:

    Hey there, do you buy your coria locally? I can’t seem to find it anywhere near me and I’m not having much luck finding and online retailer that carries the size I need (or that offers the service of cutting to size). If not, no biggie. Figured it’s worth asking, at least. 🙂

    Thanks and take care!

Leave a Reply