Very Large Mtn. Hemlock Clump-

I am glad so many people are coming round to Hemlocks, and seeing these fantastic results it is easy to see the advantages of the species. Well done

Michael Hagedorn

This is one of those trees I’ve had in my yard a long time, and never done a follow-up post about. For one thing, it’s so large it’s hard to photograph. For another, I just didn’t get around to it.

All of the trunks come from one base; it’s one tree. The snows are so heavy where it came from that the young branches were brought down, and those branches later grew upwards and are now the trunks that create the clump.

This was the tree that started all my madness around finding new solutions for the slab question. Ironically, it’s the last tree I’ve put on a slab. This hemlock sat on a plywood slab for years, with me just dreaming about it, while completing other slab experiments. So, it benefited from other tree’s mistakes. Or my mistakes with them, I should say. Finally in 2014 it went onto…

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Deciding to remove a literati pine branch

Pine beforeI was recently tidying up a Scots Pine literati that I have a great fondness for and have been working on for many years on and off. The trunk has some lovely bark on the lower section and just enough movement to make it of interest. When I was given this tree it had already grown a little tall and leggy and would never be any good as a normal informal upright – the height suggested literati. The image on the left is how the tree looked after tidying up the old needles and a little light wiring to keep the shape of the pads.

Pine potential

To make this work the foliage has to be very light and after a very long hard look at this tree I wanted to see what it might be like without the lower branch. This seemed to be an anchor

to what should be a tall elegant tree reaching up for the heavens. Rather than commit it is always sensible to try to understand what the tree would look like without the branch. A white cloth against the white background gives an impression:

Pine after removal

The remaining pads have a consistency to them, the apex needing a little more development but clearly having the dome in the right place to link the other three. This gave me enoughconfidence that my initial hunch was correct and so the branch was removed. However it was kept on as a jin to suggest age and to point to the empty space emphasizing the floating feeling of the retained foliage.


One feature of note during this process of bark stripping was on one of the small branch stubs where the wire had clearly been bitten in the bark over the last year of growth, however when stripping the underlying wood as part of the jin it was revealed that the wood had not been effected. The soft tissue damage had not translated to the wood. When you think about it the wire can never actual cut into the wood itself but it is the growth around the wire which causes it to appear to bite in. If this is left for more than one growth season the new layer of cells added annually to the wood will eventually not have enough room and so the wire will affect the underlying wood. It is therefore perfectly possible that once the wire is removed the growth of the bark in the following year will start to normalise and the wire marks would slowly grow out. This is why wire marks are not as serious as they appear on thick barked species.


Styling a Windswept Larch

In a previous essay I made reference to an unconvincing windswept tree. Several people have asked if I could provide some more information about what a convincing windswept Bonsai would actually look like, so to help visualize. I have recently worked on a Larch with this question in mind. Instead of making a half-hearted attempt and failing to provide the answer I decided to go the whole way and reproduce something akin to a hawthorn I photographed on top of Dartmoor.IMG_9279

For those who don’t know Dartmoor it is where the winds first hit land after crossing the Atlantic Ocean – so pretty windy. Here’s the tree:

Notable features here include:

  • Very few verticals even the main stem despite obvious attempts by new shoots to grow upwards
  • Long extended horizontal branches
  • Every live branch tip is pointing to the leeward side as tips the other side get battered by the wind
  • The foliage only really survives where it is sheltered by other smaller twigs above it, creating a modicum of shelter
  • Overall an incredibly dynamic, but consistent image

For this demonstration I picked a Larch that already suggested a leaning image, due to the angle of its roots


This was a healthy tree recently collected with a good fibrous root system so I feel confident giving it a fairly dramatic styling at this stage.

The first step was a simple removal of any dead or damaged shots to clean up the tree, this made no overall change to the tree and I now had a clean slate to work with.

I decided to pull the trunk further downwards closer to the horizontal, I experimented with a gentle bend but decided that this would not really be possible so opted instead for pulling the whole trunk and securing underneath the pot, effecting an invisible change but putting the tree well on the way.

I removed any branches that were now obviously out of line with the idea of the direction of the blowing wind, one major branch that many would have been afraid to lose but fundamentally wrong for this tree. I highlight the branch:

Then came the always time-consuming but enjoyable task of wiring every branch that was not growing in the desired direction – for such a fundamental image overhaul this was in fact every single twig. This also gave the opportunity to add little twists and direction changes in the smaller branches to give an increased impression of the tree loosing shoots and having to regrow. So we end up with this after the styling


The lower branches will need to strengthen and some more will need to be removed from the canopy once shoots develop in the spring. However having a longer thin branch shows that the tree is able to develop a branch in this spot sheltered by its own branches and I will be careful not to allow them to thicken too much and dominate the image.

I am also undecided about the tiny jins which, now I look at the photo, add nothing of value to the image, instead I will replace them in a year or two with a jin of one of the external branches and at that time I may also add a small shari to the windward side of the trunk.

I will then try to find a suitable pot… but that will be a story for another day