Mountain Hemlock

grouper52

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Good lighting tonight, thought I'd get a quick shot of this guy I was working on yesterday. A shot from three years ago is included as well, showing the challenge these trees present, with foliage way out on bare branches and no chance of back budding. He's getting in the ball park this season, good enough for a picture. Enjoy.
 

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chappy56

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Very nice. Was this one collected?
 

Mark59

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Damn that's a nice looking tree! Phenomenal job of styling as well. I really like what you've done with this. Thanks for posting it.
 

grouper52

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Thanks, guys. That's a tree Dan Robinson collected, probably five or more years ago, from around the Campbell River area on Vancouver Island, BC. Probably 200-300 years old or so. Stands about 2' tall.
 

amkhalid

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Beautiful tree again grouper... I love hemlocks. We have some pretty good stuff up here in Canada, eh? :)

So mountain hemlocks don't backbud well? Same problem with Eastern Hemlock... I have one and it refuses to backbud. Fortunately it takes one-point grafts quite well.
 

Yamadori

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Grouper,
This is great tree development. I kept clicking back and forth between the images to study each branch change. You have really tightened the foliage and gave character and interest to the tree. It looks so much more robust now. The pot change is nice too.
 

grouper52

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Thanks for your kind words, amkhalid and Yamadori. The idea of grafting is intriguing - I'll have to experiment with it on these trees. Fortunately, the branches are very limber, and the bending in to foreshorten them has the advantage of also creating the sort of gnarly branches seen on old trees. But the down side is that they don't hold the bend easily, and the wire often cannot be left on long because these trees will almost overnight develop a burst of growth along some little branch segment, with significant scarring. Sometimes the scarring looks good after a few years, but sometimes not. :( Also, depending how much work one wants to undertake, every last little branchlet could (should?) be wired, as they all grow straight and long - I did that the first year after I gave up trying to induce back budding, and I don't think I'll have the gumption to go through that again every year or two! But yes, they are great trees and fun to work with. Unfortunately, they cannot take warm nights - even as nearby to the south as Portland they tend to fail for this reason, so we are fortunate to have them grow well here.
 

amkhalid

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Just for reference, this is the type of graft I do on my hemlock. One-point aka in-arch graft.

Take a lanky branch, kink it, jam the joint into a drilled hole. I have had very high success with this with 1-2 year old branches. Kind of a hybrid between a thread graft and an approach graft.

100_1082.jpg

E. hemlock forms callus tissue at an incredible rate, give the slow growth of the species, so it girdles the donor branch pretty quickly. My friend even told me a story of how his E. hemlock callused over a jin!

Cheers, keep posting the the great trees!
 

kytombonsai

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Very nice tree. I would wish I could grow them in Northern Ky. Is that the problem, they can't take warm nights? I talked to Dan Robinson about them the last time he was in Cincinnati and he said that he didn't know of anyone growing them this far south so he advised against purchasing one. If anyone has any mountain hemlock in Zone 5 or 6 let me know how they are doing.

Tom
 

grouper52

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Thanks, amkhalid. I have done that with other species, and you are right - with the way these things suddenly grow around wire left on too long it should work very well. Thanks!

kytombonsai, I think Dan is right, and certainly much more an expert on these trees (actually, ALL trees! :) ) than I am. There are many trees we can't grow here, but some of the best types do very well.
 

october

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Hello grouper52.........The tree is absolutely magnificent.. You have done very well listening to your own instincts about what the tree wants to become.. I like the natural look of this tree very much. Also, the unusual nebari makes this tree a visually stunning piece. This tree speaks to the viewer....Probably one of the nicest pieces I have seen in a while...

Rob
 

grouper52

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Hello grouper52.........The tree is absolutely magnificent.. You have done very well listening to your own instincts about what the tree wants to become.. I like the natural look of this tree very much. Also, the unusual nebari makes this tree a visually stunning piece. This tree speaks to the viewer....Probably one of the nicest pieces I have seen in a while...

Rob

Rob, thanks for your very kind words. They're a fun but challenging species - this one has taught me a great deal about itself, it's brethren, and all trees. Can't ask for more than that!

Will
 

grouper52

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Here's a small update. Nothing amjor, but the trimming of the last several years has resulted in very dense foliage - a little too dense, so I cleaned out and refined the lower foliafge pads today, as well as placing them better. I plan to go through the entire remaining foliage soon and do the same thing.

The surface root is just peeking out now - I may expose it a bit more.

Enjoy.
 

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Jason

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Hello grouper. Beautiful tree. I love what you have done with the foliage pads. That's quite a transition. I have one of these and struggle with the same issues. Could you possibly describe for me what you have done to refine your pads and make them appear closer to the trunkline? Is it just a matter of back bending to reduce the perceived distance from the trunk to the pads? How do you trim yours? Whats your process? Do people actually get them to back bud? I just thought it didn't happen.
 

fore

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Grouper52, How long does it take for the branch to set after wiring and rewiring if you have to remove the wire due to the wire scarring? I have a Canadian Hemlock in the ground right now, but haven't wired it yet so I'm curious. Thanks!
 

grouper52

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Hi Jason & fore.

Mountain hemlocks - beautiful trees, but lots of challenges. You know the trendency, Jason: long, bare main branches, long bare secondary branches, and long bare twiglets sticking out at sort of right angles with about 3-4 years of needles on the ends. On top of that, although they bend easily, they take forever to set, and can seem to have set, only to bend back (especially phototropically) to almost their previous position over many weeks. AND - the final straw - the wire can look fine forever, then one day you look closely at a section you didn't inspect for a couple of weeks and suddenly one section of the bark has hypertrophied amazingly, growing all over the wire, leaving hideous, unhealing, bulging scars that may take decades (I'm told) to become incorporated by the VERY slowly thickening branches. Fore, I don't know if this also applies to Western and Canadian hemlocks, but on these it is very capricious, and happens suddenly with no warning.

The coup de grace: They don't back bud. Ever, as far as I know.

I've had this tree in training for 5-6 years, and most of the work was done in the first several years. I wired and re-wired the branches to bend them back in, using the gnarliness to visually fore-shorten their appearance. The ones too hopelessly long I jinned. I wired every primary and secondary branch this way, and the first year or three I did it to ALL the little twiglets as well (except the ones I cleared out). I am STILL wiring - just guy wires at the moment, Photoshopped out in the photo :D - the swooping left branches, which STILL have an enormous tendency to bend back up towards the light, but the wire is otherwise off the tree at this point.

I apply typical conifer trimming to create the foliar density: cutting each branchlet back, or at least pinching the bud, every year or two. The current fullness is due to benign neglect for the past year in this regard.

Overall, the trajectory, as you might expect, is less work over time. I've always these trees, so they are worth it, but this was one of the more straggly ones that I started with, and it taught me a lot, and is turning out to be well worth the effort.

For anyone interested in trying one of these, though, they simply will not live anywhere where the summer nights don't stay consistently at a certain degree of coolness: Pacific Northwest down just barely down to Portland seems to be the extent of their range in captivity. The rest of the country either too dry or too muggy in the summer.
 

fore

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Thank You Grouper52, very useful information! Much appreciated!
Chris
 

Jason

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Thanks for the reply, Will. Lots of useful information. I'm glad someone else finds these guys challenging. I swear if you let hemlocks go there own way you could have a 24 inch tree with 6 foot long branches and growth on just the tips. Regarding their geographical range, I collected one from the Olympics (with a permit) when I lived in Poulsbo (about 5 miles north of you). It lives about 100 miles south of Portland now and is growing strong. I have seen it get scorched by the sun but it bounces back and hasn't slowed down any.
 

grouper52

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Thanks for the reply, Will. Lots of useful information. I'm glad someone else finds these guys challenging. I swear if you let hemlocks go there own way you could have a 24 inch tree with 6 foot long branches and growth on just the tips. Regarding their geographical range, I collected one from the Olympics (with a permit) when I lived in Poulsbo (about 5 miles north of you). It lives about 100 miles south of Portland now and is growing strong. I have seen it get scorched by the sun but it bounces back and hasn't slowed down any.

Interesting to hear you have one living south of Portland, Jason - it goes against what I've heard, but you can't argue with success! Have you posted that bad boy here? I'd love to have a look at it: always great trees.
 

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