“The Shogun”



This is a genetic dwarf Scots Pine Pinus Sylvesteris trained in the Formal upright or Chokkan style.

This tree was originally thought to be of the variety “Beauvronensis” but this is now in doubt. But we do know it is a genetic dwarf variety of Scots Pine grafted on to ‘type’ Scots Pine root stock.

This tree was originally owned and styled by Dan Barton who gave it the name of the “Shogun”. Dan obtained the tree from Peter Chan of Herons Bonsai Nursery in Surrey many years ago, and he estimates that the tree is somewhere around 28 – 32 years old.

Dan sold this tree several years ago because as he said “it was getting too big, and he was not getting any younger”.

When the new owner acquired the tree, the only work carried out was to repot the tree into a specially commissioned pot by Gordon Duffet. The tree was then left to gain vigour.

This is the tree as it looked before I started my work to bring some order back into its shape. Heavy branches are hanging down and young growth is reaching up for the light. But the tree is now strong and ready for my work.


This image gives some idea of the size of the tree as I work on shaping the smaller branches. As you can now see it is not a shohin.


This is the “Shogun” after my first work on the tree. There is still a long way to go to bring this tree up to exhibition level.

My work was not to do a major restyle of the tree, but simply to return the tree back on to its original path, and to realise Dan’s vision for the tree. That was to produce a classical Japanese Formal Upright, with a Scots Pine. The only change I have made is to emphasise the trees width rather than have a taller image.

The first part of my work was simply to remove the green algae growing on the trunk and primary branches. This had to be done carefully so as not to remove any of the beautiful flaky bark. I completely covered the pot with cling film to protect the roots of the tree. Then I gently scrubbed the tree from top to bottom with a soft toothbrush and water.

My next work was to re-structure the foliage pads of the tree. Genetic dwarf Scots Pines are multi budded, and left to their own devises they can soon get out of proportion. By this, I mean over thickening of the smaller branches due to excessive bud growth in one area causing the area to swell. Because they can produce a profusion of buds in one area, it is important that most buds are rubbed out as they appear, thus reducing scaring. Tertiary branches are also selectively thinned out otherwise again over thickening of the branches will occur. So unwanted buds are removed and only selected tertiary and secondary branches are left. This keeps the branch structure open to light, and ensures taper out from the trunk along the branches to the branch tips. In effect this work is horticultural and aesthetic. Because this tree had been left to grow for many years unchecked, it was necessary for me to also remove quite a few bigger branches to open up the pads which were now too congested. Many branches were growing into each other. Then after I was sure of my branch selection, I simply had to remove second and third year needles in areas of vigour and in a few places where the branches were not so strong because of light deprivation, I removed only the three year old needles. This has the double benefit of making the tree release bud producing auxins so that we will get back budding. This helped now because the pads can receive light. But it also makes wiring to the tips easier, giving me total control of the design as I shape the foliage pads.

In the final image you can see that order has been achieved. With the trees lines now opened up, the tree should develop much better with air and light able to pass through its branches.

The trunk has slight inverse taper on the right as you look at the tree. Should my client wish, we can try to correct this little problem in the future. But for me it is more important to look at how the tree succeeds.


“The Shogun” at the Noelanders Trophy 2008.

Photo courtesy of Willy Evenepoel, Belgium Bonsai Association.