RAF Dwarf Scots Pine Bonsai Development

Pinus sylvestris ‘R.A.F.’

 This tree has a long history, starting from a select young, pencil size seedling in the early 1970s. Richard A. Fenicchia was the horticulturist for the Monroe County Parks Department in Rochester, New York. He was well known for his hybridization of Lilacs, Azaleas and other woody plants. He selected a group of dwarf Scots pines and named them R.A.F Dwarf Scots pines.

I was fortunate to purchase many of the young seedlings and they were all completely container grown. This select group of pines had short straight needles and had the characteristic to produced buds on the old wood of the inner branching. Many of these young seedling were used for workshops and sold to students. A couple of the better specimens are described in my newest book Classical Bonsai Art. This bonsai, and another finer specimen were not included in the book because of space restrictions. The largest RAF Dwarf Scots pine was also displayed in the 40th Upstate New York Bonsai Exhibit and received the “Member’s Choice Award” honoring Yuji Yoshimura.


A larger RAF Dwarf Scots pine which received the 2013 Member’s Choice Award at the 40th Upstate New York Bonsai Exhibition. This is not the bonsai which will be displayed. 

The RAF Dwarf Scots pine bonsai to be displayed was purchased from Mr. Fenicchia in the early 1970s and was completely trained in a bonsai container. As the tree grew in size larger containers were used. Although this is a slow developmental process, fine bonsai can be created. Older photos cannot be located and were probably destroyed in our home/office fire in 2009.



May 2006 before shaping and repotting.



May 2006 after shaping and repotting.

By 2006 the bonsai suddenly began to develop a heavy trunk. In May 2006 the tree was thinned out, wired and transplanted into a rectangular container in a slanting style. It was continually pinched each spring. Like other species the entire tree cannot be pinched at one time. Growth vigor is different throughout the tree. The top is generally more vigorous than the lower inner branches. Therefore it takes about a week of dedicated pinching to complete a bonsai.



December 2007.

In 2009 I changed the style of this RAF Dwarf Scots pine from slanting to informal upright style. After transplanting and repositioning the tree in the same container guy wires were used to lower the first right branch into a horizontal position. The tree was annually pinched each April and May.

In 2012 I needed the rectangular container for another bonsai so I “borrowed” it and repotted the bonsai into an oval container which was softer and better suited for the new style. The rectangular container was in better harmony with the slanting style, but a bit too rigid and formal for my taste for this informal upright style bonsai.



May 2009 before transplanting.


May 2009 after transplanting to change trunk angle.


May 2009 after wiring and shaping.

The bonsai continued to become bushy from the multiple buds. In April 2013 I asked one of my long time skilled and talented student, Alan Adair, if he would like to wire this bonsai. He has an artistic background and professionally paints signs. Although he is well known for collecting and training larch, he is an excellent wirer.



April 2013 before refinement.


Alan Adair wiring bonsai.

Together we discussed the refinement of this RAF Dwarf Scots pine and several larger branches were pruned and the main right branch was lowered using a chisel and small stone to hold the opening apart. As Alan wired, we carefully positioned the branching and thinned out the foliage. Areas were left for the opening new buds. Approximately three full days were spent refining and wiring this bonsai.



April 2013 after refinement.

It was first displayed in the 40th Upstate New York Bonsai Exhibition in May 2013. By June the new needles were opening nicely and the tree was shown in my 50th Anniversary Bonsai display at the International Bonsai Colloquium. The new growth was developing nicely, but by now in early August there are too many needles and the tree must be thinned out.



May 2013 at the Upstate New York Bonsai Exhibition.


May 2013 formal display in Upstate New York Bonsai Exhibition.


June 2013 formal display at the 50th Anniversary Bonsai Display at the International Bonsai Colloquium.

Considerable time was taken to prepare an interesting soil surface of different moss species for the Upstate New York Bonsai Exhibition. I’ve been careful watering all spring and summer so the soil surface was not disturbed. As I watered daily, an occasional weed was removed and if I saw an interesting section of moss on another tree, I collected it and carefully positioned it on the soil surface. The container and display table must of course be cleaned.



August 2013 before final preparation for Midwest Bonsai Show display.

Alan and I are now thinning out the excess needles in preparation for display in the professional division of the Midwest Bonsai Show as well as for the ABS Learning Symposium exhibit in September. Next the best display table, accessory and short wooden slab must be selected and cleaned for my display. I’m not certain how much area I will have for a hanging scroll, so I’ll bring one, just in case. I may even bring another display table of a different size as well.

2 thoughts on “RAF Dwarf Scots Pine Bonsai Development

  1. Pingback: Bill Valavanis Inducted into the Bonsai Hall of Fame | Bonsai Bark

  2. Pingback: Bill Valavanis Inducted into the Bonsai Hall of Fame – BonsaiPorn

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