December 4, 2011

Maine Gardener: Good things, small packages: Bonsai


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At O’Donal’s, Dave Remington examines a tropical bonsai. The tropical type is meant for indoor use.

Tom Atwell photo

The best way to tell if bonsai needs watering is to feel the soil. The soil should not be allowed to dry out. In the heat of summer. outdoor bonsai might have to be watered daily.

When they are dormant, Remington will water them about once a month. With tropical bonsai, he will use a humidity tray during winter.

Remington usually offers a couple of bonsai classes at O'Donal's each year, usually one just before Christmas -- although this year's has not been scheduled yet -- and another one in April.

O'Donal's sells bonsai starter kits for about $50, Remington said, but the larger bonsai that I saw for sale listed at about $140. The bonsai trays go about $40 each by themselves.

Remington learned to care for bonsai mostly by reading books and experimenting. He went to work at O'Donal's about 10 years ago after studying at the Soils and Plants program at Southern Maine Community College.

At that time, Arthur Davis had closed his bonsai business in Woolwich, so there wasn't a bonsai specialist in the area. Remington approached O'Donal's then-president about starting a bonsai program in addition to his other duties at the nursery. She approved the program, and the business has been going steady ever since.

Since Remington started, Colin Lewis -- who used to work in Massachusetts -- has opened a bonsai business in the Kennebunks. Entwood Bonsai in Burnham has been in the bonsai business since the mid-1990s.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth, and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:


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