Rant on ignorant public/nurseries

sautesmomFebruary 4, 2012

While I am happy to see any homeowners in suburbia buying fruit trees, I just have to rant about the newest nursery practice and the public who are fooled by it.

My favorite local nursery has sold their Dave Wilson bare-root trees for $19 every January for several years now. For convenience sake, they have always put them in fiber pots filled with potting soil, and then after bare-root season, the trees stay in their pots and are sold for $30-40.

Well, this year they have decided to put some of them in small pots, and others in the next size pots. They are pricing the small ones at $30 and the larger pots at $40-$60!!! Mind you, these are all new bare root trees. I can only assume the trees which were put into the larger pots weren't root pruned as badly as the ones put into the small pots. Last year, all these trees would have been $19 in January. I am sure Joe Public thinks with the $50 ones you get "more tree" because it's in a bigger pot than you do if you bought a $30 tree, even though they are the same variety and were all delivered at the same time.

While I know small nurseries are struggling, and I truly want to keep this nursery around, it just seems such a scam to me to charge 3 times more this year than last simply because when they got them from Dave Wilson in January, the bare-root trees were put into a pot 2 inches wider.

Other nurseries around here either haven't raised their prices at all, or are charging a dollar or two more for bare-root trees, so we can't blame the wholesaler!

Carla in Sac

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Noogy(6 sw mi)

Got money...will burn it. Good for the nurseries. Maybe they'll water it!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 6:43AM
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I hear you. Local nursery here charges $70-$90 for the very same fruit tree you can pick up for $25 at the big box. I wish I could say the difference was how they care for it, but not so much because I've seen their stuff pretty badly neglected as well. This outfit's game the past few years has been price it high so they can have never-ending, progressive sales during the year -- gets cheaper and cheaper through the season, so that by Oct, they are deeply discounting to get rid of stuff -- that's when I shop there.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 7:12AM
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The nurseries around here sell vast quantities of fruit trees, bushes, cane plants, and vines of selections that cannot grow here at all. I would guess that over half of what many nurseries sell in fruiting plants are doomed from the very onset. And a lot of the rest are doomed because they take too much care (e.g., peaches). Big box stores are the worst but local nurseries that should know better (and some do) do it just the same. The gardening business is brim full with know-nothings and cheats (and don't even get me started on the vastly overpriced plant-care gimmicks for sale in the trade, not a few outright goofy).

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 10:02AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

What happened to the old nursery practice of heeling in bare-root fruit trees in wet sand in a shady outdoor part of the nursery? I am talking California nurseries here, as is Carla. The roots were not compromised, and the trees were sold at bare-root prices, along with a plastic bag to cover the roots to prevent their drying out before you got home. Who wants a container with the roots crammed in whatever the nursery uses for potting soil, that you are going to throw away when you get home, especially when you are charged three times its value. Al

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 10:13AM
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I have not seen a bareroot tree here in a regular nursery in a long, long time, except for large Sabal palms. Also except for some larger palms it's getting pretty rare to see a balled-and-burlaped tree.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 10:21AM
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We have nursery that in the spring charges over $40.00 for a two year old peach. Those that are not sold are offered for $19.99 per tree at the end of the summer/ early fall and are infested with borers! These trees are in five gallon pots. Great deal?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 10:22AM
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You do not save by getting an older tree, one year whips, well healed with a couple of feet of growth of scion are the best deal, cause you get the most roots/top ratio.
The older trees are severely butchered at the root end. Yes, you get a big pot full of dirt, but the older the tree, the less well it will transplant.
Best to get them heeled in sawdust, one or two year old trees at a local nursery, but the 'big box' outlets cannot do that.
For them it is all about glossy packaging and mass sales of mediocre quality plants, at a cut rate price.
You get what you pay for.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 3:47PM
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brian_zn_5_ks(N.E. Kansas)

Well, I guess I am turning into an old guy. Didn't expect it to happen, but apparently there's no stopping it...

We sell our bare root trees straight out of the mulch bed for $29.99, with that you get a trashbag to take 'em home in, and I do a little root pruning cleanup, and shape the tops. What doesn't sell early goes into 7 gallons and those are priced at $50.

This is what I learned 40 years ago, and nobody has suggested a better way to me in the years since. (Well, they used to be a lot cheaper...)

So - two comments on the rant:

Maybe, just maybe the more expensive larger container trees were overwintered. I'm just saying. The nursery has time and materials invested, and that justifies a higher price. Or, maybe the guy really is taking advantage of customer ignorance, and altho that's not a crime, it is a shabby way of doing business.

Then too, our industry has been so successful at the promotion of container nursery stock that the general public has no idea that you can even do bare root planting. If the tree ain't in a pot, lots of folks don't want it.

Well, that's just one more thing I have to teach my customers. Unfortunately, they usually come to me for lessons after they've visited the box stores...

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 5:06PM
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If only things were that optimistic--no, these are not last year's trees (the few that are left are actually a few sections over, with their faded $30 tags from last year still on them)
And since I am FTO (Fruit Tree Obsessed) and every summer I also regularly check out this nursery's newest flowers and other rare plants, I have practically memorized their stock. Plus I wait every year to see what new Dave Wilson trees all the big nurseries are carrying when bare root season starts. Until this, I had the greatest respect for this nursery--they have beautiful and unusal offerings and a huge amount of stock.

And again, I am not complaining about different caliper or older trees being different prices, I am ranting on these being the same variety and size of trees, just put into different pots for more money. (i.e. both Elberta peaches shipped this year with a 5/8 tag on them) And it really bugs me that very few shoppers are aware that a bigger tree pot does not mean you are getting a better value! People these days will believe anything.

I guess I'm just turning into the female version of Andy Rooney. :) [My rant for next week--the commercial claiming "your body doesn't know the difference" between cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup (except for the fact that I get really sick when I consume HF corn syrup!)]

Hey you kids--get away from my mulberry tree!!

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 1:25AM
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myk1(5 IL)

It's not so much the stupid businesses as it is the stupid public. Look at how many times you hear "you get what you pay for". Of course someone is going to step up and part those fools from their money.
So yeah you order 2 trees, put one in a big pot and charge a premium for it because the idiot customers are going to buy the more expensive one.

I saw similar happen in my mother's cactus shop. She potted a succulent and had a 25 cent price for the pot, you basically got a free plant. Nobody would buy it until one day she put $1 on it. Instantly sold.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 10:50AM
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harveyhorses(7 Midlothian Va)

Harry and Harriet homeowner do not want to see those poor bare roots. I was looked at like I had three heads when I asked at the local greenhouse if they would have any bare root trees available. Oh no m'am all of ours come in pots.
So how are your mullberrys doing?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 2:55PM
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It really is sad, but we run into the same problem ourselves with a friend of mine that makes movie replica hockey masks for ebay.

Good 1/8th inch thick hard plastic, leather straps, aged nickle plating buckles, they're just absolutely exceptional pieces. And cheap as all get out to make. We can get entire sheets of the plastic from a local supplier for about $50 and vacuform/cut dozens of masks from one sheet. The leather straps come premade from a local leather supply store for pennies each. There might honestly be $5 of materials in them, and maybe an hour's worth of work to put them all together and get them properly aged and painted.

So he put them on ebay for a reasonable price based on materials and his labor. Couldn't sell them to save his freaking life. Turns out people refused to buy them because they were too cheap. He doubled the price on them, and started selling them faster than he could make them. Same listing, same photos, just at double the price.

People. Are. Stupid.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 9:48AM
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I read once, as a news story maybe two decades or so ago, that Rolls Royce car sales had been lagging so they greatly jumped the price and publicized the exorbitant new price. The cars sales blossomed. In that case it was probably explained by conspicuous consumption.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 2:33PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

I'm not quite so severe on people who automatically assume higher price=higher quality. So many times in our experience that seems to be true, perhaps even most of the time.

Last Spring, I bought a nice pair of Japanese made ARS hand pruners that were more than $50 bucks. The steel is very hard (Japanese make very high quality steel) and even after one season of heavy use, they don't need sharpening. This is after trying lots of cheap pruners that didn't last long.

My son just bought a go kart. We found one with a Honda engine and perhaps had to pay a little more as a result, but Honda engines will go about 10X longer than the cheap disposable engines like Tecumseh, plus their quieter and more fuel efficient.

Relating it to fruit, I think most would agree the cheapest fruit (generally available at the grocery store) is generally of the poorest quality. Fruit from a specialized market (say from Harry and David) is generally much higher quality and priced accordingly (I'm not saying no one ever got a bad batch of fruit from Harry and David, just using them as an example their quality is generally much better than the grocer.)

Of course there are examples were higher price doesn't translate to higher quality, but there are so many experiences to the contrary, where the proverb, "you get what you pay for" is true, it conditions us to rely on it when we are placed in circumstances where we don't have much expertise.

Of course the best approach is to be an informed buyer, which is what I think a lot of folks who posted are saying.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 5:11PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Carla, I know, sigh... And Al, I remember all the fruit trees heeled into wet sand, my gosh, that seems like eons ago. Why are nurseries doing this? Because they're starving. I had a long talk with one of our very nice local nursery centers here in Vista - Ganter's Nursery. Manuel Jimenez started Ganter's Nursery back in the late 70's, from land he bought from his father-in-law. This has been very much a family business, and they specialize in fruit trees, roses, and good all around knowledge. Over the last 5 years, they have had to let go of help they've had with them for over 20 years. It broke their hearts. They've scaled their nursery down by about 40 to 60% just trying to keep their heads above water. They still sell bare root trees, but instead of heeling them in, like we used to see, after about a month or so, they pot them up and mark them up. By doing this, they now have to maintain that tree, water it, spray it, take care of it. The longer that stock sits on the shelf, the more expensive it becomes, and the less profit they will realize. So, nurseries are resorting to potting up bare root trees after a time to help make ends meet, since the cost of water here in S. California alone has nearly put nurseries out of business, not to mention all the other overhead. It is a sign of the times, sad to say. A nursery that puts a bare root tree directly into a pot. Well, I guess I'd have to say that the nursery must really be hurting to do that, since their competition is probably still selling bare root trees. Must be in dire straights to do that.

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ganter Nursery

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 10:53PM
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Here, the one private nursery with a decent selection of fruiting plants and none of the wrong ones finally went under.

"I can get a "Bartlett" pear and "Concord" grapes cheaper at Lowes," was the mocking (of former non-customers) explanation given to me as I bought some other properly selected pears with a chance to survive here in the regretable clearance sale.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 9:43AM
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Go East young lady. ;)

Out here in the tules, most nurserys are still doing bare root trees if that's what you want.And at semi-reasonable prices too. I prefer the bare root ones so I don't have to deal with any differences in soil structure.

If you head out to Peaceful Valley (groworganic.com) in Grass Valley, you can get bare root trees at $20 each. You get what they choose to bring you out of the warehouse though, so look the roots over if you can. I got a pear this year with an abused root base, but planted it anyway, assuming it'd be alright.

Front Yard Nursery in El Dorado has a large selection of both trees and berries that you can choose from yourself. Their prices are around $26 a tree as I recall, but they're a lot more informed and helpful as well. So you DO get what you pay for.

The most local nursery to me did pot their bare root trees up in fiber pots, but I bought one anyway, because I couldn't find a Cox's Orange Pippin anywhere else.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 1:13PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I live in Sonoma County Ca and I just bought two bare-root Pluots from my favorite local nursery for 17.95 each, they were heeled into wet sand in a shaded area. This nursery is all organic and they have a great selection of bare-root fruits, trees, vines, and bushes, and every year I go they have more exotics like goji, and honeyberry. And unlike most of the other nurseries around they have a good selection of table grapes instead of mostly wine grapes.

So take heart! All is not lost, good nurseries may be getting more rare but there are still some not only surviving but thriving.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 1:43PM
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I'm lucky enough to live 5 miles from a Jungs center, which has a bare-root room every spring. The prices are usually a little less than catalogue, too. It's dangerous though, I've bought two apples, a cherry, an Asian pear, and a Chinese apricot that I hadn't exactly planned to buy... At least I'll be out of room in my yard soon, so I can stop buying fruit trees!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 9:12PM
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Not related to pricing, but definitely related to ignorant nurseries.

I was at one of the local nurseries looking for shade cloth (before I realized it was just glorified screen door meshing and started using that), talking to one of the people there and it came around to that I was growing Kiwano with a tomato cage as a trellise. The guy said "Oh you shouldn't trellise those, they prefer to spread out."

I flat out asked him if he had ever seen a Kiwano before. He assured me he had and that they are happier if allowed to spread out.

The Kiwano is related to the Cucumber. It sends out lots of tendrils that will choke the life out of anything they can reach and they will naturally climb anything they can get their hands on. You couldn't stop them from climbing if you freaking tried.

That was about the point I just stopped talking to that guy, as he obviously had no clue what he was saying and couldn't admit it once he had been found out.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 12:29AM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Its the people. Its society. We have changed here in Southern California. Seriously. Alot of people have hard times thinking for themselves and are brainwashed by media. They think a bare root fruit tree marked down to half off MUST HAVE SOMETHING wrong with it. Take that same tree and label it a "bare root advanced supreme growing system" and jack up the price to $30 and watch how quick they sell. I hate to bring this up but Home Depot every year has TONS of bare root trees still in their saw dust bag packaged straight from multiple growers (Pacific Groves is one) for $12-$18. They rarely sell all of them and by the time March rolls around all of them are marked %50 off! They toss them in a out of the way corner by the registers. People walk right to the potted trees and spend 3 times as much and barely a glance at the bare roots for literally less than $10. I found a 3 in 1 plum for $8. They had every dwarf peach for $6. Basically any fruit tree you can think of for less than $10. All bagged with strains and info straight from the growers!!! It took me 20 minutes to go through them all. All the while the potted ugly plants are flying off the shelves.

People in southern California are a different breed. They see a $25 price tag at, what they call now, "specialty" nurseries and they say "I can get that cheaper at Home Depot" or "this nursery is over priced". People have, for some reason come to trust the big box stores more than the little nurseries and the littler nurseries are losing customers and must do things to stay afloat. Its sad because people have lost the sense of what growing really means and they think they can just plant and water. That is why a good nursery is PRICELESS. Home Depot might have cheap plants but they have no clue. They mis inform the public. On a side note I dropped of some samples at my county extension and they told me " We can only diagnose we cannot recomend a method of treatment, go to Home Depot or Lowes for special advice on how to treat". I said what? Lol

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 3:38AM
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Yeah, we've run into that ourselves. Friend of mine makes high quality Jason hockey masks and sells them on ebay. And I mean high quality stuff, very thick plastic, full aged leather straps, custom jobs, just all around excellent stuff.

When he first started, he tried to sell them for his cost plus some labor. A nice fair price, around $20. Could. Not. Sell them. Everyone took one look at the price and assumed they were inferior quality. He jacked the price up to $75 each and can't make them fast enough.

People are freaking stupid.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 9:01AM
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