Online nursery reviews(continued, a year or two later).
A couple of years ago I really ramped up my conifer collecting efforts and this lead to significant purchases of conifers from more then a dozen online nurseries. I decided it would be beneficial to some of collectors and new conifer enthusiasts if I shared my experiences here. I created a series of reviews which included photos, rough price to plant comparisons and my overall opinion on these companies. Since many will be buying from a nursery blind, for the first time, I figured it might be helpful to have an idea what to expect.
For the most part, online nurseries offer a pretty close bang for your buck price, with some offering cheaper, smaller plants and others offering harder to find, larger plants at a higher price. My goal wasn't necessarily to direct you to a certain nursery over another competing nursery, but rather to give you options and ideas that better fit your own plans and fiscal budget.
A year or two later now, my online purchases have been winding down but I still purchase enough plants yearly to give an update(with photos!) from the various nurseries I still frequent.
One thing probably goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. If I am buying from the same company again a couple of years later, it would seem I have decided they were worth repeat business - always a good sign for your own success. Ford is still around selling cars because they sell GOOD cars. The same can be said for the nurseries I still frequent. DISCLAIMER: NONE OF THESE COMPANIES SELL CARS!
These reviews cover four basic attributes. I rated these four catagories from one star(*) to five stars(*****) with one star left for a poor rating and five stars being exceptional. For the most part, I've tried to remain positive with most reviews, though there were some less then exciting orders from various companies.
The catagories rated were:
Inventory: How large a variety of conifers the particular nursery offers. Basically how many different cultivars(and different sizes) the nursery offers. Extra credit here also for nurseries offering the very rare and choice plants that are scarsely seen.
Stock quality and size: Some nurseries offer gorgeous plants in perfect healthy, others are clearly neglected some, often just from growing in crowded situations and lacking the right amount of sunlight. Also nurseries offer very different sizes to their stock. I've purchased from different nursuries and received 'gallon sized pots' that were anywhere from a one year graft to a spilling over, root bound 6-7 year graft.
Customer service/General experience: Many nurseries are ran like businesses, some are run like families. You'll notice if you buy from multiple sources that some are REALLY trying to make you happy in order to have a lifelong customer while others just tend you treat you with indifference. Also, some companies will gladly replace a conifer if there is a problem while others can be hard to get a hold of and/or won't replace anything if you lose plants.
Value: This rating, which most people will probably consider most important given the economic times, will be my best attempt at rating nursuries on 'bang for your buck'. This means that I won't neccesarily give the cheapest sites top rating, but rather the overall value, whether they offer nice plants at great prices or new plants at unbeatable prices. Some retailers do offer very young plants at very high prices and will likely score poorly in this catagory.
My updated reviews should appear below over the next few weeks.