Dwarf Alburta Spruce Prices

broconneSeptember 17, 2007

I am looking to plant 2 Dwarf Alberta Spruce trees on my property. I am new to landscaping and trying to understand why the prices vary so widely based on location.

Lowes has 5 gal Alberta Spruce for $45

My local run garden store has 5 gal for $140

Should I expect a variation in quality between the two or does the local garden store just make an additional $100 per tree?

As I said I am new to the landscaping world, so I am unsure of the differences in buying plantings from various types of stores.


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tcharles26(usa texas)

If the plants were the same size, I'd go with the cheaper ones at lowes unless it was evident that they had been sitting there forever and were pot bound or otherwise looked like crap. And keep in mind plants at 'local run garden store' could be pot bound as well. It's a common problem with container plants. Actually, may have come from same grower at the same time.

Plus lowes will probably guarantee for one year so keep receipt.

Also, some people will tell you picea glauca var. albertiana 'conica' (probably the 'dwarf alberta spruce' you're referring too - they're are many) is not a dwarf in the strictest sense of the word. But obviously is dwarf in the sense that is not as large or fast growing as the generic species tree.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 9:36AM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

I find it amazing that Lowes offers a year guarantee on plants,that is such a weird concept to me, a plant with a guarantee!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 10:10AM
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does the local garden store just make an additional $100 per tree?

Much of it comes down to economies of scale. Lowe's is a national retail outlet with nearly 1500 locations. Because of its enormous size, it also has incredible buying power. Although much of its plant buying is done on a regional basis, it is still able to negotiate with specific wholesale growers (not necessarily the same ones that supply your local garden center) to contract for huge quantities of specific plants at VERY reasonable prices. And because its overhead is spread over a huge range of products and a large volume of sales, it is able to offer these inexpensive plants at a low price to the consumer. And much of their plant buying is done on a guaranteed sale basis - if the plants don't sell, the wholesaler takes them back at no cost to Lowe's. Few independent retailers have the buying clout to be able to negotiate deals like this.

Independent garden centers do not have this same luxury of size and economies that affords. Generally, they are a single retail outlet or sometimes a couple of stores. And they do not have a huge range of gardening-unrelated products to sell to defray much of their operating costs. They rely on plants primarily - a living product that requires constant care and attention and have a short "shelf-life". Rather than being able to order 5,000 dwarf boxwoods or Alberta spruces at perhaps $10 wholesale each per 5 gallon, they may be able to have room for and buy 50. So the cost is appreciably higher and somehow that must get passed on to the consumer.

Retail garden centers generally offer a wider range of plants than do home improvement stores and often in a wider range of sizes. And most have the ability to offer very specific services to the gardening consumer that the big box stores like Lowe's, HD, etc, do not. Primary among these is superior knowledge of the products they sell, increased attention and care to the plants in their custody and often ancillary services like landscape design and installation, plant ID and diagnosis clinics and classes, seminars and events.

So to answer your question, does the local garden store just make an additional $100 per tree?, the answer is no. That apparent $100 profit is rapidly eaten up by higher overhead expenses, often a seasonality to their specific business that does not provide for year round sales and a plant-trained and dedicated sales staff. They are lucky if they manage to breakeven on the sale of that $145 spruce. This is the reason independent garden centers are in peril in many parts of the country as they simply cannot compete with the box or home improvement stores on prices.

I won't even go into the differences on plant quality - it can be slight or it can be huge. It depends on how recently those plants at Lowe's came off the delivery truck and who they got them from. But for something as commonplace as a dwarf Alberta spruce, the savings to you for shopping at Lowe's may be huge. But if I were selecting a significant shade tree for a long term landscape investment or a specific cultivar of Japanese maple for example, or shopping a plant list for a landscape design that called for a wide and diverse selection of plants, I'd never look to a place like Lowe's. But then I'm a retail nurseryperson :-)

And fwiw, most retail garden centers offer plant warranties as well. It's just another cost of doing business. But with the extra attention of the sales staff in helping customers pick out the right plant for the right situation and instructions on specific planting tips and aftercare, realizing on plant warranties is not a huge expense for most garden centers.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 10:47AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

and if you looked really hard.. and had a couple decades for it to grow .... you can probably find them for about 3 dollars ....

it is a dwarf in the strictest terms ... if picea glauca is a hundred foot tall tree in 50 years .... this one will maybe be 25 feet .. so it is definitely a dwarf.. of momma ... but dwarf does NOT mean it will remain tiny ...

find the annual growth rates ... at the link .... and you will know how fast it will grow forever ... trees/conifers do NOT stop growing at some magical height.. and know that MOST height estimates are at 10 years.. and at year 11 it will be the growth rate bigger ...

look for picea glauca rainbows end.. for a better version of DAS ... the new growth is lemon yellow .... on the basic green ... twice a year ...

IF PROPERLY LABELED .... there is no difference between the expensive one.. and the cheaper ones.. but for maybe age .... if you are becoming a collector .... you will soon find nothing of interest at Lowe's or the local place.. and you will be receiving most of your treasures by mail order ....in my world .. never buy two.. and never pay retail ...

good luck


Here is a link that might be useful: ACS .. read the intro and search the database

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 12:38PM
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tcharles26(usa texas)

RE: It is dwarf in the strictest sense.

I do not think there is any consensus of whether it is or is not. The strictest and most accurate concept of what constitutes a dwarf conifer, IMHO, is the ACS definition. That definition has nothing to do with whether or not a cultivar will mature smaller than the generic species, the definition Ken seems to suggest while directing you to the web page that says otherwise.

from the ACS - Dwarf = 1 to 6 inches of growth a year, 2.5 cm to 15 cm, >1 to 6Â in ten years, 30 cm to 1.8 m

I think many people will tell you 'conica' can be bigger and faster than that. I know the coenosium gardens web site at one time had an article about how this very plant is not a dwarf. I myself have not had one for ten years (don't want to either) so I cannot say either way - But that's why I said "some people will tell you it is not a dwarf in the strictest sense of the word". A statement which I think is true.

But I agree with you, and in fact mentioned, that it is smaller and slower and will mature smaller than the generic species tree. It is, therfore, 'dwarf' in the common usage of the word i.e., much smaller than usual, but not in the strict, conifer aficionado, sense of the word, meaning it falls within the parameters outlined above.

Maybe a political analogy will help. Arguably, all Americans are 'democrats' in the sense that we live in a democratic nation state. But we are not all "Democrats" in the sense that we believe in the political platform of the Democratic party. In other words, we're all democrats with a small "d". Some of us are also "Democrats" with a capital "D". Maybe I should draw a VIN diagram....LOL

Just my two cents.....

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 2:28PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

Charles.. no insult intended .. our audience is a newbie .. and i took up the debate.. not to insult you ...

the original poster needs to know the definitions ...

anyway ... IN MY EXPERIEMNCE... in zone 5 ... in two gardens.. and everywhere i have seen Drf Alberta spruce in zone 5 ... they do NOT exceed 6 inches of growth in one season ...

i have one DAS that is reverting to Picea glauca .. and the p. glauca is easily exceeding the 6 inches .... this is why .. for the original poster.. using full Latin names is important ...

Picea glauca is not a dwarf .. in ANY sense of the word
Picea glauca 'Albertina Conica' ..in my experience is a dwarf .. but then they keep talling me i cant grow sitchenesis in my zone 5 garden .. lol ...

we do have to make sure we are all discussing the same plant ...

fianlly .. the biggest DAS's i ever saw were on campus at college.. which was built in about 1960 ... so the plants were about 30 years old .... no more than 10 or 12 feet tall .. and just about as wide.. and looked like heck ... they were way past their prime .... and probably had spider mite infestations .... has anyone told the poster about those yet.. lol ...

bottom line... all debate aside... it will grow like it will grow in your yard .. in your zone... they will charge what the market will bear .... and if the latin names match .. and they are labeled correctly .... they are the same plant ....

Charles.. peace out man .... ken

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 4:17PM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

So basically dwarf conifers are defined by their growth rate over time rather than ultimate height?That seems ludicrous! On that basis surely a bristlepine would be classed as a dwarf,or have I misread the above?

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 4:46PM
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tcharles26(usa texas)

RE: Charles.. no insult intended .. our audience is a newbie .. and i took up the debate.. not to insult you ...

Sorry If I came across as being insulted. I wasn't. I just talk (and write) like that I guess. Bad habit from former legal career. I always get myself into trouble on these things!

FWIW the best advice to the question should I buy the 45$ or 150$ plant might be neither. I've heard a lot of people have problems with them....I have a crappy one in a gallon pot, that doesn;t really grow well at all. I think the heat slows it down. Im sure people who have them exceed 6 inches a year are in relatively mild climates with long growing seasons, but not hot as heck like Texas e.g., parts of Oregon.

RE: On that basis surely a bristle[cone] pine would be classed as a dwarf,or have I misread the above?

I think so. Or, at the very least, any cultivated form of bristlcone would be a Dwarf (unless it was selected for vigor and grew more than 6 inches I guess). I don't think the definition contemplates classifying species as dwarf.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 5:22PM
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