A Mail Order Story

whaas_5a(5A SE WI)November 9, 2011

The story goes a little like this ...

I've been gardening with deciduous plants for about 6 years now and never considered mail order up until this past spring. Basically a leap of faith based on the desire to acquire various conifers and the fact that many of you have acquired tremendous specimens from mail order from such outlets like Coenosium and Song Sparrow.

My first order arrives and I was a bit disappointed. I thought to myself I'd never mail order again. Stock was poorly trained, barely uniform; girdling roots that where almost impossible to unravel and damaged plants to cap it off. The company was quick to replace the damaged plants so I figured what the heck I'll give them another chance. So a month later I placed another sizable order.

No damaged plants this time around but still issues with poorly trained, barely uniform plants with girdling roots. But I was still getting some nice specimens at a great price.

At this point I decided to call them up and get to know the owners a bit. They were quite nice and said to write in the comments section to have the owner select my specimens on my next order. I'm thinking wow, now we're talking!

So here goes my next order with the comments entered in the order. Again I'm a bit disappointed as the same issues are present. But again there were still several nice plants to compensate for the poor plants.

As I started to acquire these plants I began to find out through the experts here on GW that I had received four plants that were actually something else. A bit of an issue for the company that sold them but they were nice cultivars that I'd like to have anyhow.

As spring and summer progresses I see a few bad reviews from this company but I end up sticking up for them just because you can actually get some nice plants for a good price basically hit and miss.

Now the story gets interesting. I placed my last order of the season the other week and emailed directly with the owner to clarify a promotion and then placed my order. She even said I was a great customer! When the plants arrived 4 of the 5 plants had serious quality issues. Anywhere from severe leader damage, to diseased plants, to excessive deadwood, to contorted canopies from severely pot bound root systems.

After four orders I can say this company has serious quality issues and I can no longer recommend that ANYONE purchase from them until they get it together.

At the end of the day there are excellent mail order companies out there (some of the owners post here) so do yourself a favor and spend the extra buck to get nicer specimens. You'll just end up wasting your time with the jokers that sent these extremely embarrassing plants. If they put forth 1/1000 of the dicipline that Edwin, Bob or Jason put into their plants they'd be miles ahead of where they are today.

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Abies procera 'Glauca' - I can't stake this plant if I tried. There are no buds on it either.

Picea pungens 'Blue Mesa' - Horribly pot pound, therefore there is no growth on half the plant. Beyond that it looks like it was put through one of the old school ringers.

Picea pungens 'Straw' - Loaded with deadwood and the dead needles have black fruiting bodies (you can see some in the pic). The form is also less than desirable.

Pinus strobus 'Merrimack' - Horribly pot pound as the branches are terribly contorted and look like they've been through a 2 year wind storm.

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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Ouch. That sucks.

The internet creates an interesting marketplace. In my line of work price is king on line and I suspect so in the conifer world as well.

We have found the ability to post exact product photos a blessing. It is interesting how no one demands that from conifer websites. The buying public can be idiots though. No matter how great a price we give to the "actual item photographed" items the ridiculously cheap no picture ads do out draw them...

It is difficult to judge what kind of customer service you are getting though....

Were they cheap at least?

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 8:57PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Well, I think a # of us can recognize the tags.

As always, YMMV. I bought some Kalmias from them that were smaller but were very nicely priced, considering tissue cultured Kalmias are usually expensive. The conifer I got from them was a little scraggly but nothing like these examples. I was happy with my order but I don't dispute your experience.

FWIW, the 3 orders I've placed with Song Sparrow has gotten me beautifully grown and packaged plants, but they are more expensive. Maybe you should try them instead.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 9:17PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

T, averages about $15 a pop after shipping (promotion). These are plants you toss not sell IMO. This goes beyond "you get what you pay for".


I hear you on YMMV but don't think its applicable to this nursery. Too many documented quality issues...consistency tells the story. I had ordered from Song Sparrow (among other high quality sources) this past spring. In deed they are much better. My 'Blue Magoo' was one of my favorites from this past year.

This is what a $30 mail order plant should look like...

Here is what trash looks like...in fact this is the only nursery that has sent me trash.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 10:03PM
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I've said this before and I'll say it again, I am always tempted to buy from this particular source because of their seemingly great promotions and decent selection. Before I press the "confirm order" button, though, I come to me senses and realize that I am better off spending a little more to get a higher quality plant.

Personally, I don't know how anybody could put something that looks that way in a box and send it out to a customer without being embarrassed. This nursery has such potential but completely blows it. That stuff should be burned.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 10:23PM
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blue_yew(Z9 Devon UK)

Send it back to them

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 3:43AM
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I know where these came from based on the quality. Whaas- Post the name of this company, others deserve to know the quality issues you've had so they can go elsewhere. Companies that send stock like this shouldn't be in mail order... if it's happened to you, me, it'll happen to the next guy that thinks he is getting a good deal.

Its amazing to think that when a reputable company takes the time to stake there plants how much nicer they become. The cost of a stake, some ties, and a few seconds to put them together can't cost more than reshiping bad plants over and over. Look at it this way, at least you got a responce from this company. They didn't bother to even take the time to respond to me. I didn't call because I was afraid to tell them what I really thought about their stock lol.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 7:45AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i am bummed ...


    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 9:46AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Wow, talk about adding insult to injury.
I can't believe a breathing human actually boxed those things.....
They must think their customers are absolute morons.


    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 10:12AM
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Wow, those specimens are brutal. There really is no excuse for it. I mean, specimen #2 could easily win a role in the annual Christmas party with Charlie Brown. My friend and nursery owner Bob Fincham throws away plants that look much better then those. It's really a shame(or a sham) and I'd ask for a refund. While a certain amount of leniency is neccesary when dealing with shipping plants hundreds or thousands of miles, plants that arrive in such condition are inexcusable. Hopefully they take care to resolve the issue.

For what it's worth, I have bought maybe 20 plants from the nursery we're discussing and only a few were mutants. All have survived and some are quite attractive a year after I bought them.


    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 11:33AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Matt, that is hilarious because that is exactly what I did this past order! At least the main plant I wanted was a superb specimen.

Blue, those plants don't warranted the wasting of any shipping dollars. I'm sure they will refund, credit or send replacements. No answer yet as of 24 hours later.

Ken, so am I. So much potential if they could just get some of the quality issues ironed out.

Josh, I think that is the reason for this post. I've learned to become lenient with mail order plants but to have 4 of 5 plants look that horrible is as you said, inexcusable.

Will, all you can do is make fun of the plants at this point. It is quite hilarious how bad they are. I almost started laughing when the shipment arrived in an 12" x 12" box. How on earth can you fit (5) one gallon plants in a box like that? Up until this order I probably ordered about 20 plants myself...a few mutants, a couple damaged ones and several mislabeled plants. Not terrible at the end of the day. This last order is icing on the cake or should I say candle wax on the cake though.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 12:06PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Thought I share the owner's response to complete the story.

The white pine you can run a knife down each side of the root ball and they will be fine.
I only use this method for shrubs that send suckers. I don't see how a conifer would respond well to this. This plant is so pot bound the roots aren't even pliable, they are as hard as a rock.

The color of the Spruce 'Straw' is the color they turn this time of year, hence the name. They are in the process of turning from the yellowis blue color to the straw color.
I don't know how one can be so oblivious to the issue at hand.

The Fir have struggled this year, do to our record wet year. We can refund the cost.
Lame excuse for container stock but at least they acknowledged this plant has an issue.

No comment or solution was given on the Picea pungens 'Blue Mesa'.

I'll handle it from here with the nursery but I just don't understand why they still think its ok to send these plants like this.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 6:06PM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)


The 'Blue Magoo' is one cool conifer.

I ordered one from Buchholtz for shipment next spring.

Who did you get yours from?


    Bookmark   November 11, 2011 at 5:49PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I agree, I got this particular one from Song Sparrow. I can get a couple more photos for you to enjoy while you wait for your shipment. Just say the words and I can post as many pics of this plant as you want.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2011 at 5:52PM
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Haha, yes Will, please post hundreds of pictures of this plant for us to enjoy. Most of us won't mind.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2011 at 10:31PM
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Looking at the quality of the plants, I can only assume this is the infamous "Japanese Maples and Conifers" Ebay vendor, formerly known as "Oregon Grown." I've ordered once from her and never will again. I expect we'll eventually see a third name for this vendor, and a fourth....

On the plus side, I continue to receive excellent mail order stock from Bloom River. They are expensive but they are excellent. They also have a lot of stock that isn't listed on the Website.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2011 at 9:33PM
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ymaddox(ky 6)

yeah they suckered me out of about a hundred dollars of poor quality plants when i was trying to get some decent specimens to start. can say i was warned so i live and learn, but still chaps my...well you know and not proper for a lady to say anyhow so i will just shut it :). but how could someone so blantenly do their customers so wrong!!! and i was hoping for a good business relationship with this company grrrr. anyway i think last i was on here was it dex that was starting his own company? who else sells on here would be interested in pricing some things from someone that can actually be trusted.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 12:48AM
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ymaddox(ky 6)

oh yeah their response to me on ebay was that i did not know how to grow plants lol...last time i checked i was the one everyone brought their half dead plants to to revive...hmmmm. okay guess i am still a little once bitten twice shy...really just plain pissed!!!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 12:51AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Japanese Maples and Conifers is much worse than the company I'm talking about.

Although slow to respond, they said they'd give me a credit on the next order in spring. Also told me to plant them versus throwing them out. I reworked them a bit (drastic pruning) and put them in my hold over bed for now. I'll throw a hail mary on the other two to see if they bounce back and fill out. Eitherway most have to stay in the hold over bed with my other 1-2 year grafts for several years before they are ready for prime time.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 8:47AM
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Really Whaas?... anything other than a refund is unacceptable. It looks like you've had multiple problems with this company. Each time they have credited your next order...

"Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me" or in your case "Fool me once shame on you, fool me 2, 3, 4 times shame on me" lol.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 9:46AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

This is the first credit. I haven't contacted them with the exception of my first order which had the damaged/dead Ginkgo and girdled pine.

At the end of the day I don't have a problem working with them IF they work with me. I let all the single plant duds on each order slide because of the nice plants I did get. Check out your thread for what I got.

The moral of the story is if you get plants like this contact the nursery, express your concerns and get a resolve that works for both of you. Email DOES NOT work with this company by the way (which bothers me a bit) so you have to use the classic means of communication with them.

Still, shame on the owner for sending these plants. I'll get a replacement order in spring, which is fine but I've found much better sources to work with going forward.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 10:25AM
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coniferjoy(z7 The Netherlands)

Will, you can fix this problem by moving to the Netherlands and visit my nursery once and a while.
Here counts "what you see is what you get" ;0)

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 10:39AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Edwin, that would be quite the site...a grown man running around like a kid in a candy store!

I was this [] close to living in Switzerland, would have only been a hop, skip and jump.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 1:53PM
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