Boston area garden centers: Weston v Mahoney's v Russell's.

jillyluis(6A)May 11, 2013

Hi Boston area folks, We have a ton of landscaping to do, and need to buy trees and bushes. We have a tiny yard, so I'd like to make sure every thing is really high quality. But I have to say, I about hit the floor when the staff at Weston's told me how much the Stewartia was that I liked. I'm overwhelmed with decisions right now, and can't quite handle comparison shopping. We live in Lexington, so Mahoney's is closest, but Russells and Weston are doable too. I'm sure there are some other ones around.

We need to buy a ton of perennials too, but since they are less permanent, I'm looking more for value on that front.

What do people think the pros and cons are for the different stores? Are there any great places I'm missing (I've been to Blanchettes and picked up some great plants)

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Boston_noob(6a MA)

Hi Jill

I can't really speak too much about prices, but you should check out Wilson Farm right in Lexington. I haven't been this year but last year they had some nice plants for sale. Can't get too much closer! I've linked to their site below. Good luck!


Here is a link that might be useful: Wilson Farms

    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 9:42PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Hi Jill, we have done a lot of landscaping over the past 10 years and have used all of the nurseries you mention at one time or another. We also have a small property so I understand that you want to do it right and we've balked at the cost of trees and shrubs at Weston Nurseries. We have not had to buy a lot of trees but those we have bought, we opted to purchase the smaller offerings. We bought a small tree at Mahoney's only because at the time they were the only nursery around that had the particular tree we wanted in less than a $300. + size. The other tree we purchased was a Japanese Maple that I bought 20 years ago as a $25. container plant from Lexington Gardens that is no longer there. That tree is now full grown.

Shrubs on the other hand, we've bought a lot of. Again, I preferred to purchase small versions and not just for cost cutting reasons. I was persuaded that the younger plants that have not been in a pot a long time, might establish and grow quicker than a large almost full grown specimen. The other reason I like buying small is that I've enjoyed watching the shrubs and trees change and grow.

We've bought at Weston in their small sizes. We often waited for year end sales in the fall when prices are often reduced by 50%. That is true of most nurseries. We've also bought at Russell's who I feel offers very good quality too. NE Nurseries in Bedford is another good nursery that we've made purchases, although their prices are creeping up there and they don't always have smaller sizes. I always look there if I need something though. I did purchase a great arborvitae there that worked out very well.

Bluestone Perennials, which is a mail order company, has provided us with a lot of our shrubs. They offer very small sizes and the prices were very reasonable, but recently they've made changes and prices are higher. They sometimes have a 50% off sale in May/June?, and I bought a lot that way. But they are really small. Quart size mostly. I bought a lot of boxwood that way and they grow fairly fast.

NEWFS is another great place to buy trees and shrubs. I've bought very healthy specimens of native shrubs there. And their prices are very reasonable. And I wish I had bought more from them, because the native shrubs have done better in my yard than anything else. Clethra, Oakleaf Hydrangeas, Ninebark, Aronia, all shrubs I am enjoying. They have a Framingham location, but the selection is small. They have a second location with a much larger selection, but I haven't been there yet, as it is a distance to drive.

Mahoney's on the other hand, is the last place I would go. I've not had good luck with that nursery. I've seen a lot of disorganization at the Winchester location, a manager who was disinterested in resolving an issue with a return, cleanliness has been a problem, disease on plants from the greenhouse. So over the years, I've stopped going there, with few exceptions. When I have gone there, I sometimes stop at the one in Sudbury on the way to Russell's and they seem to be better. We bought one of our trees there, which did end up quickly with a problem.

Wilson Farms is fine, and prices are reasonable, but I find their selection limited. If they have what you need, they're fine.

McCue's in Woburn has a small selection of shrubs but I don't believe they have trees. Their prices are average. Well run, clean small nursery.

And that reminds me, there may be a section in the FAQ where Claire added a thread we started a few years ago, where everyone on the forum described their experiences with local nurseries in general.

Good luck and hope that helps!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2013 at 6:53AM
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mayalena(6 - MetroWest Boston)

I, too, avoid Mahoney's. They seem only to buy-in plants, they don't seem very knowledgeable about their offerings, and they feel expensive to me. I love Russells and have bot numerous shrubs there. I have only shopped a couple of times at Weston's, as they don't offer anything more compelling than Russells, I believe, and they are a longer drive.

I would ask each of these nurseries about whether they install plants and, if so, whether they provide a guarantee.

I would also call Sylvan Nursery in Westport, MA. It is further away, but they propagate many of their own plants and provide tons of plant materials to landscapers. I believe their pricing is more reasonable.

Re: perennials Like Prairie, I used to purchase many from Bluestone, but they've become as expensive as shopping locally. I'd like to keep Russells in business, so I now buy most of my perennials from them or from Brigham Greenhouses, a very small, little known spot on 117 in Concord with fairly-priced basics and super nice people.

Lastly, for special trees and shrubs, I would try Broken Arrow in CT. That is certainly further afield, but they have unusual cultivars that you might enjoy. I know Mindy (Arboretum -- a plant collector) used to make an annual trip there to find special things.

Good luck! Have fun! Buy small!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2013 at 9:05AM
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I go to Russell's all the time. They are nearby, the staff are knowledgeable and helpful. They have a summer farmers market every Wednesday. They carry things to your car. They give you a 10% discount for belonging to Tower Hill or other gardens.

I've been to Weston Nurseries, but the drive for me is too far for what I consider to be equivalent to Russell's.

I've never been impressed with Mahoneys. They're seasonal - only open Spring and Fall - at least my local one. And their selection seems limited. Plus, every perennial I bought there had died.

I second the Brigham recommendation. They may have a limited selection, but the quality if great. I buy most of my annuals and veggies there, as well as many perennials. They also grow smallage every year, per my request.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2013 at 10:16AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I probably should have said more about Russell’s. I also do a lot of shopping at Russell’s. I’ve been there three times in the last three weeks. (g) They are one of the only places to get organic vegetable starts, which I buy whenever I don’t start my own from seed. They also are the only place I can count on finding organic planting materials, like organic top soil, compost, etc. They have the large size of peat moss and perlite, when I want to mix up my own soil mix. So I can get a lot of items on my list in one place and not have to go to multiple nurseries. And mayalena makes a good point, to consider giving business to nurseries that you want to support, especially in view of some recent closings of local nurseries.

But, Weston is usually considered when you really need to find a large tree, where else can you go? But their prices are really high. If I needed a lot of trees or large trees I would also go to Sylvan Nurseries, as it has been recommended here a lot although I’ve never gone. It is a long drive for me.

I used to think Broken Arrow was a good substitute for Weston Nurseries. We drove down there a couple of times. I’ve purchased shrubs there that I didn’t find in nurseries nearby. But, the plants that were labeled zone 6, which I am in, didn’t make it through the first winter. Which is the only time that’s happened to me. I can’t help but wonder if it had anything to do with having been grown in a warmer zone. It is also a long drive and I doubt you’d get delivery from there to Massachusetts.

If you are trying to purchase a lot of perennials and trying to save money, consider local community plant sales in the spring. Also again, NEWFS is about $9. for a quart which is often less than some local nurseries. And they also have a fall sale.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2013 at 9:04PM
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mayalena(6 - MetroWest Boston)

One more thought:

You might want to join Mass Hort in order to receive the discount at Russell's and other participating nurseries.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mass Hort Participating Nurseries

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 5:23AM
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started_with_bean(Zone 5--MA)

Have you been to Stonegate Gardens in Lincoln? It's not very far, and they have some interesting trees and shrubs last summer when I visited. They are small, but it's a nice drive!

Also good to check out is New England Nurseries in Bedford, another short drive from Lexington. Not a huge place, but worth a visit.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 10:32PM
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I find Stonegate in Lincoln to be very expensive. Beautiful place though.

New England Nurseries in Bedford is certainly worth a visit.

Rainbow Mums is a family owned and run nursery in Carlisle that has amazing perennials. No shrubs or trees though except for hydrangeas for prices that can't be beat. Large selection of grasses if that interests anyone. Mark grows everything on site and loves to offer design ideas.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rainbow Mums and Perennials

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 9:20AM
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Two questions--

Do any of these nurseries really grow their own shrubs and trees anymore the way some of them used to, eg Weston? Weston was famous for its own hybridized rhododendrons and azaleas, for example.

What about north of Boston and on up into NH for nursery suggestions? I'm in zone 5 and have had bad luck with Connecticut River Valley (and farther south) grown woody plants. And they are too expensive to gamble on.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 12:55PM
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Then Weston Nurseries was sold a few years back and they are not quite the same as they used to be, at least to me. I don't know how they operate nowadays. I thought they were supposed to be building condos somewhere on the land but haven't heard what's going on there.

I agree though about growing plantings on site. It seems that there aren't many left and they are hard to find, especially for trees and shrubs.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 6:13PM
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I went to Lake Street Gardens in So. New Hampshire last year for the first time, and thought the shrubs, trees and perennials were very well grown. The employees are exceptionally courteous. It was only a 40 minutes or so from Lexington (where we live_) but darned if I can remember the me out, folks....
Mahoney's in Winchester is a crap shoot. If you know exactly what you are looking for and are not embarrassed to take the plant out of the pot to make sure it is not fatally root bound, I say go look around. I bought a dozen trees and shrubs there last summer for 50 to 60 per cent off, even some for 5 dollars. all of them survived the winter. The spring flowering dogwoods were well priced, and look great right now.
When their perennials go on sale, head to woodland selections. Those don't sell well, and the selection is great for those of us with shade. Being slower growers they tend not to be as rootbound as their other perennials.
I've been touting Brighams in Concord for years. Sweet family nursery; great prices. They deserve the business.
It is only 20 minutes from Lexington.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 9:15PM
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And not all Mahoney 's locations are created equal. I don't care for Winchester. I have much better luck in Concord and Chelmsford. But it still depends on the day.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 9:48PM
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Glad to hear about some new nurseries.

I bought a large Golden Rain tree from Weston 6 yrs ago. It was expensive then. The tree, delivery and planting cost about $700. I was a bit crazy then!!

Their service was great. The tree did not take due to unusally wet spring that year. I called to let them know. They said they would give me a new tree. Come next spring, the tree and planting was done. The tree has thrived. No questions asked.

I only visit Weston's when there is good sale esp. end of year. I've become its member, there's some advantage/discount.

If you don't need a big tree, I would look at other places with more reasonable prices.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 8:32AM
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Lake Street Gardens is in Salem, NH. They have a really good reputation for their woody plants, but I don't know if they grow their own or not.

Jillyluis - I got a 3 foot or so Stewartia from Avant Gardens last year for a quite reasonable price, though they appear to be sold out now. I have always dealt with them via mail order and been quite pleased. The plants arrive in good shape and grow well. Perhaps you can contact them to find out when they will have it again. They do their own propogation and have a great selection of less common plants, such as Daphne x transatlantica 'Summer Ice' which is one of my garden favorites.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 11:03AM
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Bennoch(7 - DC)

Hi - I'm new to Garden Web and have a related question to the original post. I hope it's OK to ask here...? We just bought a house in Weston, MA but won't be moving up for about a year. We are doing some renovations now and I'm thinking ahead about landscaping, gardening etc. I'm an enthusiastic newcomer to gardening and am wondering where I can find help. What I think would be most helpful to me is if I could have someone from a garden center come out to our house and help me think through plantings, (what, where, etc) I'm a quick learner and I want to learn but I need very specific guidance up front. What nurseries (or other places) would offer a service like this? I think a one stop shop would be great - if I could then buy the plants from the same person who looked at the property, etc. Any ideas/suggestions? Also on ways I can self-educate? Thanks so much in advance.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 12:39PM
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If you go to a nursery that provides a design service, they will usually only recommend plants that they sell, not necessarily what is best for your property. It would be much better to find an independent landscape designer if you are spending anything much.

Further, find a landscape designer who is knowledgeable about both design AND horticulture. Ask to see properties they have done. Ask to see their own garden. If they say they don't have time to garden, pick someone else.

Also, you can drive around the area you are moving to this summer. If you see a beautifully designed property, stop and ask who did it or if they have any recommendations. Collect as much info as possible that way. Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 5:48PM
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Hi Bennoch and welcome to the forum. We're practically neighbors. I'm right off Rt 30.

ginny is right - most nurseries will only design with what they sell. and the landscaping companies seem to have only one design - nepeta, russian sage and stella d'oro day lillies.

try gardens by renee or gardens by the yard. you can google both of them, they are both small, independently owner, both in wayland. they can help you with design, installation, maintenance, even teach you how to care for it. pretty much whatever you want.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 8:37PM
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