Trees at Home Depot

mwchardsMarch 13, 2010

The weather is finally starting to break, and I went to my local Home Depot where I do most of my shrub shopping. I was pleasently suprised to see a good selection of huge B&B trees. The only problem I have is I am not sure what these trees do and how to take care of them. One tree that looked interesting was called a "Snowfountain" Cherry, it was different because the trunk was curved like a "s" but nobody at the store was able to help me on how to keep the tree it's shape, and if this tree will be able to keep it's shape as it grows. Does anybody have any suggestions on how to keep this trees' unique features in my yard for years to come?

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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

The shape won't change except to increase in diameter perhaps making the 'S' less pronounced.

But the trunk should be straight, not curved, as a curved trunk cannot bear the weight that a straight trunk can. I'd worry that the grafted rootstock is suboptimal. If it is not too expensive it might be a curiosity that would be worth it for a while.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2010 at 6:39PM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

Snowfountain is nice white flowered weeping cherry. In my experience, easy to grow and surprisingly pest and disease free for a cherry. Usually weeping forms are staked straight up to a certain point and then allowed to weep down. The S curve in this particular one may have been intentional, but more likely it occured accidentally. If you like it, why not plant it? It's not going to suddenly straighten itself out.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 5:42AM
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The 'S' or serpentine forms of this tree are intentionally trained that way. I'd agree with Dan that the long term appearance and vigor of this particular shaped variety may be questionable. As the growth extends, the top will just drape over and eventually need to be supported in much the same way as serpentine forms of weeping Atlas cedar will require support. Ones I've seen established in landscapes tend to look more like oddities and do not produce a very pleasant weeping effect (relatively sparce branching).

IME, while Snowfountains may be a better selection than most of the flowering cherries with regards to disease and pest issues, the serpentine forms do not tend to be very long lived. As Dan correctly assumes, graft failure is typically the problem. I'd lean to the more traditional top grafted form if I were so inclined.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 10:21AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Many Snow Fountains (R) = 'Snofozam' are supposed to have been grown from cuttings. A twig blight is common on this variety in my region. Many established specimens have a scattering of dead twigs with lingering dead leaves attached.

For a time the company that introduced this selection, Lake County nursery, Perry, OH had a page on their web site showing specimens of this tree trained into a variety of extreme shapes - probably taken at their offices. However, as I remember it these were more conventional forms like espalier - there may not have been any serpentine trunks shown. Presumably at some point they will finish their section of web pages on their own introductions and have this one back up again.

The original Trees and Shrubs for Pacific Northwest Gardens (John and Carol Grant) advocated growing weeping Japanese flowering cherries on curved trunks "instead of the usual straight beanpole" so as to give the finished specimen some grace. I think they were talking about a single curve giving a bit of a lean, so that the crown of the tree might hang over a wall or pond when so placed.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 11:22AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

I stopped using grafted weeping plants in my old practice some years ago, as my clients didn't seem to care for them properly and I don't like them myself.

I was unaware they were shaping the grafts these days, not sure that's the best idea but the nurserypersons need to sell product, I guess. If you have good weeping form and growth, you shouldn't see the shape of the trunk anyway.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 4:06PM
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You mean Home Depot was selling trees they knew nothing about? Wow what a surprise. Why do people insist on going to these places? They know nothing about nursery material. Ones near me sell from asphalt parking lots.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 7:07AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

let me guess.. cuz 'she' couldnt get hubby out of the tool aisle.. and she wandered out to the nursery ... lol ...

if you like it.. and its within the budget.. and it excites you.. go for it ... what the heck .. new post if you need info on how to PROPERLY PLANT AND MAINTAIN IT ....

say its $60 .... if you get 10 years out of it.. before it fails ... will it be worth 2 cups of foo foo coffee per year .. for that enjoyment????

i am of the state of mind.. if it curls your toes.. go for it .... what the heck .. eh????

now.. personally .. i dont like the twisty plants that are man made .... so i would buy the $20 straight one.. and we would both enjoy the flower show... and i would get another or two other plants with the money saved ...

good luck


    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 9:38AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Among some large tubbed conifers - large as in too big to fit in automobiles - that appeared at a Home Despot near me recently the fastigiate white pine with a couple branches torn off and a big gouge running up the trunk was apparently the first one to sell.

The much nicer 'Aurea Robusta' Atlas cedars were all still sitting there during a subsequent visit.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 11:11AM
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Some of us want beautiful trees and big box stores have affordable merchandise for those of us without a lot of money to spend. We don't pay for expertise because we don't have the money.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 10:26PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Lack of expertise is trumped by mishandling. Here wilted or sometimes even obviously dead stock is a regular feature of big box plant departments. Doesn't matter if nobody can tell you what the variety does, if it is in poor condition anyway. Distressed plants are not good value, plants with problems do not establish and grow away well after planting.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 10:42PM
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I think they ALL store their trees on asphault or parking lots!

Some tips for buying trees at home improvement stores...
-Buy as soon as the plants show up. They get most of their stock in the spring even though depending on where you are spring is not the best time to plant.
-Bring a laptop so you can research while you're there. -Check, doublecheck and check the tags again to make sure the tag you see is the correct tree that you think it is. -Look for mishapen, cut or damaged trunks, check to make sure the soil is moist and the roots aren't girdling and the the plant isn't potbound.
-If dormant, do the snap test by lightly flexing the branches. If they break off, move on.
-If you're at a home depot and you're not sure if you're getting a good deal on a plant, copy down the sku number and take it to the customer service counter and ask them if they can look up the price history on it. If they show that it used to be cheaper, it doesn't hurt to ask if they can "help you out" on the price. They're more prone to lowering the price if it's been there a while but in my experience lowes is more negoitable than home depot.
-Before you go, run to your local post office and ask them for a moving guide. These moving guides contain 10% off coupons for lowes or home depot. They take each others coupons.

I'd agree that these garden centers are often not ideal but they do offer a 1 year warranty and for some of us, it's basically all we got left with the mom and pop nurseries having closed. And frankly the plants I've found at lowes and kmart are fresher and better looking than what's at the remaining mom and pop nurseries. Even though the folks in the big box nurseries are not that knowledgable, the mom and pop nurseries often aren't either but instead they just lie and make stuff up as they go along. Even though you have to make sure the tags are right, at least the trees at big box stores have tags which is more than I can say for independant nurseries around here. I've had better luck finding good or somewhat rare plants at lowes (like teddy bear southern magnolia) than home depot and at better prices and lowes usually keeps their trees in the garden center and not out in the parking lot.

So it's like anything else at a DIY store. You can save money if you can self-service.
That's just my 2 cents. Can't help you on the serpentine cherry tho.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 8:57AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

Some of us want beautiful trees and big box stores have affordable merchandise for those of us without a lot of money to spend. We don't pay for expertise because we don't have the money.

Better likelihood of dying is more thrifty than a properly cared-for tree more likely to flourish? Who knew?

Now. AIUI HD staff no longer care for the plant material. It is farmed out to a vendor and HD merely is a pass-through and takes a cut. There is ZERO incentive for staff to do ANYTHING to care for plants there. Zero. Why on earth would you spend your money there unless the plants are off the truck that day? Madness and poor decision-making.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 9:54AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

We have better independent nurseries here than mom and pop's that don't even label the stock. When you are worse than a big box plant department, that is pretty bad.

Areas that have big boxes but no independent garden centers of consequence can probably often thank the presence of the mega chain stores for this.

The contrast in selection between the independents here and the big box plant departments is so vast I wonder about comparisons being made. For every one kind of plant offered by a chain here the larger independent stores must have at least a hundred.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 2:07PM
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^^ That's because you're in washington and things are different there. You can grow virtually anything and the gardening culture is alive and well and there's nurseries and growers all over the place. Or am I jumping to conlcusions?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 2:39PM
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How kind of you to share your professional opinion, Dan. Your knowledge about the stock at my local HD and Lowes, and the kind of people working there is truly amazing. I'll be sure and post on the Trees Forum again.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 10:59AM
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bushhog936(E. TX -Zone 8B)

I dont know where you live "Iforgotsonevermind" but here too the "mom and pop" nurseries are crap and the "stock" often looks worse than the Home Depot/Lowes plants(40 minutes away and further than local nurseries) plants and they know very little about their own plants either. The ones near my place even sell natives that they admit to buying from folks that dig up the wild plants(some of which are fairly uncommon here), then stuff them in a tiny pot. Not to mention they are over priced. You CAN find a decent tree there if you know what too look for, know what to expect of its past treatment, and plant it in the right place and care for it properly.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 12:09PM
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Bushhog, usually I get screamed at in here for taking this stance because folks can't believe its true. I'm in the northeast altanta suburbs. I've been to every nursery in the area and regularly visit them. I'm not saying they're all bad but the ones nearest to where I live leave a lot to be desired.

There is one here that has admitted to digging plants out of the wild too. I ask very basic questions and they just lie or make stuff up. I'll give you one example. I was buying some trees for my HOA and there were some trees that I noticed were there for at least a year because I was there a year prior and saw the very same trees in the very same place. We're on a budget so I asked how much they were. The worker gave me a price. I said "I know these have been here a while, if I take all of them off your hands could you give a break on the price." (This was the owner's son I was speaking to). He said they haven't been there long and just came in a week earlier. So I said can you give me a hand loading these on my truck. This is where it gets funny... They were fully rooted through the containers into the ground. I said "wow those must have some aggressive roots to have rooted firmly into the ground after only a week".

Then there's a nursery on the other side of town that caters to a high end crowd. They have a coffee bar on premises and play classical music. It's a nice looking place and the staff is helpful. The prices are surprisingly reasonable too. But every time I've inquired about a tree there, they tell me about how they "fertilize heavily" and the shaping and shearing they do to have a pretty looking plant that it talks me out of a sale every time. No warranty.

There was a local chain of retail garden centers that had good prices, unbeatable selection, lots to choose from, very helpful, they were open late. There was at least one person at each store that knew what they were talking about. Unfortunately they went bankrupt a couple of years ago and while they're still around they don't have the selection they used to and the prices are rediculous now so I don't go there anymore. Strangely they now offer a LIFETIME warranty on trees. Hmmm.

There's another nursery down the street that had good looking plants. It started out wholesale. I think they were struggling though so it opened up to retail but started focusing more on sod and landscape materials and less on plants so I haven' purchased anything there either.

There was a great tree farm about 30 minutes away that I got some trees from but they packed up and moved their entire operation 4 hours away. The other tree farms in the area don't let you pick or even look at the trees first and I've not had the best luck with what I ended up with upon pickup.

There was an excellent wholesale nursery I'd buy from on occasion that was owned by the retail nursery chain that went bankrupt and they closed their wholesale nurseries.

We had Home Depot Landscape Supply too, HD's experimental wholesale nursery concept. Good selection, fair prices. Those of course are gone now.

Lately I've been going to a wholesale nursery that has several locations in the area. Typically they don't know anything about the plants. A lot of the stock has been there for a couple of years at least. There's huge piles of dead unsold stock. They deal mostly in irrigation supplies and things like that but you can find some good plants there and the prices are good. You can't count on them for in depth knowledge about the plants but they don't lie to you either and that's just fine with me.

I try to bring a laptop with me whenever possible so if I am not sure about something I can look it up when I'm out there.

Aside from that I regularly scout out the big box stores. It's just so much easier and if you wait for those shipments to arrive you can snatch up the good stuff before it dies out in the parking lot.

So I end up buying better looking plants from big box stores with a warranty and the stuff that needs TLC I get on the cheap from wholesale nurseries. It's a sad state of affairs and I know it's not like this everywhere. I travel to other large cities and have seen some magnificent nurseries but we don't have that here. It's a shame we went from having so much to choose from and at such reasonable prices to having virtually nothing to choose from and nowhere you want to go to buy it.

There may be some small places in the city that specialize in rare cultivars but everyday stuff is hard to get. I've had this discussion with landscapers and they concur. Sourcing plants for landscape jobs right now isn't easy.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 1:28PM
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bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)

By the way, trees are buy 1 get one free if you join the Home Depot Garden Club and get the newsletter. Coupon is good til 4/26/10. Read the thread below on how to get the coupon.

Here is a link that might be useful: Home Depot Garden Club Members - Buy one tree get another free!!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 2:07PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

How kind of you to share your professional opinion, Dan.

You are most welcome. Pointing out that "affordable" isn't necessarily the best value is important to remember when considering you get what you pay for when shopping at the BigBox, and that their plant stock is especially time-sensitive. And not cared for by staff.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 2:51PM
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I also bought a Serpentine Weeping Cherry at Home Depot.

My reasoning:

2) All trees at HD are guarenteed for one year.

(I recognize that does not mean they are more confident than other places that they have healthy stock, rather they can do that since they make their bucks on other parts of the store and can write off any loss in the plant department...) does mean if my tree dies in a year I get my money back. My local mom/pop nursery can't do that.

Here is a link that might be useful: My garden blog

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 2:02AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

buying fresh stock at the beginning of the season.. from bigboxstore is usually not a problem ... all other things done properly ...

the biggest problem.. is all the peeps who buy that left over stock in late fall at 90% off ... having been tortured all summer long .. that run into failure.. and then just cant understand why the plant failed ...

it failed.. because it was near death when you bought it ...


    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 8:21AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Lowe's has the best prices and selection I have found on anything within thirty miles of me.

Now they sell zone7 trees regularly so buyer beware.

Agreed on the 'end of year/almost dead' sales being risky.

About sixty miles out is Forest Keeling nursery. They will sell me a one or five gallon tree I can plant muself relatively cheap. Must be doing good business too because the plants are not overgrown for the pot size. Biggest tree in smallest pot does not make best.

I find box store perennials and annuals to be decent quality. Just keep your eyes open.

Most garden center staff members have no clue anyway so I would rather know it ahead of time instead of thinking I was talking with a plant expert.

My apologies to those who do. I have just seen too many wire cages left on and ug at the advice my friends in st charles co get from their nurseries.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 8:42AM
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dsieber(z5 (Lakewood CO))

If you have to go to a big box, Lowes generally has better trees and better care than HD. This is based on visiting multiple lowes/hd's

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 7:42PM
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End of the year/close out trees can be a deal...IF you know what to look for and you intensively care for it once in the ground.

I bought a NR Oak last year from Lowe's at the end of a hot summer. I watered, and watered, and watered, and watered...and it did great! Beautiful fall color and should be coming back any day now.

I got a plum in the dead of summer too and watered...and watered...and watered...and watered...and it is doing so great this spring!

I find that Lowe's usually has better cared for items around here, too.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 2:59PM
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The quality of plants at the big box stores varies by region, as each region works with a different set of suppliers. In my local area, HD tends to have far better plants than Lowes, although this year both have some nice selections due to all the nurseries liquidating stock and going out of business. As Ken said, buying in spring from a big box store is typically not a problem. Some days it's possible to pick product up right as it comes off the truck, so in effect you are buying directly from the grower with the big box store simply being the place you "picked it up."

Also, as Ken says, the end of season sales are risky. I'd go so far as to say that anything purchased after the summer heat sets in is risky, since product at that point is much more reliant upon frequent watering by a staff who may not be too attentive. Buy while it's still cool and rainy outside, in the spring, and you'll be fine.

I've made the mistake of buying several heavily discounted trees during the heat of summer, and most of them died, and some others I yanked out of the ground because they grew all funky. The good thing about the big box stores is their liberal application of the 1 year warranty: save your receipts and you'll get your money back, no matter how crappy the plant is or what time of year you planted it.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 12:15PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Even if kept watered all summer stock at retail outlets has probably not been kept fertilized. Starved plants may not look obviously off-color or stunted - at least without a fertilized example right there to compare to - but still in fact be severely nutrient deficient. Such specimens are not in a suitable state for good establishment after planting out. What is in the plant at time of planting is what fuels new root and top growth after planting.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 12:26PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The promise of free replacement after a year is not inducement enough for me to take a chance on an 'iffy' tree. That's an entire year wasted, as far as I'm concerned. A healthy tree can grow several feet in one year!

I'd not hesitate to purchase from the big box stores IF the trees passed my inspection (I'm an educated consumer when it comes to plants); IF I could find what I was looking for, and IF it had been taken care of properly. So far, I've never purchased a tree from a big box store.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 1:15PM
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Certainly some strong opinions on this thread. I can say that I try to buy the best stock I can at the best price. I assume most people have the same approach! And often that is at Home Depot. For me. I just got 11 Emerald Cedars and a multi-stem Betula jacquemontii in great shape. The Cedars were 5-6 feet tall and were on sale for 14.99 each (the same plants would be several times that at most nurseries), and the ones I got from the same HD last year are all thriving a year later. The Himilayan birch is similarly in great shape and at 89.99 for a 7 footer is a good deal. I have picked up the occasional perennial there over the years and have had no problems.

Best advice, I think, is not to buy unhealthy stock from anywhere (though even then pretty ratty perennials at clearance prices are often worth taking a chance on) again, regardless of where you buy them.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 2:04PM
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