Avoiding Gardening Mail Order Rip-offs

Spring is the time for planting bare root fruit trees. One of the best ways to get uncommon or heirloom plants is by mail order or online. In this way, I have been able to get together a large variety of apple trees. For the most part, the nurseries I have dealt with have been excellent. One, for instance, had no hesitation sending me a replacement tree when the first one, after a couple of years, turned out to be mislabeled. But beware! Unscrupulous dealers lurk out there.

One of these is Southmeadow Fruit Gardens. Unfortunately, Southmeadow is often recommended as a mail order source, and perhaps at one time it deserved that recommendation. But no more! I sent my order and money in by mail, but no trees ever arrived. I sent letters, but never got a response. When I called, I was told that they don’t send to California and they would refund my money. This they never did, despite more calls. When I found an online site (on Dave’s Garden) for comments about nurseries, I discovered that I was by no means the only one ripped off.  The address for the Dave’s Garden site is given at the end of this post.

Another is Autumn Ridge Nursery. This one suckered me in with its low prices. Truth to tell, I was a little wary; I thought the plants might be a bit on the small side, but, hey, trees grow. So I ordered. Not only did I order once; I ordered twice before I realized my mistake.

Briefly, my experience was a complete shamozzle! The apricot I ordered turned out to be a peach. The peaches I ordered either failed or turned out to be rootstock only. The cherry I ordered also turned out to be rootstock, not the Rainier ordered. None of the apples I got from Autumn Ridge have produced fruit or have even grown properly, so I don’t know whether they are the right ones, and this is more than seven years later! One apple tree arrived completely dead. The dead apple was the only tree that Autumn Ridge ever replaced. They never replaced the apricot, the peaches or the cherry.

Had I used Dave’s Garden’s “Guide to Gardening by Mail, Mail Order Gardening and Catalogs”, I would have had second thoughts about both of these companies. The address is http://davesgarden.com/products/gwd/. Scrolling down gets you to where you can browse by letter. This is a user created database of nurseries and not just for fruit trees. Not only can you read about other users experiences, you can also input your own. I highly recommended this service before ordering online or by catalog.

Olympics – an NBC Turn-off

One of the reasons why TV ratings of the Olympic games were low in recent years is because NBC’s coverage was so poor. When NBC first got the summer games, they introduced their “style” and immediately the ratings dropped. When CBS copied some of it for the Nagano winter games, their ratings also fell.  Since then NBC has cornered the winter games as well as the summer, and they brought their “style” to those as well. No surprise when the quality of coverage went down!  Friends in upstate New York watched the Olympics on Canadian TV because the NBC coverage was so bad.

Why? Because NBC focused its style on personalities, not on sport. Instead of action, we had to put up with interviews, personal histories, sob stories, reviews of past efforts, plus old time-wasting film. These seemed to be more important to NBC than the competition itself.

To me, it was just yak, yak, yak! This was especially true during prime time. Yak, yak, yak! Seemingly endless talk is not what Olympic viewers want. Those whom NBC are trying to reach with this approach (I assume they are the non-sports fans) have better fare to watch on other stations, so why waste resources and turn off the viewers they do have?

One of my most persistent memories from an early NBC Olympics broadcast, the 1992 summer games, is long-held close-up shots of swimmers’ armpits at the beginning of a race. Another memory is from the women’s long distance bicycle race before Beijing. NBC was so obsessed with their invented rivalry between an American and a French cyclist that the whole focus of the race was on those two, though neither of them was anywhere near the lead. The broadcast spun this out for a whole afternoon. Suddenly they realized that someone was winning, so they switched to the finish line, but all we got was a half-second flash of green and gold going by – the winner. It was a young Australian athlete that NBC had NOT mentioned at all—through that whole long dreary afternoon! Ironically, because of their obsession, they missed the best story of all.

Unfortunately, the way they handled this year’s opening ceremony is typical of NBC’s disregard for their audience. On the West Coast, the broadcast was advertised, promoted, even hyped to start at 7:30 pm. Why? The ceremony in Vancouver actually began at 6:00 pm. When 7:30 came along, did we get the opening ceremony? No! In true NBC style, since they have done this before, they gave us at least an hour of irrelevant fillers. And they had to include Bryan Williams, who is definitely not the big draw they think he is,  certainly not in sport. Yak, yak, yak! On and on! I say at least an hour because by 8:25, we had enough of the yak, yak, yak, and like many others, we gave up and did not bother with the ceremony. (I had been reading about it online anyway since about 6:00 – coverage by the Toronto Star, amongst others).

Here’s a word for the advertisers on the NBC opening ceremony coverage: You were paying for the yak, yak, yak, not the Olympics. It turned viewers off for the actual ceremony. You definitely did not get your money’s worth!

I have no doubt that NBC is trying to improve its Olympics broadcast because it is definitely getting better. It is not always up to par, but it used to be abysmal.  There is still some way to go, especially in prime time.

Let the Olympics be the show. This is no soap opera, no drama series, no acted-out entertainment. It’s the real thing, on the spot live action reality. Do the professional job. Get rid of the commentators, holding microphones like cub hounds; out in the field it makes sense for a few moments; inside, it is just amateurish. We don’t need to see them anyway.  Get rid of the time-wasting profiles, the focus on shallow personalities, and especially get rid of the old film. Give us what the Olympics are really about: sport, competition, excitement. Don’t give us sob stories or hyped-up emotion. Let the emotions arise from the games, and from calling the action, and from the winners standing on the podium.