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.

1 thought on “Avoiding Gardening Mail Order Rip-offs”

  1. Since I posted this, I received an email from Peter Grootendorst, the owner of Southmeadow. It reads as follows:

    “The situation at Southmeadow Fruit Gardens is this: the office manager, who was a trusted employee of sixteen years, had been undermining Southmeadow, Grootendorst nurseries, my family and me for years. This former employee has recently been indicted and charged with six felonies and her court case is pending.

    “Since all this began to come to light in the fall of 2008, I have been working diligently to rectify this situation. Southmeadow Fruit Gardens is back on track, and customers can once again order from us with complete confidence.”

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