Nevada Landscaping Series

Chapter Three

So you want to buy a big tree? 
How to increase your odds of success without breaking the bank.

First off,  you have to decide what is more important, a specific species of tree
or something that will more than likely grow after you plant it. 

If you are after something specific, read no further.

Landscapers & other professionals will more than likely tell you never to buy trees from home improvement stores.  
Trees in these home improvement stores may or may not grow in your state at all. 

It is a gamble.

How to take out the guesswork:

Wait until fall and visit the clearance sales at your local stores.
The big trees that are still alive and in five gallon buckets have had a rough go of it.

Odds are they have been:

1.   Under Watered
2.   Over Watered
3.   Knocked over
4.   Blown Down
5.   Used as a fire hydrant by visiting dogs.
6.   Under Fertilized
7.   Over Fertilized
8.   Not Fertilized at all.
9.   In too much shade
10. Baked in the sun  

....... you get my point

Now you know these trees have survived from at least April to September in some of the
most adverse conditions a tree should ever have to put up with.  These trees are tough.

Look at each individual tree and disregard those with split trunks, too much missing bark  or other deformities.

Next, look at the skin and see how thick the bark is.  If it is paper thin, disregard it.  It will not survive the winter.


There is an exception.

If you are reasonably certain the thin-skinned tree you are looking at will grow in Northern Nevada and it is
as healthy as can reasonably expected under the circumstances;  go ahead and buy the tree.

It Will Die...........Right Down to the Roots

Now, why would someone do that?  Some sort of Masochistic need?  A love of digging holes?  A Death Wish?


Remember, we are talking Cheap here.

Real Life Example:

White Robe White Robe 2
I was looking for a Purple Robe Locust three years ago.

I decided to see what the home improvement stores  had in stock
at the end of the growing season.

I found a nice looking locust for a mere $14.95.

The tree looked to be in good shape but you could peel the bark
off with your thumb nail.

I knew this tree would grow in Northern Nevada. I figured if the
trunk died over winter but the roots grew and expanded,  the roots
might send up some new growth.

That is exactly what happened.  

The main trunk (all eight feet of it) died.  

The following spring four new trunks came up.  

I cut the three smallest trunks at the end of the growing season.  

The following year I had six foot tree with nice, thick bark.  

Now if we can get past year two..........
And here we are three years later.

The tree is ten to twelve feet tall

It sends out suckers all over the place, produces seed pods
and is rather thorny.

It also produces a profusion of white flowers in the spring.

White I say?  Didn't  I buy a Purple Robe Locust so I could
have more Wisteria-like flowers in the spring?

Well yes........that was the general plan.

Remember we are dealing with left over stock from home improvement stores. 

Tags fall off  over time and how much attention do you suppose the summer
help pays to reinstalling tags?

For $14.95 I suppose I can deal with the fact that I am the proud owner
of a White Robe Locust. 

It is over three years old and so far, it's still alive!

Footnote:  There is another opinion on this:  Click Here

Back to the topic at hand:

Take a pencil and paper and note the names of the remaining trees. 

Go in the store and see what zones they are rated for. 

I would disregard everything over zone 5. 

Some zone five stuff will grow but it is dicey. 

I look for trees that will survive down to at least 15 degrees F. 

Sub-Zero is better.

Look at a few other items like eventual height,  invasive root systems, resistance to bugs.

By this time, there are probably very few prospects left on your list. 
Set those trees aside and give them another visual inspection. 
Wiggle the trees a bit to see whether or not there are any roots left.

Recheck the price and make your final selection(s). 

I wouldn't pay more than $20.00 for a tree in a five gallon bucket.

Two Real Life Examples:

malus cascade Cascade September, 2006
Malus Cascade - Spring 2006 Malus Cascade - September 2006
Malus Snowdrift Snowdrift September, 2006
Malus Snowdrift - Spring 2006           Malus Snowdrift - September 2006

I was looking for a couple cheap, low profile crabs with persistent fruit in the fall of 2005. 
Malus Cascade is a weeping crab and Snowdrift is a small / medium sized crab. 

Snowdrift cost me $15.95 and Cascade cost  $9.95.  Both were in five gallon buckets.

Snowdrift actually looked pretty good when I put it in the ground. 

Cascade however, was a different story. 

I dug the hole and added all the amendments. 

I laid the bucket on its side, tapped it on all sides to loosen the dirt and gently pulled the tree out. 

The tree pulled out all right, straight out of the dirt.  Why?   It looked like most all the roots rotted off.

There were five or six roots left and none longer than six inches.

Well, what do you expect for $9.95?

I planted it anyway and staked it real well so it wouldn't get blown over or just flat fall over on its own.

Both trees survived the winter and bloomed in the spring.  

The next thing is increase that trunk size.  

New Growth

These trees always come with all the twigs and growth removed from the lower  three to five feet.  
That is a bad deal.  The trunk needs those lower branches to help increase it's own size.  

Those lower branches also help the tree deal with those afternoon wind storms by providing extra stability.

Let any new growth grow.  The idea is to have a tree that resembles a large bush during the first
four to five years.  The only reason for removing lower limbs during this period should be because
of damage or something serious.  

Those lower limbs also keep young dogs from stripping the bark off and rabbits from chewing it off. 

Follow these simple steps and odds are you may be pleasantly surprised and end up with some pretty nice trees.