It’s been a very long time since I’ve ordered directly from Starks. My first fruit trees (around 1995) I ordered from Starks, but I think they’ve changed hands several times since then. I’ve ordered a few trees from Gurney’s/Henry Fields and some of them have come from Louisiana MO according to the inspection certificate. Louisiana MO is Starks.
Honestly, I’m not that big a fan of Starks. They aren’t the same outfit they were 30 years ago, or 100 years ago. I have a friend who bought some trees a few years ago and some of them (like a small block of a variety) were rootstocks, not the grafted variety.
In the end, it’s my opinion, with new peach trees, vigor is really dependent on the soil/weather conditions where it is planted, assuming the rootstock is vigorous, and nematodes aren’t a factor.
In my locale, a very thin/small peach tree will grow like a weed, if it’s up out of the water drown zone, and a weed free area is maintained. I always request the smallest peach trees, so I don’t have to dig a big hole, and can train them.
Apples/pears are different. It takes a while to get them established and growing. And I’ve had them stall.
In terms of price, Adams is very expensive. I’ve ordered at least 25 trees from them every year for the past 6 years (one year I ordered about 150). I think I ordered my first trees from them in 2006. I really don’t think they’re that great, but keep ordering from them because it’s the only nursery I can find the peach varieties I want. They are overpriced and sent me plenty of mislabeled stuff. They once sent me a tree with visible crown gall, which I think I originally got introduced to my ground because of Adams.
The thing is, they are tied in tight with Rutgers new releases and carry stuff worth trialing or planting in the Midwest. I don’t see any other nursery which carries such a varied selection for the East or Midwest. So I keep paying their rip-off prices for questionable stock.
Cumberland Valley is starting to carry some good East coast/Midwest stock at bargain basement prices. The twenty trees I ordered from Cumberland this summer were dirt cheap. They typically send small stock, but that’s what I request anyway. If they just carried more stuff useful in the Midwest, I’d scream their name from the mountaintops.
In the end, if you are determined to try a certain variety, you have to get it where you can.