The retail online nursery industry has imploded

Ten or fifteen years ago, there were so many online/mail order nurseries out there. So many are now out of business or offer virtually nothing compared to what they used to. Especially for conifers. What happened? Are there any left?


In a nutshell…mom and pop operators have either quit or retired.
And big conglomerates get more business not by earning it but by buying all the competitors.
Join the 21st century…(but can hope there’s a small business resurgence though it doesn’t look too promising).


The nursery business is mostly owned and controlled by the few so I vote who I want in business with dollars by who I buy from. England’s, oikos,plant justice and many others are great for rare fruits I love those! Find myself using gurneys, Starks and other big businesses also because they have something I want.


I have bought from many nurseries online. Main issues I have seen is the big nurseries charge a bunch often times but offer a lot of variety but I have bought from the smaller nurseries and have gotten scammed many of times. I bought thimbleberries from a place called native food nursery and they came dead, then I bought raspberries and blueberries from Berries unlimited which also came dead or close to it. I bought from Stark Bros and while small at least they were alive, bought from Grow Organic Peaceful Valley and some did not make it but if I did not wait until after June I could have gotten my warranty at the very least, bought seeds from baker creek and all of them grew pretty well. I guess that is the difference of the small nurseries vs the big ones. The small ones have been lacking in my experience. Only good small one I bought from was Okios.

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There are places like this Small Quantities Conifers/Firs

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I only started buying plants online the last few years so I don’t have a reference point for 10 years ago. However, I will say that in general before purchasing from a new business I look for reviews on this forum or for firsthand experience from members I trust.

Those I’ll buy from again - England’s, One Green World, Burnt Ridge, Edible Landscaping, Pikes Peak, 39th Parallel, Nourse Farms, Floramaxx, Bakers Creek, Ohio Heirloom Seeds. There are others I would think harder about due primarily to shipping times (Fruitwood comes to mind) but they offered a great selection at a great price.


There are hundreds of nursery websites online, but the problem is most do not offer shipping. I had fun the last three years ordering from 20+ different nurseries and comparing the quality.


In case anyone is at this level of buying . Gene Redlin helped me out to get some juneberries and various things I wanted through the years. They think in terms of tractor trailer loads of plants but he made some arrangements for me a few different times. Was honest with him about what I wanted and my orders were not small. There minimum order I think is $700. Let’s say you wanted 1000 juneberry bushes as an example to plant out an acre Gene is your guy! Let’s say you don’t want wild plants you want 1000 callery pear rootstocks then I would look at or maybe you want bulk ohxf let’s say your not a business so your not interested in wholesale and just want 5 rootstocks or or


@clarkinks have you seen I don’t know much about their online business but I have been to their location. It is a converted house in SE Portland. They were really knowledgeable and helpful. They seemed to be more focused on getting you what you need than cranking out the plants. When I mentioned I was looking for scionwood, the guy said they have to trim the trees to fit in the boxes and to call them and he would save the trimmings for me. Super nice.

BTW, I think the people that started One Green World (OGW) also started (NWN). My understanding it they started OGW but wanted to move out of retail so they sold OGW and created NWN which is wholesale (66 acres).



Yes onegreenworld is very popular.

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We visited for One Green World first time last month and it was not at all what I expected. The front lawn of the house is loaded with plants and the nursery behind was huge. Very Portland. :wink:


For non-fruit trees I used to use these people. Are they still great and run by same people?


Forest farm is still pretty good, but they offer about half the total number of products they used to.


They still seem to grow a very wide range of species and cultivars. Prices are much higher though- they don’t seem to cater to commercial nurseries offering substantial quantity discounts. I haven’t purchased anything from them this century, so I guess higher prices should be expected. Seems they used to be between 10 and 15 dollars per tree.


It’s hard enough for fruits, but I’m really speaking in the ornamental realm.

Example of stuff I would like to find. Forest farm used to carry items like Abies pindrow and the hardier cultivars of Cedrus deodara like ‘Eisregen’, ‘Karl Fuchs’, and ‘Shalimar’. Now, nothing like that. Although standard deodar does ok here normally there were some losses in the cold winters or ‘14 and ‘15 near me so the extra hardiness is a plus. Now, I can’t find these ANYWHERE including locally.

I understand the business is tough but even just someone who does some propagation out of his/her home as a break-even hobby would be nice, but I can’t even find that.


Forest Farm still has a great selection of things like Japanese maples, but they seem to have scaled back a bit on some of the rare conifers per my last comment.

I would think the past few years the nursery business has gotten a lot more sales but also a lot more complaints. There are more and more new gardeners starting out to the point there are shortages. In the process prices are rising and new gardeners don’t know what they are doing as much. I know when I first started growing I would complain my pepper seeds would not be growing from refining fire chilis and while some certainly never grew for sure or had extremely low germination others did grow. As a more experienced gardener I now know you want a bare root fruit tree a few weeks before final frost so that would be April for me now. I used to have everything shipped in May if I had a choice and things would heat up too much. I have also learned to subvert my expectations a little more. I have learned many trees or bushes will come small and will need to fill out over time. I would say the new gardeners even though they end up buying a lot are just going to be that much harder on small businesses.


I like to buy most of my trees online. There are more selections online, They ship the trees to your door. Most trees are bareroot, and are easy to handle. In early years, I bought trees from Miller’s but Miller’s was bought by Starkbro. I also bought many trees from Starkbro . I like it’s replacement policy. I don’t have to worry about the tree dies within one year. Starkbro trees are pretty good in general, I only had one occasion that the tree needed to be replaced in the past 10 year. However, after most recent ordering experience, few years ago, I stopped buying trees from it. Onegreen tree’s price is higher and the description sometime is stretched, especially the plant hardiness. But it carries some cultivars that others don’t.
The covid hits hard on local nursary for sure. One of local nursary ( there are not any nursery here ) that I often go to get some annuals and garden supplies sold to a future car deal. I saw the sign when I drove pass a month ago which is sad.


Well, as a nurseryman with a small and specialized nursery myself, I would encourage people with an interest to take it on as a hobby and specialize in plants you love that are not widely available. I only grow the varieties of fruit trees that I like enough to grow myself- producing well branched, bearing age trees. Marketing can be tough, but once you have a local rep, it takes care of itself. I just had an $18,000 dollar shipment of trees sent to N.Carolina that were mostly surplus trees in my 2.5 acre nursery. Loading nearly killed me- just me and my helper and that heavy steal gate couldn’t be removed so all 70 trees needed to be lifted from my light truck to the big one from side to side.


Here in Colorado our local nurseries are often times very expensive so for annuals we go to Lowes, Home Depot and Ol tools nursery. Ol tools is becoming a lot bigger with at least two stores now and the other two are big box stores. Most of my perennials come from online places. Like I said I have gotten so many dead plants that I have just kind of learned to rely on the big nurseries with some exceptions. I have a order coming in from a nursery called something like mehrabean nursery so we will see how that goes but they have the same replacement policy as Raintree. They have been cool so far. Overall I have run into the way of buying from the big nurseries overall like One Green World, Stark Bros, Raintree and what not. Like you said even if Stark Bros has smaller trees they have a great replacement policy. I have read it is better to get a small tree anyway. The others are big enough that they have proved their worth.

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