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Online nursery review guide w/ photos continued

Continuing my series of reviews and experiences from online nurseries, I have decided to create a new post since the previous post had grown very large and loaded with pictures. If you're interested and didn't catch it, you can find it linked at the bottom of this post.

Thus far I have reviewed these four nurseries:

Bloom River Gardens

Greer Gardens

Forest Farm

Porterhowse Farms

I decided to offer these opinionated 'experiences' with various online nurseries since some people here had expressed questions regarding the quality and reliability of these nurseries.

This 'rule-set' I've used for the reviews has been copy/paste'd from the first post.

For each nursery I review, I'll try and write where they are located, include a link and detail how 'large' they are. Some are just gigantic while others are Mom and Pop shows out of their backyard.

After that, I will rate each nursery in four catagories. One star(*) being poor or below average, two stars(**) describing an average rating, three stars(***) accounting for a positive attribute and four stars(****) describing a near flawless rating. I'll also reserve five star ratings for companies who are head and shoulders above the others in any particular area.

The catagories I'm using are:

Inventory: How large a variety of conifers the particular nursery offers. Basically how many different cultivars(and different sizes) the nursery offers. Extra credit here also for nurseries offering the very rare and choice plants that are scarsely seen.

Stock quality and size: Some nurseries offer gorgeous plants in perfect healthy, others are clearly neglected some, often just from growing in crowded situations and lacking the right amount of sunlight. Also nurseries offer very different sizes to their stock. I've purchased from different nursuries and received 'gallon sized pots' that were anywhere from a one year graft to a spilling over, root bound 6-7 year graft.

Customer service/General experience: Many nurseries are ran like businesses, some are run like families. You'll notice if you buy from multiple sources that some are REALLY trying to make you happy in order to have a lifelong customer while others just tend you treat you with indifference. Also, some companies will gladly replace a conifer if there is a problem while others can be hard to get a hold of and/or won't replace anything if you lose plants.

Value: This rating, which most people will probably consider most important given the economic times, will be my best attempt at rating nursuries on 'bang for your buck'. This means that I won't neccesarily give the cheapest sites top rating, but rather the overall value, whether they offer nice plants at great prices or new plants at unbeatable prices. Some retailers do offer very young plants at very high prices and will likely score poorly in this catagory.

I am not going to rate the nursuries overall, as I feel almost every nursery excels in some area and offers something to the online buyer.

I'll leave that to you based on your priorities and fiscal situation.

One last critical note. At the beginning of each nursery I'll also describe how much experience I have with them. Some sources I have only placed one or two orders with while others I have bought hundreds of plants from. This is important for 'sample size' as it's possible experiences I've had with nurseries where I only ordered once from will be only a sneak peak at what these nurseries have to offer. Please keep that in mind if you read on.




Some may know this merchant as Cedric Murray. This merchant appears to be a relatively small nursery offering Japanese maples and rare, choice conifers. It appears his nursery is located in Stanwood, Washington st. I've made many purchases from Cedric, so my experience level here is very high.

Inventory: ***

It appears that most of the stock Cedris sells is from Stanley and Sons nursery. Most of the stock is 3-4 years old, so it appears he grows most plants a few years before offering them for sale. Some of the plants offered are very hard to find and either aren't grafted by S&S or are not currently/recently available. His stock is largely a collection of very choice conifers.

Stock quality/size: ***

While Cedris doesn't offer the largest cultivars I've seen, they are often a bit more mature then other nurseries and the quality is always tip top. Conifers always arrive in fantastic shape and seemed to take off as soon as I planted them.

Customer service/General Experience: ****

Cedric clearly wants happy/return customers. He goes out of his way to pack your precious conifers carefully and effeciently into shipping boxes and better yet - offers a full refund for any overpaid shipping - a refreshing bonus not often found on Ebay. Shipping for me was always quite fast and very affordable. He even recommended alternate conifers after I purchased conifers that were known to not 'color' as well in my neck of the woods.

Value: **

For the most part, the prices represent about a 100% markup from S&S nurseries, a fairly typical wholesale/retail ratio. Most plants offered have are more mature then S&S stock, usually 3-4 years old.

It's hard not to recommend 'Bonzai Bob'. Top notch service, reliability, choice plants and super safe/fast shipping make this a pleasant experience.

Picea glauca 'Arensons' Blue' $25


Picea orientalis 'Tom Thumb Gold' $40


Tsuga canadensis 'Vermuelen Wintergold' $25





Coenosiums is ran and operated by Bob and Diane Fincham. Longtime conifer enthusiasts and collectors, Bob and Diane moved from the East Coast 20+ years ago to Oregon and then finally Washington state where they currently reside. With five acres covered in mature and choice conifers, they graft, grow and offer about two hundred different conifers, most of them dwarves or miniatures.

I've made several visits to Coenosiums and have purchased some 150 cultivars, so I have a pretty good idea what Coenosiums can offer.

Inventory: ****

Coenosiums specializes in dwarf and miniature conifers. They offer a handful of large uprights/weepers, but their dwarf and miniature conifer choices are virtually unmatched in my experience. Many of the miniatures Coenosiums offers are nearly impossible to find anywhere else online.

Stock quality/size: ****

Coenosiums stock varies in age. As someone who has strolled down their fairly large nursery, I see cultivars that are 2-3 years old and others that are quite large and probably closer to 5-7 years old. You can get a pretty good idea from the images below. Especially since these are dwarf and miniature conifers, this is a great advantage as you get instant impact upon planting. Some of the stock is so old that it requires some root 'teasing/pruning'. Out of all the conifers I've purchased from Coenosiums, I haven't lost a single plant yet - a testament to Coenosiums quality stock.

Customer service/General Experience: ****

Bob and Diane are great folks and offer both great plants and experienced information. I've never purchased plants from them online, so I can't testify to that process, but with some thirty years of selling and shipping conifers across the country, I'm sure they handle things fine. They are very receptive to visitors. If you're passing by Mt. Rainier or make road trips to Washington, you'd be missing out if you didn't give them a call and schedule a visit. With five full acres crammed full of amazing, mature conifers, it's an amazing experience and a memory-card busting camera event.

Value: ***

Coenosiums prices range from $25 to $50 a plant. Most are 5" pots or one gallon plants but the majority of the plants Coenosiums offers is older then many nurseries offer. While $40-50 might seem a lot of money for a plant that may never get larger then a beachball, the conifers listed at these prices are extremely choice, rare, coveted gems that will probably be growing long after you're alive.

I'm surely a little biased from my numerous great visits to Coenosiums and my fledgling friendship with Bob and Diane, but I feel that anyone interested in miniature and dwarf conifers need to at least try them out and form their own opinion. I'm guessing it will lead to many other orders.

Pinus strobus 'Sarah Rachel' $30


Pinus mugo 'Jakobsen' $35


Abies procera 'Blaue Hexe' $40


Abies koreana 'Silberkugel' $45


Picea abies 'Hasin' $35


Picea orientalis 'Mt. Vernon' $35


Next week: Wayside Gardens and Ebay merchant, 'Plantspluspines'

Here is a link that might be useful: Previous online nursery reviews

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