I started my career in horticulture working at Bailey Nurseries in Minnesota. I was a high school student who needed a job, never once thinking how the nursery industry would shape my future. Because of this...and because my brother, Jeffrey, works for Bailey's, I have a deep appreciation and understanding of nursery practices and what's required to produce landscape plants. This is why my blood boils when I see trees mistreated, carelessly maintained or poorly planted--I understand what it takes to produce healthy trees.
|Burlap and twine left on the tree at planting. Remove all root ball coverings! Or as much as you possibly can.|
And then these young trees are delivered to a job site and left to die. Or they are planted wrong, neglected and left to die. Or they are just mistreated and left to die.
|Tree planted at the new CSU Medical Center on campus. This tree died within two weeks of planting, likely due to drought stress. It has since been replaced, costing additional time and money.|
All trees start out as a seed or a cutting. It just depends on the type of tree and how it's typically grown. Most named cultivars are vegetatively propagated through asexual reproduction (cuttings, budding, grafting). Some trees, like oaks and redbud, are grown from seed (though they may be grafted later). Seeds are typically fall-sown and cuttings are taken throughout the summer. Regardless, either seeds or cuttings will be sown outdoors or stuck in a greenhouse, nurtured and maintained.
|A greenhouse full of maple cuttings.|
|A maple tree liner.|
After planting, multiple things can happen. The tree may be budded the first growing season in the field. It may be left to grow for one year so it develops more roots. It may be grown (with regular pruning and training) for a certain period of time (no budding or grafting). Some are even grown in the field for awhile and then transplanted into containers to be grown for an additional year.
But what's important to know is that from seed/cutting to a 1 1/2" to 2" caliper tree may take anywhere from three years....to five years. It will take even longer for bigger trees. That's a long time for the nursery to invest in a product. And that's why it hurts to see these trees dead in the landscape.
For example, if a maple cutting was initiated in the greenhouse this summer, it would be dug in the fall of 2017. It's then planted into the field in 2018. It's grown for another season (2019) and by 2020 it's considered to have a "three year top". The tree may be dug that season or grown for one more and harvested in 2021 (four year top). So after the initial planting of the cutting in the greenhouse, it grows for another four full growing seasons--about five total years, give or take.
This is also why trees are an expensive investment.
|If you stop watering (or don't water) the turf, young trees will likely suffer. Remember trees and turf are sharing the water.|
When you buy a tree or you're planting a job site, make sure you have everything ready to plant. Get the utilities marked. Mark where the trees will be planted. Have water readily available. Make a plan for maintenance following planting. This is far easier for homeowners, who only have to take care of one or two trees. It gets more difficult if you have a large site with 100 trees. But it's not impossible.
So does the grower care what happens to the tree after it leaves the nursery? ABSOLUTELY! Nursery employees spend a lot of time growing trees and want to see their product be successful. We all do.