I usually buy plants, including roses and fruit trees, from Petals From the Past in Jemison, AL, but would really like to have a couple of things they do not offer. I found several websites that rate those (apricot, almond, and hazelnut) for my planting zone so I asked the owner of Petals, Jason, if they offered these trees. He said no because they had not found any that would produce consistently in my area. I’ve always had good plants from Jason so that made me wonder why so many other web sites offered them for the area. A little research told me why.

Save yourself some headaches and check out the website, Dave’s Garden, before doing business with any online nursery. Hundreds of nurseries have been reviewed so any one in particular that you consider ordering from is probably reviewed and rated for service and quality. In addition, the 30 nurseries rated the highest on the list are offered as a group of recommended sellers so their catalogs are a good place to start looking before placing an online order. There are also forums for various issues.

Gardeners can also type in the name of a nursery followed by a comma, and the word “reviews” and do a google search to pull up everything from customer reviews to Better Business Bureau reports.

Two in particular that I was considering ordering from received an F rating from the BBB and consumer complaints are numerous. One company was shown to have 31 aliases and the owner has done business under all of them. He has since been reported to the Attorney General and the Governor’s office but is still online. BBB complaints include merchandise paid for but never shipped by the nursery; customers receiving “sticks” with no roots or limbs instead of the viable plants they ordered, paying extra for larger trees but receiving the smallest offered with no refund of the difference in price, over-charges, shipping the wrong plants, no customer service when there is a problem, and so on. One customer said his credit card had been compromised and the nursery was the only place he’d used it.

Remember when I said those companies ranked the trees I wanted for my area while Petals From the Past didn’t? Deliberately recommending plants for zones outside the area where they will grow in order to sell more was another common complaint with some of the online nurseries.

Another has a rather appealing web site but had terrible ratings and a lot of them. One woman wrote in her review that she lives in the state where the nursery is supposedly based and decided to drive to the location to pick up what she wanted rather than order it and have the hassle of being available for delivery. According to her review, there was no business when she got there, just a man digging random plants out of the woods and shipping them out.

A recurrent complaint was nurseries shipping diseased plants and poorly grafted trees, many of which broke at the graft site. Any nursery that is not open to the public should be viewed with suspicion.

There are equally unscrupulous people selling poor quality seeds and bulbs and those companies are also reviewed on Dave’s Garden. Last year some of the seed I planted absolutely refused to germinate and after a while I realized the problem was bad seed and not any mishandling on my part. Lesson learned, I don’t buy anything – whether it be for the home or garden – without researching it first. Enjoy the good weather and get out and plant something this weekend! THF