Thursday, June 07, 2012

My Mistake

Planting of river birch trees on the border of our property

Ever do anything foolish?  One would think at my advanced years that I would learn.  One one think right?  Well, here's a boner (no pun intended) that I pulled last week.  As you all know I am an avid gardener and amateur landscaper.  We have an acre of blank slate land to play around with here at Casa Tipton-Kelly.  Bill and I decided that what would complete the edge of our lot that borders a cornfield (soybean field in the off years) was a row of river birch trees.  Last year we purchased and planted three river birch trees in an oval planter that Bill built near our sun room.  Those trees were perfect in that location and are doing fabulous.  So what better way to plug up that open space on the border of our property than to plant more river birch trees?

Thus we went down to a local nursery which will remain unnamed because I'm tired of getting nasty comments on my blog every time I post something negative.  We look over the trees and I order five of them at $195.00 each.  Expensive?  Yes.  Worth it?  Absolutely!  I made sure to go on Tuesday when I could get the senior citizen 10% discount.  Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10% for the old folk.

So I check out the trees and order them.  Since the trees are too big to put into my Subaru Forester I make arrangements to have them delivered.  There is a delivery charge of $65.00.  Okay.  Then I was asked if I would like the fellows to plant them for me.  Well, this was a question that I was going to consider for the first time.  In the past I have always planted anything I purchased.  ANYTHING!  I've never had anything die.  And believe you me I have purchased enough plantings over the years to replicate a Longwood Gardens.

But on this day I purchased the trees, the temperature was hovering around 95 humid degrees.  Both Bill and I are no longer spring chickens.  Bill said he couldn't plant them and frankly, I didn't feel like digging five holes in the tropical heat to plant these river birch trees.  I asked "How much would it cost to plant them?"  I was told "Half the price of each tree, but no discount.  But......we will include delivery free and the trees are guaranteed for a year."  Expensive?  You bet, HALF THE PRICE OF EACH TREE?  That comes to $487.50.  Uh.......why not?  I have a few extra bucks since I am no longer paying a mortgage.  Why not splurge?  And this folks is where I made "Ron's Mistake."  "Foolish Ron." Yes folks, I took leave of my senses.  I said "Yes."  Why not indulge in an old gay guy's fantasy and have a couple of young hunks do my physical labor for me?  Haven't I earned it?  Well, maybe.  BIG MISTAKE.

Delivery was set for the following Friday.  They came on time.  And yes, there were two young, hunky guys in a butch big truck who were making the delivery.   While Bill and I relaxed in the comfort of retirement splendor in the sunroom of our hacienda, we watched the younguns labor in the misty morning, planting our five new river birch trees.  I didn't hover over them, I let them do their thing.  After all I assumed they knew what they were doing this was costing me almost $500.00.  After they were done I thanked them and even gave them a $20 tip.  Oh when Ron does Foolish, Ron spares nothing.

Fast forward a week.  Bill tells me the leaves are falling off the trees.  Really?  It's not fall.  My goodness, what could be happening?  I got three BIG river birches last year and nary a leaf fell off when I planted them.  So I trot myself out for a look-see.  Uh huh, the leaves are not only falling off, they are a deathly gray.  Oh no, here we go.  I have to go back to the nursery and tell them of my woe.  At least have them to come and look at the trees and tell me what is wrong.  Even better, replace the trees although I felt that I might just have a problem there.

So the day arrives to return to the nursery with my tale of woe . I gather a few of the dead leaves and put
them in an envelope to prove the trees are dying.  I even take a couple of photos and put them on my iPad for further proof.

We arrive at the garden center.  I ask to see "someone" about my guarantee.  The lady I asked said "Oh, you'll have to see Al.  He's the expert on the river birch trees.  He out now but he will be back in about fifteen minutes.  Can you wait?"  I've seen this "Al" around.  I think he is the Owner or one of the owners. I get a feeling of foreboding that this isn't going to be easy.  "Al" looks like one of those guys who has the smile but doesn't give.

Bill and I kill time wandering around the garden center.  About twenty minutes later Al arrives.  He's busy with another customer.  We wait another fifteen minutes.  Then Al is ready to see us.  I tell him of my Tale of Woe.  He is not interested.  No in the least.  Uh huh, not surprised.  I show him the dead leaves.  He says "That doesn't tell me anything, I need to see the branches."  Oh yeah, I'm going to cut off branches and bring them in.  He tells me that everyone brings in dead leaves (really?)  He says by looking at the branches he can see if there is new growth.  Well....okay.

Al now tells me that I may not be watering them enough.  I tell him that it rained the day the trees were planted and we've had plenty of rain since.  However, I did notice when the Two Young Hunks planted the trees that they didn't fill the hole with water first like I always do.  I thought they knew what they were doing.  After all I was paying Big Bucks for a Professional Planting.

After I tell Al that we've had plenty of rain and that I also have an irrigation system he says "Maybe you're watering them too much.  Turn off your irrigation system and let them dry out."  WHAT? I told Al that I didn't have this problem last year WHEN I PLANTED THE DAMN TREES MYSELF!

Well folks, I don't want to torture you anymore with this narrative.  The bottom line is that Al wasn't going to do anything, let alone come out and visit my dying trees.  He did make one slip up though.  He asked if the trees were covered with tarp when they were delivered.  I told him they were not.  In fact, I can remember how the trees were dumped in the back of the truck like debris.  But again, I thought the Two Hunks knew what they are doing because they were PROFESSIONALS.

When I told him they weren't covered with tarp Al indicated that the trees should have been covered with tarp because they root ball would dry out from the long trip (fifteen miles) to our house.  I told him again "No they weren't covered."  Al just looked at me and I got the message.  He wasn't going to do anything now.  He wasn't going to replace the two trees which were in really bad shape nor was he going to visit the trees himself.  He said wait until next year and even then the trees maybe be a "little thin." Yeah, like the monster trees that I have now that I planted last year.  It was clear that I wasn't going to get anywhere with Al.  I could throw a hissy fit and make a scene but unless it is really serious business I don't conduct business that way anymore especially since I've been on the Other Side of the Counter with my hotel front desk job.  People who throw hissy fits rarely if ever get satisfaction.  All they do by their hysterics is harden the position of their opposition.

So I tucked my tail between my legs and left, telling myself that I had learned a lesson. Yep, as old as I am I got snookered in again, I'm ashamed to admit.  I was an Old Fool.

After we got home Bill and I checked the tree that was the worst.  Ah yes, there was new growth on the branches! We could see the beginnings of buds.  There was hope.  Then we dug up the tree because it was planted crooked.  The way the Two Young Hungs Hunks planted it, the tree looked like the Leaning Tower of River Birch Tree.  After we pulled the root ball out we saw the was dry as dessert sand!  That's why it was dying.  The hole dug for the trees should have had at least a bucket of water in the hole before the root ball was placed in it.  Just the way I've always planted bushes and trees.  What do I know?  Only how to plant that's all.

So Bill and I replanted the tree and gave them all a good drink of water.  Now they seem to be recovering.  I think we will be able to save these trees.  However, come next spring if I have one dead tree I am returned to the garden center and Al and he's going to see how I deal with guarantees.


A commenter suggested that I write of my experience on Angie's List.  That was an excellent suggestion that I took.  I opened up an account on Angie's List this morning and will tell of my experience with this local landscape nursery who charged me big bucks for a less than satisfactory planting.  I received a service for which I should pay for but I also have the option of telling others about that service which I will do.


  1. Did those trees come from Sand Hill nursery (header's photo)?
    Report the nursery to Angie's list.
    Your money for the "hunks' job" should be reimbursed.

    1. Nadege,

      No, those trees didn't come from the Sand Hill Nursery. They came from a different nursery. I will not ask for a reimbursement unless the trees die. I will do everything to keep them alive. In fact I just came back from watering them again. I am partially the blame here because I accepted a costly service that was perform but not to my satisfaction so I don't think I should be fully reimbursed. They did plant the trees. However, if the trees die I do want them replaced. I put the mistake I made in the category of ordering an expensive meal at a restaurant that I wasn't pleased with. I am responsible because they did provide me with a meal, it's just that I wasn't pleased with it. As Judge Judy says "You got the service and you should pay for it regardless if you were pleased with it or not." Now if I paid to have them planted and they didn't show up or just dumped the trees, that's another whole story. This one is my fault Nadege. I should have known better. Lesson learned.


    2. Just as a followup, I think I will report the nursery to Angie's List. Maybe this will help someone else.

    3. Nadege,

      Thanks again for your advice about Angie's List. I just opened an account and will report my my experience. At least my experience won't be a total loss.


  2. You certainly know how to tell a fascinating story! It was very interesting to read, but I'm sure it's a nightmare to experience. You are definitely caught in the Nurseryland Twilight Zone.
    One thing is certain - - you are NOT an old fool, but Big Al is a bastard! Obviously he is taking the easy way out by giving you the runaround. The only good part of this woeful tale is that you were able to watch the hunks plant the trees - - even though they didn't know what they were doing.
    If this happened to me, I would keep pestering the hell out of Al. If no results are yeilded, I'd contact the Better Business Office.

    I'm glad that you replanted the tree and I hope it thrives. If it doesn't, I'd take it back to the nursery and make Al eat it.

    (this comment was too damn long!!)

    1. Jon,
      Thank you for your complimentary comment. Of course I knew Al was giving me the run around. First he said I didn't water it enough then too much. What I really wanted him to do is come out and look at the trees, that's the least he could do since I spent almost $500 to have them planted. I foolishly assumed I would get top notch, professional planting but I was wrong. However, as I explained in my response to another comment, I did receive a service albeit a less than satisfactory service. I've watched "Judge Judy" long enough to know that I am responsible for paying for that service. The only guarantee I have is that the trees live. I will wait until next spring and if any of the trees are dead I will definitely demand replacements because that was the guarantee and I will hold them to it. However, as far as the overpriced planting job, that's my mistake that I have to swallow (no pun intended). The other commenter had a good suggestion though, she said to relate my experience on "Angie's List" is what I will do. I just opened an account and will tell of my experience with this nursery. I've spent a lot of money over the years at this nursery and I expected better service which I did not get. I'll let other potential customers know. I don't know what good it would do for me to create a scene at this time but I do think my review of this service will get their attention so maybe the next time Al won't give the run around to future dissatisfied customers.

  3. I bet it feels great to have an entire acre to yourself! Ever found out why the leaves were originally falling off, not during fall? Sure hope it wasn't infection.. Anyway, good luck gardening and landscaping with your acre, sir. Happy gardening!

    -Oscar Valencia


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