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Better than bareroot

Get a jump start with plants that mature sooner by planting fully rooted plants available in pots

Posted: January 16, 2009 9:11 p.m.
Updated: January 17, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Richard Green of Green Landscape Nursery points to healthy cane growth on a tree rose. When buying tree roses look for plants where the trunk of the tree rose is straight and thick.

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Sure it's gonna get cold again, but this recent warm spell probably has you thinking about tuning up your landscaping. It's not such a bad idea, either. Planting now gives things like trees and shrubs plenty of time to get established before the crazy-hot days of summer arrive. And if this line of thinking has taken hold of you, you're probably eyeing those plants-in-a-bag that are popping up at your local nursery. "Bare roots" they are called, and you can probably get a great price on them. But, as Richard Green of Green Landscape Nursery in Saugus said, "The best deal is usually the most expensive."

What he means is that the money you initially save when purchasing a bare root instead of a fully rooted plant could very well be lost when the bare root plant dies. And, even if it does make it, a bare root will take longer to mature.

Take a fruit tree, for example.

Green said that people buy a fruit tree to bear fruit, "But a bare root fruit tree won't have fruit for years - and it will be many years before it will have abundant fruit."

Taking into account that many people change homes every few years, that means the tree will bear fruit for the next owner, and not for you, the homeowner that planted it.

Very neighborly of you.

Hard out there for a plant
Green has been in business in the Santa Clarita Valley for a long, long time, and he and those who work for him know our unique climate and soil conditions and hard water can make it difficult on even the most seasoned of plants.

"Our philosophy is to make you succeed," Green said. "You have a lot better chance in this valley if you buy it fully rooted."

"We're actually classified as the worst growing conditions you can get," added Gary Wagner, another longtime nurseryman, who works for Green.

Those conditions include heavy clay soil, extremely alkaline soil, water with a very high mineral content, sometimes-single-digit temperatures in the winter and temperatures reaching 110°F or more quite often in the summer. Oh, and don't forget all the wind.

"One mile per hour of wind is the equivalent of one degree increase in temperature in terms of drying," Wagner said. "Winds can be more drying than heat."

With this in mind, Wagner said, "I really would spend the extra ‘dollar' and get fully rooted plants."

For plants such as fruit trees and roses Green Landscape Nursery only purchases the best bare roots to start with, Wagner explained. "We buy them in bare root, but we plant them immediately. It's generally about a year before they are sold. We use the best soil, compost and organic fertilizer. Our success rate is near 100 percent."

What you get is a plant that costs a little more than a bare root, but one you can count on to survive and flourish if you treat it right.

Wagner noted that Green Landscape Nursery only buys top quality, grade one roses, and sells them, fully rooted, in five-gallon containers. Through experience, the nursery only carries varieties of roses that are relatively heat tolerant. "Every year they come out with new varieties, but we discover what works well here," he said.

When it comes to purchasing your roses, Wagner said to look for those with at least three or four good sized canes. Canes a half-inch in diameter are best, though some varieties naturally have thinner canes.

Compare the plant you are interested in to others of the same type.

On a quick tour of Green Landscape Nursery, Richard Green pointed out the variety of rose types available, including shrub-style, tree-style and climbing roses. A tree-style rose should always have a "nice, straight and thick" trunk. For climbing roses, he said you should be sure they have good canes, well supported by stakes.

Fruit trees
When it comes to fruit trees, Wagner said, "You're gonna get a lot older, higher quality fruit tree in a container." And he noted the difference in cost between bare roots and rooted trees is "negligible." A tree in a five-gallon container might cost you $21 and a bare root $18. Of course, you can purchase bare roots cheaper, but it might be a bad purchase.

"Some of the stuff doesn't even grow here," he said.

The best part about the container-rooted trees is that you can "pretty much plant them at any time," he said. But it's best to plant them as far ahead of those 110°F temperatures as possible.

Green Landscape Nursery carries most fruit trees, including apricots, peaches, pears, nectarines, apples, pomegranates and cherries.

When purchasing your rooted fruit trees, look for evenly distributed branches and sturdy trunks. With a tree in a five-gallon container, that's a trunk at least one-half inch in diameter. In a 15-gallon container that's at least three-quarters of an inch in diameter.

Planting and care
The planting and care of roses and fruit trees is similar. Wagner said that, first, be sure you are planting them where they get at least one-half day of direct sunlight. If they won't get that much direct sunlight, at least make sure they get afternoon sun.

Wagner said to have your hole dug before you take your plant out of its container, and have your planting compost/soil mix ready. "Mix up to 50/50 (but no more) with the native soil you took out of the hole," he said.

The most important thing is to keep the top of the root ball a little above the soil. Then build a little berm around it. Fill this with water repeatedly until the water doesn't drain away in 10 minutes. This is your method to water at any time. "It basically tells you when it needs water," Wagner said.

Wagner said to wait at least six to eight weeks after you plant before you fertilize, and that this shouldn't be before mid-March. "Definitely use organic fertilizer," he said. The organic fertilizer won't burn the plant and won't harm valuable organisms in the soil.

For more information call Green Landscape Nursery at (661) 255-8838.


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