The Greener View: Was the Purchase Worth the Value?
Q: I just bought some end-of-the-year shrubs from a local nursery and was shocked at what I found. I am mad and want to return the plants, but I am wondering what you think. When I lifted the plants out of the pot, a lot of soil fell off the roots. About 2 inches' worth fell off all around the sides, and there are several inches of soil left in the bottom of the pot. It is obvious that the plant was growing in a smaller pot and someone stuck it in a larger pot, filled it with soil and then sold it to me as a larger pot at a higher price. Is this a normal practice? Should I be mad, and should I return the plants for a refund?
A: I would be mad, too, but I think I might not return the plants. Yes, nurseries do move plants into larger pots on a regular basis, but they are typically grown in that new pot for six months to a year before being sold. I think it is possible some plants that were meant to be sold next spring were mistakenly sold early.
Did you pay a reasonable price for the size of plant you actually received? Maybe it wasn't as good of a deal as you originally thought but was an OK price for what you have? If so, then you should keep the plants and mention the problem to the nursery so it doesn't keep selling next year's plants at the wrong price. It may even make things right by giving you an extra plant or a refund. If you think the price was high for what you received, then take them back to the nursery and ask for a refund.
If the staff says the plants were not meant for next year, and that they had been in the nursery for a while and been discounted to make room for holiday merchandise, then you may not want the plants.
Before keeping them, you would need to ask why there was no root growth into surrounding soil. Was the soil the wrong pH, or did it hold too much or not enough water? Maybe the roots on one side were damaged by too much sun heating the black plastic pot. Sunlight damage is common, though it doesn't explain why there were no roots growing in the bottom of the pot. If the plants look healthy and there are good roots in the old potting soil that didn't fall off, then I would keep them.
Q: A few weeks ago, our red oak tree started losing leaves. This was before the weather turned cool, so it was not normal. Two large branches on one side lost all their leaves. They are too high to reach, so I can't tell whether they are still green. An arborist told us he would not consider pruning the oak tree until the middle of winter and that the tree might have oak wilt. What do you think?
A: Oak wilt is a serious and fast-moving fungal disease. The red oak group is more susceptible than the white oak group, but all oaks can succumb to the disease.
Unless there is a safety reason, we try not to prune oak trees when insects are active. There are beetles that feed on the sap of oak trees. These beetles are attracted to pruning wounds on oak trees. If a tree is infected with a disease, the beetles can transfer it to another oak tree. The beetles are not around during the winter, so winter pruning prevents the disease from being spread by beetles.
The symptoms you describe could fit oak wilt, bacterial leaf scorch and other oak problems. An arborist can help determine the cause, but to confirm whether it is oak wilt or bacterial leaf scorch, a sample must be sent to a laboratory. Check with a university extension office in your state to find a lab near you.
Email questions to Jeff Rugg at email@example.com. To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.