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  • Writer's picturePiet Stoker (PhD)

Gardening with Indigenous trees - A price and quality check

Indigenous tree prices vary significantly

If there is one thing in the Tree Industry that is NOT true, is the age old saying "You get what you pay for".

I recently surveyed prices and quality of tree species on offer at three retail nurseries in the eastern suburbs of Pretoria. This blog reports my findings and also speculates where the industry may be heading.

As to tree species, I found that all nurseries surveyed carry stock of the popular species:

Wid olive; River bushwillow,

Karree; Wild plum,

White stinkwood; Tree wisteria,

Fever tree and Monkey thorn

Survey 1: Well known chain of retail nursery outlets

As to species, there was not much more to choose from than the popular species listed above.

Prices are offered per bag size as follows:

20L at R550

50L at R1600

100L at R3800 (with a limited time special price at R2500)

As to quality - I did the survey in mid-winter and admit that it is not the best time to judge the growth vigor of trees. Notwithstanding I thought the trees' quality was rather poor. It was clear that most of the stock have been standing for a long time and seem to be pot-bound.

Survey 2: Upmarket garden center

A broader range of species are offered here, totaling about 20 . It included species such as River bells, Umzimbeet, White milkwood and Baobab.

Prices are offered per species and bag size:

10L at R90-R186 (Limited choice of species)

20L at R180-R286. (Wider choice of species) Fever tree for example, was priced at R240

40/50L at R596-R753 (Limited choice of species)

There were no trees in 100L

Quality was slightly better than it was for survey 1, but in my view still sub-standard

Survey 3: Your nursery around the corner

I found a few surprises here, for example Toad tree and Marula.

Prices were inconsistent. The same species in the same bag size had different prices, yet with no apparent difference in quality. Bag sizes were incorrectly labeled. For example as a 50L bag, whereas the bag size was not more than 30L; and as a 100L bag, whereas it was at most 60L

Prices for what I thought is more or less 20L, ranged between R295 to R395

Prices for what I thought is more or less 50L, ranged between R495 to R1495

Prices for trees that were claimed to be in 100L bags ranged from R1995-R2495

In this instance the quality of the stock was appalling.

Tree quality should be considered when buying trees

What is to be learned from the above?

1) Prices vary significantly. You can easily buy yourself a cat in the bag!

2) Retail nurseries in the area surveyed offer limited choices when it comes to tree species.

3) Quality is below standard for most cases and in some cases really poor.

The future of the tree retail industry

Where is the industry heading?

I predict that the tree retail industry is going to move to the cloud. As more buyers realize that you can buy your trees from expert growers with the click of a mouse - in much the same way as you can buy just about anything from the "takealot.coms" of this world. Sourcing trees via the cloud offer you:

1) Access to expert advice on which trees to plant depending on purpose, climate and location.

2) Delivery to your doorstep.

3) Quality trees, ensured by quality assurance mechanisms such as social media and reviews as enabled (for example) by Google My Business.

4) And last but not least, at prices significantly lower than sourcing them from traditional nursery outlets.

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