The Most Important Thing You Need to Learn Before Starting Your Nursery

Safety first. Many of the things discussed on this board involve electricity and chemicals. Read the labels, take precautions, wear protective clothing, and don't assume anything is safe.

One such problem has come up with a couple of people inhaling powder rooting compounds with adverse reactions. Do be Careful.

Now, Mike's Rant.

Do Not take cuttings from the plants in your landscape or anybody else's landscape. There is no way in the world for you to know for sure what the correct botanical name for those plants is. Read this entire page so you understand.

I can not stress how important this is!

Even though the retail stores are responsible for having their plants properly tagged, so is the wholesaler who sold to them. I'd venture to say that 95% of all the plants on retail lots are properly tagged. But that 5% is too big a chance to take if you are going to use that one plant to take 10 cuttings from, then 100 from those 10, and 1,000 from those 100 and so on.

Pretty soon you could have 10,000 plants that are not true to name. Not to mention that might have sold thousands of cuttings to people here that are reproducing them.

But I really can't drive home how important it is for everybody to propagate from rooted cuttings from a trusted source. A trusted source is a nursery that specializes in plant propagation. They take their business very seriously, and better than anybody they know the liability of making sure a plant is tagged true to name.

Now let's say somebody on this board offers a few thousand cuttings for sale and they say; "I took these cuttings from the 200 rooted cuttings I bought from Spring Meadow Nursery". We all know that Spring Meadow is reputable, so the only thing left for concern is the integrity of the person offering them here. That's your call based on what this person has posted in the past.

This is the reason that I am so firm about this. A person from this group goes to the garden center and sees a holly that looks exactly like the holly at his in-laws house so he knows it's the same plant. And he can get 1,000 cuttings from their hollies for free. And believes in his heart that it is absolutely the exact same plant because he lacks the experience to know how many hollies look identical. That's where we get into trouble.

If you've been in this group for very long you know how many new members pop in here all excited because they found an unlimited source for free cuttings, and they know for sure what they are because their kid works for a landscaper who can tell them what they are.

My first steady job was working in a wholesale nursery. Lucky for me I got into the shipping area and had to learn botanical plant names in order to pull orders. In the two years I was there I aquired a wealth of knowledge about plants, and I was just a kid.

My next job was working for a landscape contractor. He was an "expert" because I watched him dispense information to unsuspecting homeowners over and over and over. He had an answer for every question they asked.

This guy was an idiot! He knew almost nothing about plants! When the nursery mailed him his invoice he'd bring it to me because he had no idea what was what. They printed the invoice in all botanical names and he didn't know one plant from another. And his father owned this business before he took over.

That's your expert.

Dispensing information like a walking encyclopedia!

That's why I always say, if you ask an expert to identify a plant for you they will. They don't want to look stupid, so they babble off something close and you won't know the difference. Tell them you are going to propagate 10,000 of these and sell them, and ask them to sign a statement indicating what they just told you is a fact and they will run like a deer.

Now think about this.

At the age of 17 I knew both the common and botanical name of hundreds if not thousands of plants. For the next 33 years I continued to work with those plants. I propagated them, I grew them in the field, I installed tens of thousands of them in landscapes, I purchased tens of thousands of plants that were properly tagged, some that weren't, I've photographed them, I've written about them, I've done everything you can do with plants.

Take me to the zoo and point out a plant in the landscape in front of the lion cage and say; "Hey Mike, what kind of a plant is that?" And I'll tell you it's a type of this or that, but in no way in the world can I tell you for sure what variety it is. There is no way for me to know for sure.

But on a family field trip I answer their question and everybody is happy. I'm the family expert.

Just don't propagate and sell the plant based on what I told you while we were at the zoo! What I told you was an educated guess at best.

Make any sense?

Okay, I'm not done yet. You need to read this:

This is part of my response to a message board post:

Your landscaper blamed the Preen/Treflan because you provided him with the answer. Had you not told him that it probably wouldn't have come up. And this falls into my "if you ask an expert you will always get an answer because they think they are expected to know". Only thing is, there is a good chance it's the wrong answer.

I once asked a landscaper what kind of a tree it was that he was trimming as I was walking by. He thought for a second and boldly stated that it was a weeping cherry. I knew the answer before I asked, it was a Red Jade Weeping Crabapple.

Now, here's where this really kicks in. Two years ago I was buying some Japanese Maples for my landscape. While at the nursery I saw a Weeping Red Jade Crabbapple that had a very interesting shape to it (that means it was really ugly) but it was perfectly shaped for how I intended to trim it. So I told my friend Craig; "I also want that Red Jade over there." He said; "It's not Red Jade, it's Louisa, but very similar."

Now, 30 years in this business I had been working with Red Jade Crabapples and had never come across another plant that looked like Red Jade that really wasn't a Red Jade. Until that day at Craig's nursery. So . . . maybe me and the landscaper were both wrong about the tree he was trimming.

"We only know what we know, but the danger lies in what we don't know." -Me.

Susie this is not intended for you, but for those of you that still think you can take cuttings now and figure out what it is later.

You are so wrong.

And to maintain the integrity of this group, I will continue with my rants until you wear me down. And at that point the integrity of this group will be lost.

More . . . . .

I really can't tell you what to do. But what I'd like to see you do is if you find a plant that you really want to add to your line, then find some properly labeled liners from a trusted source and starting growing and propagating them like crazy and sell them here so others can have properly labeled plants.

It's too easy to do 50, the 200 from that 50, then 1,000 from that 200 and you still don't know what you "really" have and thus you are limited as to how you can sell them.

If you open any wholesale catalog you will see there guarantee right on the inside cover and it will read somehthing like this.

All plants sold without a guarantee implied or written. If you feel that you have received distress stock from our nursery you must file a claim within days of receiving the plants.

However, all plants are guaranteed to be true to name.

So they won't promise you that the plants will live because they know that you can do any number of things to kill them. But they do guarantee them to be true to name. That's the company that you want to do business with.