Having Trouble Sourcing Trees? There’s a Reason for That

Washington, DC (June 7, 2013) – A recent feature article in Landscape Architecture Magazine highlights the growing problem of finding high-quality trees and plants. It’s all the result of an up and down market that left the nursery industry battered. Nursery production ramped up for an over-heated economy only to be hit by a four-year recession. Saplings had to be dumped and few new trees were planted. The outlook now is across-the-board shortages.

Tree nurseryUnlike other types of plants, trees grow in multi-year cycles rather that than just one season. So catching up will take several years, and likely make it difficult to source quality trees in the coming years. There is a particular scarcity of two- to three-inch caliper trees, and those that are available may have a high price tag. Available trees are also being shipped further, which can increase costs.

Here’s an excerpt from the article describing the situation:

The [nursery] industry topped out at $175 billion, according to the consortium’s most recent report, in 2009, which collected data from the beginning of 2008, before the effects of the crash took hold. But just how much production and sales would fall over the next four years, and start to pick up again over the next few, is only being assessed this year for the survey to be published in 2014.

In the meantime, Charlie Hall, an agricultural economist based at Texas A&M University, who helped found the [Green Industry Research] consortium and who travels the country speaking and consulting for the industry, offered some estimates.

“Anecdotally speaking, roughly a quarter of our growers have exited the industry, and 40 percent of our landscape contractors,” says Hall, a professor and the Ellison Chair in International Floriculture at the university. “About 20 to 25 percent of garden centers have exited as well.” (That 40 percent drop in contractors includes the “mow-blow-and-go or have-truck-will-landscape” types, who get into business as easily as they get out.) “And my estimates may even be conservative.”

Although a few large growers didn’t stop production, many reduced plantings, some by 30 percent, others by 80 percent. And they dumped thousands of trees and shrubs, even though they knew that could mean shortages if the worst recession since the Great Depression ever ended.

With tree shortages looming, there’s a greater urgency to plan in advance, check for availability of desired specific species for fall plantings, and have alternatives in mind. And expect to perhaps pay more.

Read the complete article, “Sold Out,” by Anne Raver, in Landscape Architecture Magazine