I've never shopped at a garden center like this one. I was in Canandaigua, NY over the weekend. I was told to check out Miller Nurseries in Canandaigua (about 2 hours away) by one of my favorite garden centers here in Buffalo (Hamburg, NY, actually).
Stroke of luck–I was going to be in Canandaigua for Mother's Day! I was looking for dwarf pear trees to replace an apple, and possibly plum trees that are part of my diamond-shaped espalier. The apple tree has galls and most likely will suffer a slow death. The plum tree is barely leafing out because of an aphid infestation. More about those in a future post.
Rows of mostly fruit–dozens of varieties of apples, pears, apricots, nectarines, peaches, grapes, persimmons, paw paws, kiwis, plums, cherries, fig, blueberries, gooseberries. Trouble is, they all looked the same to me. Good labeling is essential!
Anyway, it turns out Miller Nurseries is just down the road a small bit from my in-laws place on Canandaigua Lake. Practically walking distance. I was underwhelmed with the size of the retail operation. They had great, healthy-looking selection, but not a huge selection. There were a couple people wandering around looking for items. I couldn't believe my nursery had sent me here. I asked about dwarf fruit trees for my espalier at the counter. They first thought my name was Espalier and tried to look up an order. After they clarified that I was asking about a tree for espaliering, they asked if I'd ever been there before. "No," says I. They tell me to go out this building, across the driveway and in the building in the back. I felt like it was going to be some back-alley drug deal.
I thought the room smelled earthily-great, like a wine cellar. My daughter went running from the building holding her nose. We're going to have to toughen that girl up if she ever wants to have kids.
So I go in the back building and was amazed. A dozen or more customers were wandering around the large, dimly-lit, cool room surrounded by shelves of root stock plants. What struck me first was the great earthy smell–like an underground wine cellar in a French chateau. Come to find out they are a catalog seller of everything from trees to ground covers, specializing in fruit trees.
I found EXACTLY what I was looking for – Collete and Red Anjou dwarf pear trees. Only $22.85 each. Potted, and with a few more leaves on them, they'd have cost almost three times as much in a garden center. If you could even find these particular trees.
When I was checking out, on Mother's Day, they were handing out climbing rose root stock to anyone that was a mother. Damn. The one time my wife would have come in handy in a plant store.
There are shelves of roots and rows and rows of root-stock trees. Now when I order plants from a catalog, I can visualize the process in which the order is fulfilled and shipped. It's not magic, or complex, I just never gave it much thought. When they have to pick something of a shelf to send it, they may know what roots & stumps look healthy and have great potential, but looking over the shelves this weekend, I was completely clueless. The significant part of the plant they display is the part I never see.
If you're ever out in Canandaigua, they're not actually IN the city of Canandaigua but almost halfway down the lake on the west side. Visit 5060 West Lake Road, Canandaigua or www.millernurseries.com.