When is the best time of year to buy nursery trees?

the miniaturizer

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Hi everyone, I'm new to the forum and I'm just considering starting bonsai as a hobby. From what I've read, it looks like a good bet is to get a couple of nursery trees. When is the best time of year to get good deals on them? I live in Dallas.

I'm interested in basically anything that I can play around and practice with that's cheap, but the ones that I think look the most interesting and rewarding to me are Maples, fruit trees, and Crape Myrtles-- and maybe a bonsai Christmas tree. :)
 

tmmason10

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If you plan on doing any repotting or bare rooting, or planting than spring is typically optimal for buying trees. BUT, a lot of nurserys have big sales in the fall to help liquidate their inventory and it might be a good time to grab a few on the cheap.
 

the miniaturizer

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Thanks for the info. I'll keep my eye out for good sales in the fall and plan to repot in the spring.
 

treebeard55

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Welcome to the addiction that no one wants to get over! ;):D

Fall is a good time to go nursery-crawling, because garden centers are trying to reduce their inventories before winter.

The potential difficulty lies in knowing what to look for. Plants in a general-landscaping nursery are not grown with bonsai in mind, so are not tended with techniques that promote compactness, low branching, trunk movement, and the other characteristics that make for good bonsai candidates. Not to discourage you, but judging by my own experience, 1 out of every 100 trees and shrubs you'll look at will have good bonsai potential. On the flip side, when you do find that one, at garden-center-fall-clearance prices, you feel like you've hit the lottery! :)

Ask to see their set-back area -- where they have the plants that haven't appealed to landscapers. Stay away from anything diseased, but mechanical damage doesn't always rule a tree out of consideration.

I wrote up a garden-center-shopping checklist for our local club a couple of years ago. If you'd like to see it, send me a PM with an email address, and I'll send it to you as an attachment. Just offerin'.
 

Random Usr

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3 years ago (in early automne) I saw 2 gingko bonsai in a local plant nursery. There were no labels on them. One of them looked pretty good and the other less so. Anyway, the price was a bit too much. I knew they’d be less expensive as soon as the leaves would be gone for the winter as they would not be so attractive and without labels (or leaves) difficult to identify. So I went home, got my “Tip Ex” and returned. I discretely marked the pot of the good one with the Tip Ex so as to remember which one I liked and then returned every other week or so, waiting for them to lose all of their leaves.

The day finally arrived when they were leafless so I asked the shop-keeper how much he’d take for those “scraggly things” over there in the corner. He said that I should make him an offer. I gave it some thought and I quoted a price that I knew was much too little, with the idea of bartering for a reasonable fee. To my astonishment he agreed!

So ANYTIME is a good time to purchase bonsai, potensai , and nursery stock – if you know what it is you are buying.
 

Vance Wood

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Generally the Fall is the best time because most of the trees you are going to be interested in are the same trees landscapers will be least interested in. It is also possible to acquire these trees at a reduced price because the nursery will be looking to get rid of them because they are poor sellers and or, they do not want to winter over stock that is questionable. However; when it comes to Mugo Pines (my specialty) the spring is as good a time as any because I have more choices in trunks to go feeling for, trunks that may be good for bonsai but ignored by the general public but purchased anyway because the top of the tree was well trimmed. In short the more choices the better the chance for the occasional good find.
 
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I do have to say I tend to wait a while after we get some hard freezes, mainly because some plants take a little time to show the damage, while others it is clearly shown instantly.
 

treebeard55

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This fall's find ...

Last Saturday the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club went on our semi-regular fall shopping trip. This time we descended on the Open Air Garden Center (Warsaw, IN,) where the owner gave us an across-the-board 60% discount, and deeper discounts on trees in poor condition or that had been on his hands for several years.

I came away with this sweet Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis.) The pictures don't show it fully, but the tree has good trunk movement and taper, plenty of low branches, and a decent base. Trunk diameter at the basal flare is about 1-1/2 inches. And the tree gives every indication of being in good health.
BN New hemlock, trunk 10-22.jpg

BN New Canada hemlock 10-22.jpg
 
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JudyB

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ooooohhh, nice find. Are you going to do anything before it goes to bed for the winter?
 

treebeard55

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Thanks, Judy. I'm not going to do much beyond some light cleaning up, then spray it (and my other hardy trees) with a 25:1 LS solution. Serious planning will start after I repot next spring and see exactly what the nebari looks like.
 

JudyB

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I get the dilution rate, but what is the LS? I have read about spraying trees in the fall with neem, but have never done it.

Oops, sorry if I'm going too far off topic...

Editing this post, as I just realized it's lime sulphur. Musta been a brain freeze.
 
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Mike423

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Been eyeballing a few 2 gal. Sankaku "coral bark" Japanese maples at home depot this year that have some decent low branching. They were selling their 2 gal. Japanese maples for around $40, but they are on year end clearance now for around $9 including tax so I think I'm going to go back today and maybe pick up one or two.
 

Vance Wood

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Been eyeballing a few 2 gal. Sankaku "coral bark" Japanese maples at home depot this year that have some decent low branching. They were selling their 2 gal. Japanese maples for around $40, but they are on year end clearance now for around $9 including tax so I think I'm going to go back today and maybe pick up one or two.

For that price; get them both or you are going to be kicking yourself latter.
 

edprocoat

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Right now the Lowes stores here in Ohio have all the outdoor bushs, and trees on clearance. , I seen two Japanese Maples, the type with the fine leaves that look like the classic marijuana leave you see on t-shirts for 70% off! They were originally $49.95 and had almost 2 inch diameter trunks and low enough branches, the bottom few were maybe 10 inches from the soil line and the whole tree was less than three feet tall,I had just spent over $300.00 on materials for a job and I asked the ass clown to set two aside that I wanted as it would take me an hour to get back with the money. I returned 30 minutes later only to have him tell me that " Some lady picked them up and made a big stink until the manager said first come first serve." Man I was bummed out.

ed
 

Kenitai

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Yes, the general best time of the year is Autumn. I got a Kiyo-Hime maple for half the price almost a month ago.

However it also depends some on the species, if you want a Prunus (Cherry blossom) to have it be as a bonsai, spring is the time to buy. At least where I live (Holland).
 

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