Sorry, you’re not getting a landscape company to buy your tree from you

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

I got a phone call the other day from a gentleman who wanted to sell me his Japanese maple. It was large and beautiful, he assured me, and “all [I] had to do was come get it from his yard.” He went on to tell me it was a great deal because he’s seen trees like his sell for $5,000! When I explained (nicely, I thought) that I wasn’t interested and no one else would be either, he cursed at me and hung up on me.

Times like this, the three-word phrase “people are funny” is what keeps me from throwing stuff.

disappointed bowie

So why wouldn’t I want to take advantage of this sweetheart of a deal and sell his tree to a client down the road? The list of reasons is long, but here are a few:

  • your typical homeowner doesn’t work to prune and shape a tree like a tree farm does
  • your typical homeowner doesn’t have a pest management program to ensure the tree is free of insect and disease issues
  • there are steps growers take with field grown trees, like root pruning, to ensure that the tree transplants well
  • if the tree’s as big as he says it is, it would cost me a pretty penny to dig it, get it, store it, water it, keep it healthy, and then plant it for a client. I’d need some assurance that it wasn’t going to die on me, and the first three bullet points show that that’s not the case.

If we were doing a job on this person’s property and the tree needed to come out and I wanted it for my yard, I might be willing to make a deal. But I’m not rolling the dice on stock of uncertain provenance when my clients want (and deserve) the best.

So what’s the moral of the story? If you have a nice, mature plant to get rid of that you think has value, don’t waste your time calling designers. Just list it on Craigslist, and maybe you can get someone to trade you enough topsoil to fill in the hole when they take the tree.

Dave Marciniak is a landscape designer and speaker. He lives in Culpeper, Virginia and can be found via his website and on Twitter.

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