Once we knew that terribly twisted roots had become the norm in nursery- and garden center woody plants, we did two things. First, we started working out ways to evaluate and correct roots at planting time. Second, we began looking for places to buy smaller plants, with roots not yet mangled. This led us to bare root nurseries such as are listed here.
Five things you should know about buying bare root plants:
Retail sales in small quantities
Chief River Nursery Co., Grafton, WI www.chiefrivernursery.com
Ornamental trees and shrubs, evergreens, retail and wholesale
Cold Stream Farm, Free Soil, MI www.coldstreamfarm.net
Conifers (arborvitaes, firs, pines, dawn redwood), shade trees, some shrubs.
Janet and Steven: Have purchased several beautiful young conifers from them. Planning to buy dawn redwoods and hard-to-find native Amorpha shrubs in fall.
Oikos Tree Crops, Kalamazoo, MI www.oikostreecrops.com
Many fruit- and nut trees and shrubs including hard to find natives.
Janet and Steven have interviewed the owner and are impressed with his passion. Purchased a shrub, good quality
Silver Creek Nursery Fruit Trees, Wellesley, Ontario (no international sales) www.silvercreeknursery.ca
Janet and Steven: Have visited the nursery and planted several fine Silver Creek fruit trees in Ontario gardens.
Wild Type Nursery, Mason, MI www.wildtypeplants.com
Michigan natives: perennials, some shrubs and trees
Janet and Steven: Have purchased many fine plants from Wild Type.
Lists of growers
Directory of Michigan Seedling Nurseries, prepared by Michigan DNR
Although many on this list grow primarily to supply Christmas tree farms and reforestation projects and so deal in wholesale quantities, some sell in retail quantities, some also offer deciduous trees, shrubs, fruit trees, berrying shrubs and natives.
McKay Nursery, Waterloo, WI https://www.mckaynursery.com
Larger, older trees such as are offered by ReLeaf Michigan and some city beautification sales
Not bare root...
...but plants in sizes small enough that roots may still be untangled
Forestfarm, Williams, Oregon www.forestfarm.com
Perennials, woody plants, conifers. Many fine species and varieties offered.
Janet and Steven have purchased many woody and perennial plants. Quality is good, disappointments have been graciously corrected.
Gossler Farms, Springfield, Oregon www.gosslerfarms.com
Many fine ornamental species and varieties.
Janet and Steven: Have purchased woody plants and been happy with the quality
We have not ordered from all or even most of these nurseries yet so we appreciate and will revise this article to include any reviews you send or post on our Forum
Good roots are not our only reason to buy small trees. We also know without a doubt that a smaller tree will beat a larger one, if the two are planted into a garden at the same time. We understand the desire for immediate size but we press people we work for to let us plant small whenever possible. Check out this David-beats-Goliath aspect of tree planting in Why Start Tree Small https://gardenatoz.org/whats-up/main-features-of-the-season/why-start-tree-small/