Root Seller

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).

Roots, runners, canes, tubers & bulbs. Never window shopped for plants like this before.

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.

I have a long-time garden blog, a popular garden on America's largest garden tour, and have co-written a book on garden design titled, "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" When I'm not doing all that, I am an advertising designer always out looking to design things to promote your business. Look me up at #jcharlier.

11 comments on “Root Seller

  1. How unbelievably cool is that. I’m jealous!


  2. I’m jealous too !!! What fun.


  3. Great post! I can visualize this exactly because I made a pilgrimage to Adams County Nursery and Boyer Nurseries near Gettysburg last year. When I entered the bare root barn at Boyers I was struck by the same smell of roots that had permeated the place for decades. I’ve used Miller’s off and on for years and they have a great selection. They also honor their warranty if the stock does not perform (true for a peach and fig from them this year).


  4. Anonymous

    What a great experience. I wonder if they ever get them mixed up? Although, I think we’ve all had the experience of buying something out of bloom that ended up being a different color than advertised when the flowers eventually appear, so I guess being in a pot is no guarantee either.


  5. Susan,It was kinda’ cool. I wasn’t expecting anything like that. My experiences plant shopping have always been with plants (usually in bloom) shown at their best.Cherry,I recommend to anyone now to find a catalog nursery near them just to check it out.MacGardens,I was surprised by that too – a one year guarantee! There’s no risk.SusanGardenChick,I’m sure they must get messed up at times. I’m curious as to how they grow these to the point to which they pull them out of the ground before they leaf out.


  6. I’ve always wanted to go there so thanks for the vicarious visit.


  7. OMG, GREAT STUFF! Never judge a…lol


  8. OMG, on the first picture it looks like abandoned, lost in the jungle nursery.After reading and seeing next pictures, I must say it looks very impressive.Thanks so much for sharing.Ewa


  9. You want your wife’s hands on your root in a store??? What kind of pervert are you????…wait… I know…


  10. Alex M.,Keep it clean Al, it’s a family garden blog!


  11. Your favorite place in Hamburg, wouldn't be Lockwoods, would it? I've recently ventured out of my usual Lake Road nurseries in Youngstown, thru Olcott, and went out to Lockwoods. AMAZING. Loved every minute of it, and couldn't believe how much money I spent there. If you know another place in Hamburg – I'd love to hear about it!


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