(Posted Feb. 13, 2009 by member "BarodaPoliceChi") I am the police chief in Baroda, Michigan. Our department is currently investigating an embezzlement/fraud at Southmeadow Fruit Gardens at the request of the owner, Peter Grootendorst. Though the investigation is on-going, I want to tell past customers that many of your problems were not the fault of Mr. Grootendorst and are directly related to what we are investigating. If you wish confirmation of this message, you may call me, Gary Ruhl, at 269-422-1344.
Baroda-Lake Township Police Department.
Given some of the history laid out here I was more than a little nervous ordering from this company. My challenge they offered the rare and more difficult to find varieties of Apple Trees I had been looking to add to my orchard.
I took the plunge and placed my order. The trees were a little slower in coming and I started to get nervous. I called and spoke to owner who was gracious and more than willing to talk with me and explained the process.
Another 2-weeks passed and again I called. The owner was gracious to a fault and true to his word my trees arrived a few days later.
They were everything I hoped they would be. There was however an issue...the order was 1-tree short. I called and explained. Again gracious to a fault they explained the tree I had wanted was sold out. I was then offered a tree more rare and one I had been coveting for several years. I jumped at it!
Given the history of this company I can appreciate and respect why people would have some trepidation in ordering with Southmeadow. Take my experience for what is was...positive. I respect the owner, believe he is a man of integrity, perhaps a little over-worked, but a man who wants to do right by his customers.
I pray yours is as positive an experience as mine has been and that you will know an abundance.
JenYan West Bloomfield Township, MI (1 review) May 19, 2015
Posted on May 7, 2015, updated May 19, 2015
Posted on May 4, 2012, updated May 7, 2015
My first order with this nursery in 2010 was a simple apple tree. It was fulfilled without trouble, the owner helping me with my selection. He spent 20 minutes on the phone with me even though I was ordering a small tree.
Recently I received three large caliper apple trees in perfect condition, delivered as promised.
Was it a bit of a hassle to get them here? yes. But if I wanted a Red Delicious I\\\'d go get it at English Gardens.
Since then I have done much research, this nursery remains unique, in that they continue to have historical trees, with a huge range of selection, not available anywhere else.
It remains a SMALL nursery, using the internet as a way to communicate cold storage availability and inventories. It is not some big factory farm. I am more than willing to go out of my way for these kinds of trees and to support small farmers.
My condolences to anyone who experienced fraud. I understand the feelings that can be generated. But it appears that it\\\'s done, the criminal has been apprehended and convicted of a crime, and the nursery is back to business.
I have had an excellent experience with Peter G. and will continue building my historical garden with his trees. On May 7th, 2015, JenYan added the following:
This Spring I purchased an additional Holstein tree, (3\" caliper) virtually impossible to find. Peter was organized, answered my phone calls and took the time to ensure that it was properly delivered. What a find!
I saw his whole shipping department, and cold storage which were immaculate and organized. (I even saw the check and order from the negative review and can verify there is no factual basis for the complaint, other than a misunderstanding of what time of year gooseberries should be ordered. She even got the year of the order incorrect.) Remember that this is a specialized nursery, run by a small family. There\'s no paypal, no fancy support team. What you get is properly labeled, properly grafted and raised heritage antique fruit trees. If they\'re not in stock, your order gets put on the next year\'s list of prioritized plants. It\'s a slow process. But worth the patience, just like gardening...
My new tree is beautiful, in a few years we\'ll be eating such treasure. On May 19th, 2015, JenYan added the following:
I read with interest the updated post about the gooseberries. It's disappointing that the trash talk continues, along with the misdirection and miscommunication.
Every time I call SMF, I get Peter on the phone, he takes time to answer my silly questions ("what should I do about the frost tonight?) Peter calls me back. He returns every one of my emails. He goes out of his way to get my order complete, and there have been many years that he's said, "This order is made too late" Or "I don't have this stock any more." and my favorite "try again next year." It is a small grower, a national heritage spot, and to trash someone for something that is partly an error on your part, is short sighted. It's a relationship that we have with our growers, the good the bad and the ugly.
It makes me consider the times that I have misjudged or acted out of impatience.
It's one thing if a grower is sending misidentified product, or actual fraud, or dead plants. (one time I ordered black raspberries but got blackberries and those don't grow the same). But cranky grouchy comments about waiting too long seem out of place.
I'm patiently watching my new fruit trees growing. And all this talk about gooseberries is making me think about growing them! Aren't they really thorny? Hmmm.
Posted on May 3, 2015, updated May 17, 2015
I ordered and paid for 3 gooseberry rives in 2012, I did not receive them, Peter said would ship in fall, did not receive called again then was told they do not ship in fall. Southmeadows also does not return emails. It is now May 2015 and I am still waiting for the 3 gooseberries. Spoke with Peter again like I do every year now since 2012 and was told same story.. was a bad winter, bad spring, don\'t know but will get it to me. I now just believe my money was taken and that is end of story. STAY AWAY FROM THEMOn May 17th, 2015, audreyjc added the following:
It took this post to get a phone call regarding my order, I stand corrected April 2013 I ordered berries, Peter told my husband he would refund my order if I would remove my "hurtful post". I thought about it and decided no. Non existent communication from his company, no response to emails inquiring about the order, I could have been more understanding about failing crops with better communication and updates. By the time I figured out I was not getting my order 2013,2014,2015 I could have ordered elsewhere.
HELLO FROM WESTERN NY,
I am so very excited right now... I Just got off the Phone with Peter the owner of Southmeadow Fruit Gardens... It was such a pleasure to speak with the actual owner of a company for a change. I am an avid berry grower and would like to add some very hard to find Dessert Variety Gooseberries to my berry patch in the spring. Here is a list of Peters amazing collection of Gooseberries from his easy to use site.
Achilles.................................very large red
Careless........................pale green with thin white stripes
Catherina.....................shiny golden orange
Clark..................................light copper red
Early Sulphur...................yellow with light yellow stripes
Hinnomaki Yellow.............greenish yellow
Lepaa Red.....................................large red
May Duke..........................bright red with pinkish stripes
Oregon Champion.................whitish green
Poorman.......................dark wine red with purple bloom
Sylvia........silvery green glowing light pink
Whinham's Industry............claret red with light red stripes
Whitesmith.................very pale green with wide white stripes
Many of these are european vArieties that are near impossible to find in the US!
I will be sending my check soon to lock in my spring order that is for sure!
I cant wait... And a big thanks to Peter for talking on the phone, giving me some great info on the status of next years plants and being very kind to another Gooseberry grower!
I would highly recommend calling Peter if you have any questions or concerns about placing an order... I cant wait till next spring!
brianog East Sandwich, MA (4 reviews) July 21, 2013
I ordered red currants from this company. They arrived dead. I never contacted them about this, but I never ordered from them after that.
Kellet Vestavia Hills, AL (1 review) November 15, 2012
We moved in to a new home in February of 2012. I wanted to plant an apple tree for each of my daughters to celebrate the new house. I ordered 2 Hidden Rose apple trees. Everything worked flawlessly for us. They arrived in perfect condition at the appropriate time for planting. They survived the Alabama summer and we hope they will bear fruit in the next two years. Not a complaint in the world! We even created a Christmas Card for Peter with the girls in front of their tree so he can watch them grow!
Let's go back many years to the time when I was young and the world was (to me) a much simpler place. One of my fondest memories was going apple picking with my grandfather in Western New York for 20 oz. apples.
Now that I have a property large enough to grow apple trees and just about everything I can get my hands on I started looking for the apple of my childhood. All inquiries about this particular apple were met with looks of disbelief or just plain smiles. No one believed that they existed. I was beginning to wonder I maybe I misunderstood what Grandpa was telling me.
Two months ago I attended a fruit tree pruning seminar and I asked the instructor is he had ever heard of 20oz apples. He said he had....that they were an older apple and 'weren't good for much' but I disagree and asked him if he knew where I could get trees. He said I could get just about anything I wanted at South Meadow Fruit Gardens in Michigan.
The next day I looked at the website but couldn't find a 20oz apple listed. I called the nursery and a very nice man named Peter helped me. Silly me I was looking for 20oz but the tree was spelled out Twenty Ounce.
I ordered 2 trees and one arrived about 10 days later. I did have to send a check. Not a problem. As you can tell I like things the way they used to be. They apologized for only sending one tree. The size I ordered there was only one available. The tree that did arrive had a refund check attached with an explanation.
I'm very pleased with the tree. I planted it as instructed and it is doing well. I can't wait for Spring to purchase it's mate.
This nursery has been around for decades and I 'm sure the negative experiences fellow gardeners have experienced is due to the police investigation into the conduct of the office staff.
My experience was very positive and I can't wait to order heritage fruits and berries for my little homestead.
Now I need to find someone who has a very Big very MEAN rooster on steroids so the local hawk will stop taking my chickens! Just kidding about the steroids.
Posted on May 26, 2011, updated August 9, 2011
This company has continued to scam mail order customers. I placed a mailorder April 9, 2010 and paid by check. My experience with this company is exactly as the negative commenters have experienced. My check cashed, order not received and despite many attempts per phone and e-mail with this company nothing has been resolved. He actually stated to me per e-mail that, "this was the first time he has ever shipped an order and the customer not received it". Obviously this has been common practice for this company for years. I have kept every e-mail and phone contact i've made with SMF regarding the order i have not to date received. Its now 13 months later and the latest e-mail i received from SMF (5-23-2011) was why did i wait from May 19, 2010 til July 2010 to contact them regarding this order. Whereas my records show correspondance continuing thru september and october 2010 where he clearly states, my April 9, 2010
order will be shipped spring 2011. When i contacted him April 2011 about my April 2010 not arriving as expected, he wants to dispute the dates of my "didnot receive my order" correspondance. He clearly expects me to go thru the run around with him again. I am going to follow up with the numbers
listed by others who have had the same problem i am having. Having
operated a business in a small community for over 50 years when we say
we will ship our products out they are shipped. I quess i was under the
illusion other business operated the same. There is no excuse that this
company is operating as it is. I will take further action with the authorities
listed in other customers negative responses written on Southmeadow Fruit
Gardens. This company has made excuses for its business practice far too
long and for him to e-mail me and tell me this is the first time an order has
been shipped and the customer not received it...that is clearly untrue. On August 9th, 2011, Historical_land added the following:
I received my order ONLY aftef writing a negative comment on this forumn regarding southmeadow fruit gardens. An extra apple tree was added to the order. The trees were not the size i ordered which were to be of fruit producing age. The trees ranged from 8 inches to 4 ft.maximum. After wasting a year of my time getting the order i gladly accepted what was sent. Unfortunately, it did not end there i received a certified letter from SMFG this past week regarding my negative rating on this forum. It pretty much put the weght of his company's reputation on my negative rating? I have now forwarded all correspondance to my attorney. The positive post by Ashmeadskernel the day following my negative rating calling my post fishy...there isnt an apple tree in the world worth this hassle..i received my trees. I will not order from this company again...I also will not be "bullyed" in to changing my negative experience with SMFG to anything but what it is. As other customers have posted, pick your order up or if you must order online, documemt everything...there were 60 some negative ratings prior to mine, i find it hard to believe i'd be the sole reason his company was having business difficulty. The certified letter i recently received regarding this negative rating not being changed leaves a very bitter taste...he has a beautiful catalog i'll give him that.
I have been buying from Southmeadow and two generations of the Grootendorst family for almost a quarter century. (Sorry ladies, I'm showing my age.) I live in Indy and have a lake house 30 minutes from their nursery. They are truly an institution. I think the mistake some people make is thinking this is some sort of huge operation with lots of employees. They operate more like an old time nursery and do not have a lot of staff. They do however have one of the largest varieties of antique fruit trees in the country. In some cases I think they may have some of the only specimens of certain heirloom trees. It is mainly a mail order business. They don’t have a walk-in store, but you can pick up your orders from them. Fortunately, I live close enough that I have almost always picked up my orders in person and didn't fall victim to the deceit of the previous office manager.
Not to re-hash what others have already stated, but for a period of several years the owner's office manager was basically ripping off some customers and ripping off the business owner as well. I read an article in the Herald Palladium where she was convicted of felonies and ended up in jail. This tarnished an otherwise impeccable reputation for Southmeadow. Peter, the owner, has been working diligently at gaining back the trust of his loyal customers and rectifying issues going back several years. From what I understand, everything is back on track. (Sorry, but I find the previous negative commenter's review a little fishy... I don't think Peter would put all this work into regaining his reputation in the industry to just throw it away on that person's order.)
I would not hesitate to buy from Southmeadow and would not hesitate recommending them to anyone. My gut feeling is any recent negative reviews may be an effort from competitors to gain some of his market share or to try and take advantage of a person who has been through the wringer as a result of putting his trust in the wrong person. While visiting the Nursery last year to get some root stock, Peter told me of a person who was trying to get refunds for orders that ultimately were never even placed. It turned out to be a scammer who thought he could take advantage of the fact Peter was giving out lots of refunds to make up for the past misdeeds of his office manager. I will say Peter could probably use another employee, but my guess is he probably has a hard time putting his trust into another person. And really, who can blame him?
To anyone who is hesitant to order I say this, call Peter and talk to him. He is friendly, knowledgeable and certainly an upstanding business owner. He still does a lot of things the old-fashioned way. Which is actually refreshing in this instant-gratification, ‘click’ and you’re there world. Some of the best things in life take time. If you live within a few hours of his neck of the woods, it might be worth making an appointment and taking a drive to the nursery... the countryside and Lake Michigan make a perfect getaway spot. There are lots of wineries, great restaurants, and tons of lodging options. Do a Google search on Michigan's Harbor Country and you can see for yourself. I can highly recommend New Buffalo as a base for your stay, but there are countless small towns along the Lake Michigan Shore, all with their own charm. There is so much to do and explore. That is how my late wife and I came to find the appeal of America’s Third Coast many, many years ago. If you love arts and antiques, you'll also have found your Mecca.
~Never challenge an old man, because if you lose, you’ve lost to an old man, and if you win, so what?~
Nepitella Syracuse United States (3 reviews) March 21, 2011
Unique and fantastic selection. Beautiful, healthy trees. Completely inept customer service. The previous commenter describes the company and its problems very well. If you decide to order, pray that there are no errors or omissions in the original order. Attempting to get a refund or rectify an error is a long and extremely frustrating process. Keep good records and keep on top of any problems! Seems unready for the 21st century, with lots of excuses and little inclination to accept responsibility for shortcomings. My good nature and the great condition of the trees I received nudged my rating out of negative and into neutral range, but I will never order from this company again.
Posted on July 5, 2010, updated July 19, 2010
Well, I've read all of the recent "new and improved" comments about SMFG, but I'm afraid my experience doesn't support them.
On February 22nd of this year (2010), I mailed an order form and a check for two apple trees, as Southmeadow was the only company I could find on the net that still claimed to have Pink Pearls in stock. My check was cashed almost immediately, but I then heard ... nothing. No acknowledgement of the order, and certainly no trees. I placed inquiries about the shipping time in late March, early May, and finally placed a phone call near the end of May, to tell them that I would not be around in June to plant any trees that arrived, so that my order should be canceled if they could not get the trees to me by the end of May. The first week of June rolls around, and no trees, no response to emails. I called again, and had a pleasant conversation with Peter Grootendorst, who said he could find no record of my order anywhere. He asked me to send him PDF copies of the cancelled check, which I did the next day, along with the address to which my refund check should be sent. Needless to say, the email received no response.
One month later, and I returned home, and no refund has been sent, nor any communication made. I sent a notice yesterday indicating my attention to refer this to the state attorney general and the BBB, as I feel at this point that my $70 has been stolen.
If I do in fact receive a response (and my refund), I will happily post that as an update to this review, but under no circumstance will I ever order from these folks again. You may make your own decision.On July 19th, 2010, hopsage changed the rating from negative to neutral and added the following:
This matter has now been resolved properly, with a full refund received earlier this week. Given that, and the concern that Peter has expressed about his company's reputation, I also retract my impression that his company has dealt with me dishonestly. Flaky, perhaps, but not dishonest.
In the end, my impression of SFG is that Peter (the owner, and as far as I can tell, sole employee in the managerial realm) is trying to take on more than he can do as one person. The orchard seems to have an excellent reputation for the quality of its trees, and if you read the recent positive comments, many of them are from people who picked up their trees directly from the orchard. From having talked with him myself, the guy clearly knows his trees.
However, running a mail order business that hopes to serve the entire U.S. seems to require much more than just one guy, one computer, and paper orders, delivered by U.S. mail. I'd love to see this orchard do well enough that Peter could afford to hire someone to help with the order processing, and pay for a proper web-based shopping cart and a robust IT infrastructure. Ideally, orders made on the web would be payable by credit card and would immediately be part of a database, and not subject to ups and downs of hand-processing (that's what resulted in my lost order, I think).
Not to put too fine a point on it, but that standard for internet commerce is now 10 years old. I understand that it's neither cheap nor easy to get this in place, but it would make a huge difference in the effectiveness of the company's mail order organization.
Another small changes that would make a big difference is to send an email acknowledgment the moment an order is received. A quick note to say "the check was cashed, these are the trees you ordered, and here's when you'll probably get them" would go a long, long way toward ensuring customer happiness.
I have been purchasing mainly apple tree nursery stock from Southmeadow Fruit Gardens for the last 20 years. Most of these purchases were some time ago but a few more recently. I have had nothing but excellent quality stock that was very viable and have done well.
However my most recent experience was taking a grafting course in February. Peter was extremely patient with me even though I had some difficulty getting the hang of the one of the cuts. He persisted and wouldn’t let me perform the grafts until I did get it right. The course was a single day experience and we really had a fun time not just an educational experience. The good news is that all 10 of my grafts onto the root stock have taken and are leafing out so obviously he is a good teacher and he really knows how to do the grafts. I did bring home some extra root stock with me and when I got home I performed two grafts on my own based on his instruction and they both are viable and are leafing out.
I would highly recommend the grafting course and I enjoyed it so much that this summer I am going to go back and take his bud grafting course.
I will probably go back next year in February for the grafting course and graft my own nursery stock to bring home and plant. Part of the reason to do it that way instead of just purchasing nursery stock from him is that it ends up being a pretty good deal over purchasing 10 trees and it is a whole lot more fun. The number of varieties that he has is incredible and therefore it makes sense to either purchase from him or graft during the grafting course very unusual and hard to find varieties.
Peter is also an extremely knowledgeable person and just almost an encyclopedia of techniques and fruit tree varieties. He is also an extremely nice guy, like I said the entire day was fun and I look forward to going back.
I ordered late this spring, and was hoping Peter had all the varieties I requested. Although he had already run out of stone-fruit, he did still have 3 of my first choice apples, and one of my alternates. Peter did just put up a page of current stock in cold-storage, which is great because you can see what is available before you order.
They arrived well packed, and looked healthy. Using the instructions included, I soaked the roots overnight and planted them in the morning.
I called Southmeadow as it was one of several companies suggested to me by a local horticulturist here in Oklahoma.
Peter was busy at the time but arranged a time to speak with me later about my small, high needs order. In short he provided for a rush order and took a lot of time answering my questions about root stock and grafting options.
I believe him to be a fair, honest and hard working guy who enjoys what he is doing.
gmartin64 Goshen, IN (1 review) September 16, 2009
Southmeadow Fruit Gardens appears to be on the rise again. I first read of the company more than a year ago here on Dave's Garden. At that time I was deeply intrigued by all of the rare varieties, but was not sure if this was a reputable business. Besides, I was not ready to plant at that time...
So last June (2009) my wife and I made a trip through MI, stopping at five nurseries to personally meet people, see the businesses, and select some of the plants directly for our edible landscaping/permaculture project. Reaching Peter by phone, it was clear that he was busy, but I was able to make arrangements to visit his nursery at the end of the weekend, as we were returning home to Northern Indiana.
We bought three trees: two apple trees, and one peach. We appreciated seeing his operation, and since I have an aunt and uncle in the nursery business in Illinois, I know how much work that line of business can be. The main thing that I found different from all of the bad reviews I read was that Peter now seems to be handling his own business, and the previous manager of the business now seems to be out of the picture.
One last comment. The two apple trees were healthy from the start, but the peach was stressed. Honestly I thought it would not make it, and I wrote to Peter to let him know of the condition of the tree and my concern that it was a "dud." He wrote back, suggesting copious amounts of water, since it had been a bare root transplant and was clearly in shock. I followed this simple advice, and the tree is now in good health, three months after it was planted.
I think this is a business that is worth interacting with, but it helps if you also do your homework, ask questions, and do everything you can to ensure that the plant not only survives, but thrives. I plan to buy a meter to measure the pH, as well as the N-K-P of my soil in various locations. Purchasing rare trees, in my opinion, is important, because they are already rare enough, and we should be propagating them more, even as amateur gardeners across the country.
I run a small heirloom fruit orchard in central Mass., growing apples, peaches, pears, Asian pears, plums, apricots, cherries, and grapes. Most of my trees came from Southmeadow, and they were always healthy on arrival, were well packed, and were what they were said to be (always a problems with fruit trrees). They have thrived.
When Judy ran the office in recent years, my orders were not filled, and as numerous people have written here, checks were cashed, and communication was next to impossible. I must have spoken to Judy thirty times and could never get a straight answer. Like many others, I first felt I was losing my mind, and then realized I was being ripped off.
But now understanding what happened, I believe it is important that this historic heirloom fruit tree supplier be given the chance to recover its once hallowed reputation. They still have one of the best assortment of heirloom fruit trees in the country, and Peter, who runs the place, is a hard-working, honest guy who loves his trees and will be able to once again make Southmeadow the nursery of record without Judy.
This is the first time I have ever posted anything, anywhere, but I felt the experience deserved it.
I called Southmeadow Fruit Gardens with a question regarding my order and Peter, the owner, answered. Not only did he answer my questions, he was generous with his time and knowledge. We talked about growing fruit trees for almost an hour. In 35 years of ordering plants and trees this was the best experience I have had.
Having made many phone calls to mail order nurseries over the years I have always been left feeling less than satisfied until now.
In addition, the 7 antique apple trees I received were much nicer than trees I have ordered elsewhere.
While I had not ordered from this company before it is now number one on my list.
I ordered a medlar and some gooseberries from Southmeadow. It was the only nursery I could find this spring with these unusual varieties. I liked the webisite, and its praise of the medlar. An unexpected trip out of town had me anxious about the order arriving while I was gone. I sent an email asking if they could hold it till past the weekend, and left a phone message for the busy nursery. Sure enough the order arrived the day after I returned and the bare root plants looked great. They are doing well in the ground now, in spite of the dry weather we are getting in the northeast.
I would like to try some of their really nice apple selection next year.
I was very happy with their service.
I purchased 9 heirloom variety apple trees last spring from Southmedow Fruit Gardens. They are all thriving. I purchased additional apple trees for spring planting. They arrived in very good shape. Southmeadow Fruit Gardens provides exceptionally fine apple trees and is the only source of fruit trees that I use.
Where to begin: with their obfuscation, disorganization, fraud, or manipulation? Let's just say that they take your money, admit they have the money and say they'll send your plant, and then they deny that the order exists.
It seems that they cannot keep track of their stories. ("Uh-oh, did we just tell the customer that we don't have the money when we already admitted we had it and promised to send the plant? Oops.")
I have filed complaints with the Attorneys General of their state and mine and recommended prosecution. Stay away from Southmeadow Fruit Gardens (Grootendorst Nurseries). They are as bad as the Nursery at TyTy.
BEWARE and steer clear of this slimy, nasty company!On May 20th, 2009, BStickney added the following:
P. S.: When I called the Attorney General of Southmeadow's state of Michigan and asked if they had had similar complaints about Southmeadow Gardens (Gootendorst Nurseries), the worker responded, "Ooooh, yes," as if she were weary of numerous complaints and knew what was coming with my call. I said, "...A lot of complaints about them?", and she said, "Yeah."
And I read the sympathy for Peter, but he's the only contact I have had there. That he blames a former worker no longer around to defend herself does nothing to make me have confidence in him or his disreputable business.
I ordered two one year goosberries (Hinnomaki Yellow and Poorman). They arrived in reasonable shape with fair packing. They have somewhat small roots and stems. I will see how they grow and update as appropriate. On June 13th, 2009, doctrtim changed the rating from neutral to negative and added the following:
On 5/29/09 I notified Peter via email that one of the two gooseberries is "not viable." Peter requested I call but I responded that I prefer to correspond via email. I added, " I have drawn the conclusion that both the Poorman and Hinnomaki Yellow Gooseberrys I received were from rooted cuttings harvested within the past year." They were both tiny with rudimentary roots. No response to date. On June 16th, 2009, doctrtim changed the rating from negative to neutral and added the following:
Peter DID respond to my email with offer to refund my money on the dead gooseberry. Apologies to Peter for not seeing the email.
I just returned from Southmeadow Fruit Gardens with two beautiful Belle de Boskoop heritage apple trees and several Forsythias.
Being a first time customer and having stumbled over Dave’s website with all the horrid letters about Southmeadow, I was pretty uncertain if I should at all try to order. But Mr. Grootendorst‘s website lists such an outstanding collection of hard to find Heritage Apple trees that I had to order. Between fall and spring I had gotten to know Peter pretty well from our phone calls.
Last week, my husband and I drove to Michigan (from MN) to pick up our trees. We arrived early morning and as Peter had told me on the phone, two nice 2”ers were waiting in front of his barn. He opened up early for us, since we had a long way home. It was a warm welcome and after loading the trees we also got to see his huge, beautiful nursery. Probably over a thousand of apple trees, gorgeous Arborvitae in all shapes and sizes and of course his conservation fruits. The Cornelian Cherries were already in bloom. Peter loves his trees and shrubs, and is proud to be able to continue what his father and his mother had started.
He is going through a lot of hardship and tries to recover from the damage that his former office manager (Judy) had done. We saw her former office where opened and unopened letters are piled up high in all directions. Peter was working all winter to sort through the mess. We very much hope he can pull through! He is a very knowledgeable, honest and hardworking man and his trees are beauties.
aficionado1 South Bend, IN (1 review) February 18, 2009
I've made some smaller purchases from Grootendorst Nurseries over the years. What I really appreciated was the fact that it didn't matter that my purchases were small. I was treated like I was their best customer. Our relationship has grown from a business one to friendship. I understand Peter, the owner, is going through some tough times right now, after discovering his longtime companion has been mismanaging the front office operations. I'm not sure of the legal aspects, but I know Peter is devastated over the deception and the hurt this has brought to his good name. I wish you all the best, Peter, and hope people buy lots of your wonderful trees.
We had seen SMFruit's website this spring and were impressed with its variety and erudition. Fortunetly, the nursery was near to where we lived so we had the opportunity to visit and pick out the fruit trees that we wanted. Early in the Summer of 2008, my wife, my dog,our landscape designer and I all visited. We spent several hours with Peter G ( the owner and son of the nursery's founder)and his dog walking through the fields, learning about the different cultivars and making our choices. We put no money down but were assurred the trees would be there for us to pick up for planting come Fall; and they were. We picked them up two weeks ago and Peter was again there giving advise and helping with the loading.
A few days ago Peter called to ask how things had gone with our planting and mentioned the problem he had with his nursery's mail orders not being filled because of embezzlement by his previous companion. He was obviously disraught about the impact this has had on his reputation. Although I have not dealt with him by mail, I can testify that in our face to face dealings he has been completely forthright.
SmallTime Oak Park, IL (1 review) November 18, 2008
I wanted to place an order for a couple Holstein large caliper apple trees, but after reading the negative comments, thought otherwise. I found myself reconsidering afer reading some recent positive responses on here. So, I decided to call to speak to Peter Grootendorst, the owner, to see if I felt comfortable enough to place an order. During a pleasant conversation with Peter, he explained how he had placed his trust in Judy, his longitme girlfriend, to run the office while he tended to the nursery. Judy had apparently been deceiving him for quite some time and was shocked to find unpaid personal bills, business bills and unfilled orders, with deposit checks, simply stashed away. He has been going through the bills and orders and making good. He says he is pretty well caught up, but when he thinks he has it all, he stumbles upon something else.
He seems upset that his name has been tarnished and appears eager and willing to bring back his reputation and hopes people will not be afraid to place orders and assured me, as the owner, that my order would be filled.
I decided that I not only wanted the tree, but I also felt compelled to help Peter. I placed the order, just under $800, and sent a deposit check for half. The trees arrived 3 weeks later, via UPS, just as promised. The trees are good specimens and I am quite delighted. If I want to order more trees, I will not have any hesitation. Thank you, Peter, and good luck to you.
I have done business with Southmeadow since the late 70's and have always been impressed with their fine products and dedication in supplying the rarest of collectors items in rare fine fruits. I expect to keep doing business with them and create the best garden in town. They have an unmatched choice of rare varieties in plums and sweet cherries and old vintage apples among other things.
appledave Grosse Pointe, MI (1 review) October 20, 2008
I have dealt with Southmeadow Fruit Gardens for over 10 years and up until 4 years ago was always pleased with their service and heirloom trees. I placed orders in 2004, 2005, and 2008 and did not receive them. Like many others, my checks were cashed and I called Judy for assistance but there was never any follow-up or resolution.
Out of the blue, on Thursday, October 16, 2008 I received a call from Peter Grootendorst, the owner, asking whether I still wanted my 2008 order. I relayed my dissatisfaction about not receiving my orders from past years. He then told me that Judy was fired on September 16, 2008 for, amonth other things, stealing from the company and cashing checks without filling orders. He said that he is uncovering boxes of unopened mail (bills, orders, etc.) that Judy did not process. He is making an attempt to call everyone who's order had not been processed verifying that they still want to place an order before he cashes the check. While it may take months, he will be contacting everyone.
In talking with him for a half hour, I came away with the impression that he is mad at Judy's deception and that he is intent on re-establishing his good name. Based on this conversation, I have no concerns in dealing with Southmeadow Fruit Gardens in the future and believe that Peter will straighten things up over the next year.
I ordered three trees and a catalog. the order never arrived. I left messages and sent emails. Once I got Judy on the phone at 4:55. She told me that they close at 5 and to call back on Monday. When I pressed her since I had her on the phone, she made a hostile remark and slammed the phone in my ear. The following Monday we spoke, she pretended not to remember my order after we had gone over it twice before and then said she found it and that it had shipped. After another week, I tried back again and there was no answer and no machine. I thought maybe I was a little nuts because I couldn't grasp that I was being ripped off. Now that I found this website and the posts, I understand that they're unscrupulous very sad people.
We ordered fruit trees from Southmeadow Fruit Gardens in January of 2005. At that time, they did not accept credit cards so we sent them a check, which they cashed in March 2005. Our fruit trees were supposed to be shipped in the spring. By mid May, when our trees hadn't arrived and we hadn't heard from them, we started trying to get in touch with them. They never returned our many phone messages or e-mails. We finally contaced the Berrien County Prosecutor's office. They took our information and said that a deal was being worked out between the State Atty General's office and Southmeadow on behalf of all the people who were "taken" by these people. Southmeadow would have to refund the money or deliver product, advertise an accurate phone number on the web site, as well as accept credit cards. A woman from Southmeadow called my husband today to get our mailing address to send a refund check. (Uh, it's on the check you cashed and the order form that accompanied it!) When she had the information, she said, "Okay, you'll get a check." He asked if an apology was forthcoming. She said, "That will be with the check."
What rotten people. They STOLE our money and couldn't even be bothered to apologize. I'm so glad the prosecutor's office and attorney general's office went after them. The Berrien County Prosecutor's Office was very helpful.
In March of 2006 we order a few fruit trees and to this day have not received them!! Like the others, we called and called, left emails, tried over and over to contact the company and they finally answered after all these tries. They said the trees had been shipped on such and such a date. Well we told them we never got them and they said they would refund us. THEY NEVER DID!! THEY ARE BIG FAT LIARS!! DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH THIS COMPANY!! FRAUDULANT!!! I am pursuing the Better Business Bureau to see if I can still get a refund.
My husband was familiar with the company as being a reputable source for heirloom apples -- twenty years ago, under the current owner's father. Those days are lonnngg gone. My feedback may be delayed -- but is still valid, and confirms every other negative posting against this company. DO NOT DO BUSINESS with them!
We placed a reasonable order for a few heirloom apple trees last Nov. 2005. We never received an order confirmation, and after several unanswered phone calls assumed the owners were away for an extended winter holiday.
By the end of February 2006, when we still had not received our trees (ordered for the third week of Feb), we began to grow suspect. We made a couple of phone calls and finally got through! First we were told the trees would be shipped "that week". After another two weeks went by with no trees, we called again and were spoken too *quite rudely* and disrespectfully by the owner -- after simply asking for a refund. (We own a retail greenhouse business and if we treated our customers in the same manner -- there is no way we'd still be in business!). It seems these 'wymyn' have an axe to grind with the world -- and unfortunately are stealing people's money as a way to "get even".
After that last call (sometime in mid March 2006), we found this website, and gained confidence this was more than poor mishandling of one order. I contacted the Better Business Bureau and the Berrien County Prosecutor's Office: 269-983-7111, ext 8311; and the http://www.usps.com website to file complaints for mail fraud. Fortunately we received a full refund (by early -mid April), shortly after contacting the Better Business Bureau, who were the ones that contacted SouthMeadow.
I will say the new County Prosecuter was aware of the trouble, and seemed to indicate that the more evidence they can accumulate the better...so definitely contact them if you have been ripped off.
Anyone know of a good source for Roxbury Russets?
Satisfied Forest Park, IL (1 review) August 6, 2006
I ordered some "F.J. Grootendorst" roses from Grootendorst nurseries through the mail. The roses were bought for some friends and were shipped directly to them from Grootendorst nurseries. These roses arrived at my friends house and my firends were delighted with them! They are avid gardeners and never saw these roses. The roses are alive and doing well.
My experience has been great with this company. I am very satisfied as are my friends!
Clearly a lot has changed, and for the worse, since my earliest experiences with this company. The pioneering hard work of Theo C.J. Grootendorst, from the famous Grootendorst nurserymen family in the Netherlands, and Attorney Rob't Nitschke of Birmingham, has obviously fallen on hard times. There is no excuse whatsoever, for this recent terrible business record. I do not know know if either of the men is still alive...but they did indeed kindle in me a respect for, and deep knowledge of the old varieties of fruit. Almost single handedly, they instilled an appreciation for genetic diversity, and it's preservation, against an overwhelmingly powerful contemporary agricultural orcharding system.
Mr. Nitschke took me on a personal tour of his home and grounds..and treated me to tastes of the apples and other fruit available through Southmeadow. This is what the earliest customers were accustomed to, from the business, and which held the flagstaff for their next related business interests to follow.
Their personal touch and business integrity was correct..and it's a terrible shame to see this company reduced to commercial rubble. I am so sorry to see this..and encourge customers to find other companies to supply them...and fulfill their dreams. Ace
Two months ago I sent a check for 302.58 to Southmeadow Gardens for 12 fruit trees. To date, no trees, and no refund. They owners never answer their email or phone messages. I am going to take the advice of others and contact the proper authorities. I really regret trusting this company, and sure wish I had seen this website before ordering.
kaiapit Hollister, CA (Zone 8b) (3 reviews) May 21, 2006
A big rip-off. When I checked about my mail order, I was advised that they could not ship to California (other suppliers do), and that they would return my cheque. Needless to say, the check was not returned, nor was there a refund. My subsequent letter (which included a SASE) was ignored.
My advice: DO NOT DEAL WITH THIS COMPANY.
In the spring of 2002 I ordered several berry bushes for almost $300. Eventually a card arrived in the mail saying that I had ordered too late. However, I have never received anything at all.
In the spring of 2005 I stumbled on the record of this order and called the company. The lady told me that she has my order and is going to send it to me tomorrow. I called again a week or two later and spoke with the same lady. She recognized me and asked me if she could put me on hold. I waited a long time and then hung up. I tried to call several times after that, but there were no responses.
As I read this site I see that I am not the only one whos money was stolen by Southmeadow Fruit Gardens. Perhaps we can unite and file a class action suite against them?
Due to several negative posts, I elected to take a two hour drive to visit Grootendorst Nurseries in person to pick up the Ashmead's Kernel antique apple that I first contacted them about by phone to make sure it was in stock. (I couldn't find any place else in the country that had any stock left this season for that apple.)This is not a mega garden center with operators on duty 24/7 but when you reach the owners, they are helpful and sincere.
Judy met me there and handed me my tree that looks in great shape and was pre-soaked with spagnum moss root wrap. She was about to leave for the post office with a VW Beetle jammed full of boxes of trees for waiting customers. She told me that the local Post Office forgot to weigh and put postage on a huge batch of trees earlier this week before forwarding on to Kalamazoo for central sorting and shipping. Now the post office can't find out where the batch went. Some dim-bulb temp didn't notice that the post office hadn't finished putting postage on them from Grootendorst's standing account before loading them up. So you make get a postage due or delayed shipment through no fault of this supplier.
There are only a few shipping weeks left this season. I feel it is safe for anyone to place an order if they call first to check on availablity. Lots of items are sold out for the season. NO stone fruits since a devastating winter two years ago. They are hoping for next year. I found that the best time to call Judy is just before noon E.S.T. or after the lunch break around 1PM. I'm happy. My tree is planted and ready to grow.
I ordered in spring 2002, and received a card in the mail months later saying I had ordered too late, but the items would be back ordered. Called spring 2003, and was told they would be shipped soon. Never received, no return to several calls & E-Mail. Since it was only about $50, I gave up - especially after reading comments here. For heirloom apples - try St Lawrence Nurseries - very reliable. For currants & gooseberries - Whitman Farms offers many, though I've never ordered from them. For other wierd stuff - One Green World, Raintree Nursery, and Forest Farm are all very reliable. Good luck to all trying to get money back from Southmeadow.
DianaR Caldwell, ID (Zone 6a) (4 reviews) March 29, 2006
This is so sad. I have ordered from Southmeadow for over 25 years with great results. However 2 years ago we placed 2 orders. I am so glad that we received our apple trees. I love my Ashmeads Colonel and Cox's orange Pippen. But we never received our gooseberries and grapes. I'm glad it was only $100 worth. We have made many phone calls and had many promises. But nothing ever came through except more excuses. What is so sad is I can't find the gooseberries anywhere else. This is like losing a good friend.
I had done business with this company for a number of years prior to 2003, and never had any problems. However, in the spring of 2004, I placed an order of $175.00 for apple, pear, and plum trees, and also an illustrated catalog. They cashed my check with great promptitude, and that is the last I have heard from them. I have made numerous efforts to contact them by phone and e-mail to no avail. This bunch of shysters bears no resemblance whatsoever to the operation it used to be. Stay Away!