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On Apr 29, 2009, nolabug New Orleans, LA (Zone 9b) wrote:
I was landscaping for a client and, inspired primarily by the positive reviews on this website, I placed a 'test' order of several hundred dollars for two brugmansias, five bougainvilleas, a monstera deliciosa, and two plumeria on March 12.
I was *extremely* disappointed with the size and even more disappointed with the condition of the plants I received. In years of many internet plant orders both for my own garden and for clients, I have never seen plants so sickly, so infested, so badly packed for shipping, or so much smaller than the website description. The plants were shoved into a box much too small. They had no packaging for buffering and had been soundly beaten by the cardboard as a result. All of the smaller stems were broken off the brugmansias. Many of the woody stems of the bougainvilleas had broken.
In addition to the obvious shipping damage, the plants were severely infested with aphids, to an extent that I have never seen in 10 years of gardening. Of course, as a landscaper I am used to combating aphids and have never had any real trouble handling them (ultimately). However, this infestation had been allowed to go so far that now, 6 weeks after receiving the plants, I am still spraying and treating several times a week and still having recurrent outbreaks. (Mr. Prejean's response to this was to tell me that there couldn't possibly be aphids on bougainvilleas, as they don't live on those plants)
Ok, so keeping greenhouses aphid-free is impossible. And in the busy time of year shipping mistakes happen. What makes me feel that Prejean nursery is worse than incompetent as a plant seller and quickly sliding into the zone of rip-off is the size of the plants. The Prejean website did specify that the plants would be removed from their containers and shipped bareroot, so I hardly expected 3 gallon sized roots when I ordered brugmansias from a 3 gallon pot. When they arrived, however, their roots wouldn't have filled a standard 4" pot. I know because I tested it. I also received plants from a separate order (from Almost Eden, whom I highly recommend) on the same day and got to compare their 4" pot plant with my supposedly 3 gallon brug. Let me tell you, the comparison was revealing. The bougainvilleas were sold to me as coming from a one gallon pot. When they arrived the rootball, including the shredded newspaper in which it had been wrapped, was about half the size of my fist. The plants were approximately 4-5 inches in height, if you included the branches that were broken in shipping. Either these plants did *NOT* come from the size pot advertised or they were violently ripped out of their pots, leaving the majority of the roots behind. The monstera's roots were infested with as-yet unidentified larvae and the plumeria had similar too-small root ball problems.
I emailed Mr. Prejean about these problems and did not receive a response. There was no phone number on their website but some internet research turned up the phone number and I was able to contact Prejean. Mr. Prejean was not unfriendly, but was condescending and unwilling to listen to or in any way acknowledge the problems with the order. He didn't flat out call me a liar, but he came as close as I guess you can. I offered to take pictures and discuss the problem after they had a chance to look at them and he agreed. When he finally responded after receiving the photos he said, "I feel that I need to send two replacements [for the brugmansias], plus 1 "California Gold" [bougainvillea], for the one that had a broken branch." I felt this was a vast understatement of the actual damage done to the plants, but I'd already wasted far too many billable hours on this fiasco, so I agreed.
When the 'replacement' order arrived (late, as before) there were no replacement brugmansias. The bougainvillea that was sent was dead (and despite very careful babying did not revive) and Prejean had included 2 plumeria (I guess in lieu of the brugs??) that were no bigger in root size than anything else I'd been sent. I wrote and explained the problem and asked for a refund, not for the whole order, as in retrospect I feel would be more fair, but only for the brugmansias for which I had never gotten replacements and some sort of partial compensation for the bougainvilleas, which had to be replaced. Mr. Prejean responded with an irate email in which he claimed I had never told him the plants were inadequate and that he would not issue a refund unless I pulled up all the plants (which had been planted for 3 weeks now) and ship them to him, upon receipt of which he would write a check to refund this order that had been paid by credit card. My client preferred to let it drop rather than continue paying me to waste my time negotiating with this impossible charlatan.
I had to replace these plants for my client out of my own pocket and I took on Prejean's sickly plants to try to nurse back to health. Six weeks after they arrived, despite every supportive condition I could imagine or devise for these plants, they have not grown. The bougainvilleas aren't dead (aside from the one that arrived dead) and I have at least reduced the aphid problem to a manageable level but not one new branch from any of them. The brugmansias have grown leaves but no length of limb and have struggled against mites and aphids among other things. The plumeria have in the last week sprouted a leaf or two but are far behind my own plumeria I purchased from a local nursery. These are the worst plants I have ever purchased and if I weren't such a bleeding heart gardener, I'd have thrown them away weeks ago.