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I have ordered several trees from the Arbor Day Foundation (ADF). When I received them, the roots were well wrapped in shredded paper, moist, and covered tightly with a plastic bag. The one negative is that the trees they send are very young (READ their description carefully!), so the yield is low (~50%). However, they never gave me any hassles about sending replacements. Why am I neutral? Because my county sells similar nursery stock (saplings) every Spring as a fund raiser for conservation efforts. They are grown at a local nursery, arrive for pick-up on fixed dates (no mailing), and are lower cost. Consequently, the yield from the county trees is ~90%, although there are no replacements. You need to understand what ADF provides, look for local alternatives, and make a decision whether what ADF provides is really what you want.
On Nov 28, 2012, Toots1960 West Hamlin, WV (Zone 6a) wrote:
I sent them my $10 and am still waiting on my trees. They told me it would be between Nov. 3rd and Dec. 11th. I had to complain to get my tree book and subscription. They are already wanting $10 more. If and when I get my trees I think I will do like the one person and put them in gallon buckets to see if they are gonna make it first before I take the time and energy to dig the holes. Yes they do pass BBB's standards for charity but they could at least send better plants. I didn't see any complaints on the BBB's website against the Arbor Day Foundation. Sounds to me like whoever ships the orders just grabs whatever is within reaching and sends them.
On Jun 11, 2012, PamelaBaja Sierra de San Pedro Mártir, Baja Mexico (Zone 8b) wrote:
Posted on May 14, 2012, updated June 11, 2012
Won't be rejoining no matter what the cause...the trees I "purchased" ( not freebies)were VERY sad twigs-WAY too much junk mail as well from them-save your money and trees by sending me less!!!ARGH!! Their gaurantee-send them more money for replacement twigs? Don't think so:(
On June 11th, 2012, PamelaBaja changed the rating from negative to neutral and added the following:
I was contacted and a refund was issued for the plants that never came to life.
Last spring I sent the foundation $10.00. I was told that I would receive ten free trees in the fall. I emailed them last month and they said that I should receive the trees by December 10. It is Christmas and I still have not received my trees. I emailed them again yesterday and am waiting to hear back.
I wouldn't mind giving them a donation without expecting a product, but when they promise same they really need to deliver.
If I do not get my trees by the first week in January I will post a negative review.
On Mar 22, 2011, brigidlily Lumberton, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:
Philosophically, I am 100% in favor of this organization. I have gotten a couple of pear trees from them that are doing well. But when I ordered those pear trees, I also ordered a weeping willow. They did send me a willow, but not a weeping one. When I emailed them about it 4 years later, having tried to give it time to develop, they responded that weeping willows do not have a weeping habit. HUH?????
It has to be hectic to do what they do, and a mixup in the occasional order should be forgiven. But -- WEEPING WILLOWS DON'T WEEP? Sorry, I'm done with these folks.
Never send a donation, unless you plan on joining.
I get continuous letters from the Arbor Day Foundation. A few months ago, I decided to send a small, very small donation, without asking for trees, or any other products.
Now, they write at least once a week. They say I'm a member. I am NOT a member, didn't ask to be a member, I don't want to be a member, and sure don't want 10 trees. We don't have room for one, let alone ten!
I don't know if they pay for postage, but so far, by sending numerous letters, they've spent more in postage then I sent as a gift. lol
If anyone decides to send a gift out of the goodness of your heart, there are numerous charities. The Humane Society is a great choice, and foundations for diseases. Cancer, Heart, Lung, etc, etc. Toni
On Aug 12, 2010, pookerella Bellmore, NY (Zone 7a) wrote:
Posted on June 12, 2006, updated August 12, 2010
Arbor Day, regardless of the questionable donation fund placements you will read below, is an excellent source for education and also a really great website. Their EMAIL customer service is excellent. Paul Knapp, who answers my unending questions with a great deal of patience, is alone enough for the money for his help in figuring out what to do with these trees and shrubs and with help with plant ID. I'm neutral on their telephone support because I had one good and one bad experience. Unfortunately, the only things I remember is that one was nice and one was very mean and nasty.
I wish I could say that I was pleased with what I received, both the 10 free trees and the numerous ones I paid for, but I certainly was not. About 50% of the trees/shrubs are doing OK. I was shipped my PAID trees in very late fall. I told them I wasn't happy about this and they offered to send them "a little earlier for a $25 fee." I planted them and about 8 of them died (I will say, they did promptly refund my money for the trees and also offered, as an option to my refund, to replace them in the late fall). My 10 free trees were shipped after our ground was frozen (even though I begged them not to send them at that time) so I put them in pots and 6 of them actually sprouted and did better than the ones I paid for that I planted outside late in fall (but 4 did nothing). I got the free trees sent again, believe it or not, in early spring because I complained that it was too cold to dig in fall. I actually wrote to them to say "never mind," but they sent them anyway. The second set was even better than the first, even though they were TEENY. I got the "flowering trees" both times, and the first time, I received ZERO redbud trees (didn't find this out till AFTER they grew). I think I got their Prairie crabapple (in addition to the sargeant's crab that is part of their collection) which isn't a terrible thing, but the redbud was the only tree I REALLY wanted! The golden rain trees were duds in both shipments. The Hawthornes only came in the first set; I didn't get any in the second (yes, more crabapples).
Unless you live in a warm climate, take your 10 free trees, pot them in a greenhouse (it's nice cause they can stay outside with no heat all winter) or basement with a grow light and give them food and attention. You'll have a better shot at getting a tree that will live and thrive. As far as purchasing your trees and shrubs from them? There is a about a 50/50 chance they will die. Pay for the "expedited" shipping (you will literally have to beg them to tell you this exists) and take your chances. If not, there are many, many nurseries where you can purchase these trees and shrubs from that will not give you such a hard time about shipping and you will get more than just a stick with a bare root.
On August 27th, 2006, pookerella added the following:
To answer the post from miulloj, I don't mind the "free trees" being not much to write home about, but how about the ones you pay for? 50% of them did nothing, plus the ones I paid for....I didn't even get the right things! I now have 2 purple leafed plum trees growing where there should be 2 SHRUBS and I am not too happy about it!On August 12th, 2010, pookerella added the following:
Update: My "almond" tree is actually a peach tree. I got a ton of peaches, although I have no interest in having a peach tree. I wanted an almond tree.
On Apr 27, 2009, OneAkela Chesterfield, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:
I was a member for one year, drawn in by the 10 free trees offer. Along with the free offer, I also placed an order. Two of my order trees died. At least two of the free trees died. Some of the others are not growing fast. I am giving a Neutral rating as what they sent me was a mixed bag. Some grew and some didn't. Also, curious note: what they said was a flowering dogwood, seems to be an oak tree.... huh?
Funny thing is, they keep mailing me membership materials every 3-4 weeks. You'd think that after 3-4 mailings, they would get the message that I am not renewing.
As some others have noted, the National Arbor Foundation is a good cause but not always a good supplier of trees and bushes. I've gotten several free deals from them, and usually only one or two out of 8 or 10 plants survives -- but since they're free, who could complain? I joined their Hazelnut Project with great anticipation. I'd like to raise more of my family's food in our own yard, and hazelnuts sounded like a good idea. The first year, the hazelnuts arrived and showed no signs of life -- in the package or in the ground. When I received my survey a year later to ask how the hazelnuts did, I said that they never showed any signs of life. I received a nice letter asking if I would be willing to continue in the program and get more free hazelnuts. I said yes. The next shipment of hazelnuts looked much, much better. They had signs of life. I planted them with much anticipation and excitement. They promptly died. So, I've declined further requests to continue in the Hazelnut Project. Instead, I bought some hazelnuts from Oikos Tree Crops and planted them in exactly the same spot as the second year's National Arbor Day Foundation hazelnuts. The Oikos hazelnuts did just fine all summer and fall.
On May 20, 2007, ladypcer Irving, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:
I ordered a Koosa Dogwood, Lilacs, and a Sugar Maple, along with the 10 free trees, last fall. They sent a free Red Maple.
The Koosa and Lilacs were very small, and the Sugar Maple and Red Maple were about 3 foot whips.
I planted all of them and although the Dogwood, Maples and Lilacs are looking spindly, they are alive and growing, although slowly.
Out of the 10 free trees, only 2 are leafing out, the rest appear to be dead.
Not a big deal about the free trees, and the others didn't cost enough to lose sleep over, but I won't waste any more money on plants from the NAF.
On one hand, I feel I should not complain about anything given as 'free.' But, on the other hand, the company's goal is to get more trees planted... I'm assuming they mean LIVE ones. I laughed when I read that people found all ten trees in their mailbox, but I thought they might be exaggerating just a little. They weren't. All ten of mine fit easily into one medium size pot. That was about two months ago. Today I noticed that one of them has one leaf sprouting. The rest look exactly the same as they did two months ago. Yeah... I'm betting they aren't going to be providing much shade this year. ;-)
On May 19, 2007, SteveIndy Greenwood, IN (Zone 5b) wrote:
I guess I have mixed feelings about this company. Not sure where the .org comes in, as they certainly have the facilities/amenities and corresponding business ventures of any corporation. I was a member for two years (didn't renew this year), being annoyed by the constant ploys to get my money and the incessant mailings asking for it. Looking at their site and what these dues are "paying for" is kind of insulting.
That said, even if the 10 free trees for $10 annual membership fee is nothing more than a clever marketing gimmick, it IS a buck per tree, and you can't really expect a 4 or 5 ft specimen that you'd pay 10 - 20 times or more for elsewhere. The free trees I have grown have done well as a group and I have some 10-20 ft tall nice trees to show for it, which is not a bad return on a few bucks.
I did order some of their "regular" maples (which incidentally are much larger than the "free" ones) that have actually ALL done phenomenally well. Their website also has great information if you're doing research on trees or need help identifying them.
I also received the 10 sticks and one extra stick that was to be a lilac bush. There were maybe 3 of the sticks that were quite large and had a good root system, but all the others were very puny and looked like nothing more than twigs!
The reason for the neutral rating is I planted everything in pots a few weeks ago and must say, for the most part, that all of the sticks I got, except for one, are sprouting and growing huge leaves like crazy! There are a couple of them that we feel are big and sturdy enough to transplant to our yard, with protection of course.
Since we have 5 acres, my inlaws gave us their 10 tree order as well. Since we did not have any more pots and most of the sticks were already sprouting leaves in the bag, we decided to go ahead and transfer all of these to the property.
So far, no luck with those. Some of them I can't even find anymore. I figured they have gotten trampled by wild animals, or they have been overgrown by the rest of our property. But they ones that I did find look dried up and have no growth anymore. What a waste, we should have put them in pots first.
After I get all the potted trees put out in the yard, I will continue to see how they grow and then change my rating accordingly.
I've planted several of the "ten free trees" over the past few years. They are all started in the nursery area (fenced in vegetable garden) and grow there for a couple years to get some size. While many of them die/never grow at all/dead upon arrival, the ones that do survive and get transplanted are healthy and nice.
On Mar 30, 2007, zeoplum Mobile, AL (Zone 8b) wrote:
After making and order yesterday, I came by this website to see if anyone else had left comments. Was shocked to find a rating of 58%. After a couple of hours, I just didn't have any peace about the order so I called them up to see if it was too late to cancel. It wasn't....so I did. I am leaving a comment here to say that I was impressed with how they handled my cancellation request. They were prompt and pleasant and didn't question me about my decision.
I had joined around a little over a year ago. I chose the "blossoming trees" consisting of the Hawthorne, Crabapple, Dogwood, Red bud, and Goldenraintrees. What you get is very thin seedlings that couldn't be more than a few months old. (look like 6-8" sticks). Following that you will get a ton of junk mail to purchase even more stuff. Six out of ten of my trees have survived, and now approximately 15 months later I have trees that are from 9" to almost 3' foot high. ( I have good soil, and I mulch, and water) I don't really see the situation as a loss because I do get satisfaction from how well the few trees that I have are doing. Just be aware that you get what you pay for, and this is a company like any other, that has to turn a profit to survive.
On Jan 30, 2005, autremike Ludlow, MA (Zone 5b) wrote:
I have had mixed experiences with the National Arbor Day Foundation through the years. After seven or so years of donating and getting free trees, I have some nice trees to show for it, which represent but a small fraction of those originally recieved.
A couple of years ago, I decided to participate in the hazelnut project. I recieved a few trees in the late fall, carefully planted the small bareroot specimens in prepared garden soil near my newly grafted apples, where I hoped to coddle them until they grew larger in a year or two. None made it through the winter, so I contacted them. A nice response came back saying that they would send some new ones. These arrived in plugs and were fully leafed out when they arrived. Unfortunately, their leaves were mostly falling off. I promptly potted and watered them and placed them into the shade. Only one lasted for two weeks before joining the others that died.
A similar story could be said for each year.
I believe that if anything is worth doing, is worth doing right. With all of the time and effort spent sending trees, they should arrive to grow, not die.
Are the free plants the only reason to donate? No.
Are they a worthy cause? I believe so.
Will I order trees from them again? Unlikely, unless the survival rate increases.
I just recieved my nursery order from NADF on Friday and was greatly disappointed. I knew the trees would be small but the packaging was terrible. The trees were in a box twice as tall as they were which left a lot of room for movement. They were all bundled together and the bundle was not taped or otherwise secured inside the box. I can't put the blame on UPS because the box was flimsy and there was no information on the box telling UPS to keep the box upright or that there were live trees inside. Consequently, half the trees had broken leaders. When I called to report the situation customer service offered to replace the broken trees, but I explanined that I didn't want to do business with a company that packs live trees in such a shoddy manner. The representative offered to reimburse my credit card and I accepted. This is the only reason I'm giving them a neutral as opposed to a negative.
I was disgusted with the little twelve inch and less twigs that were sent. I haven't checked them this winter, but if they survived the winter I will be very surprised. I was surprised enough that an organization that I had admired was stupid enough to create bad will with little twigs that I looked up their record on use of the contributions. I was surprised. It appears that they spend a substantial majority of their contributions on their programs.
Total income $22,986,645
Program expenses $20,193,709
Fund raising expenses 2,607,060
Administrative expenses 496,485
Other Expenses 7,452
Total expenses ($23,304,706)
so I guess I will keep contributing and trying to find somewhere to stick the twigs. But, in my opinion, they will create as much bad will as good sending out trees that don't match their advertising.
I wanted to post a positive for Arbor Day since I plan to order some trees again from them in the fall. I ordered a large number of trees last fall and about one-third died. We had a terribly cold winter here in the Mid-Atlantic and I was not able to get the trees in the ground immediately so Arbor Day is not entirely to blame. I made a list of the trees that died and e-mailed their customer service. I requested some substitutes for some types because I wanted to try different trees that were more tolerant of the cold. They have honored all my requests and I received a mailed confirmation thanking me for my order, with trees to be shipped this fall. I think their trees are well-priced, although I agree some were smaller than advertised. As a side note, all the fruit trees I ordered from them are doing well. I will re-visit if I later have a negative experience, but so far I am satisfied.
On November 25th, 2003, vannmarie changed the rating from positive to neutral and added the following:
I received my replacement trees and I have to say that several were again smaller than advertised. I have also found some sources with better prices and bigger trees, even at the Arbor Day membership price. For this reason, although I did not have a bad experience, it is doubtful I would order again.
On May 3, 2003, Intriguing1 Tulsa, OK (Zone 6b) wrote:
I recently became a member of the National Arbor Day Foundation, and with my membership, was entitled to receive 10 free flowering ornamental trees, and a free lilac. I wasn't going to keep any of the free trees, but was planning to give them to a friend who is a new homeowner and has no trees at all.
My first indication that there might be a problem with this organization came when I received the free trees. Instead of 10, there were 12... made me wonder whose order was short a couple of trees. Next, I was shocked by the size. When I signed up, these trees were described as being at least 12" tall. All were 6" or less, mere sticks with no branches at all. I was almost embarrassed to give them to my friend, who will have to pot them and let them grow for several years before they can be planted in her yard. Meanwhile, I had already ordered 3 trees for my own yard; 2 were described as being 2-3' tall and the other was to be 3-4' tall. All of them arrived at 2'tall or less, again, with not a branch in sight. Along with my order came a couple of freebies that I'm also going to give to my friend. The freebies were twice as big as the trees I paid for.
I really expected better from an organization whose sole purpose is to promote the planting and care of trees. At the very least, I expected them to be accurate and honest with their descriptions. I will not renew my membership, and I cannot recommend the National Arbor Day Foundation to anyone else.
On June 14th, 2003, Intriguing1 changed the rating from negative to neutral and added the following:
To the National Arbor Day Foundation's credit, all of the trees I planted, and all of the trees I gave to my friend are growing well and seem to be quite healthy (so far). The true test will be to see if they all survive a Michigan winter.
I bought about a dozen blue spruce seedlings from Arbor Day. Due to no fault of theirs (I killed them prior to planting) they died. I emailed me and they told me where I went wrong and mailed out new seedlings at no cost to me. The fruit trees I ordered arrived in good condition. However, since they were a fall planting, I cannot attest to their growing vigor.
On June 8th, 2002, DrMikeG changed the rating from positive to neutral and added the following:
Only 1/2 of the trees I ordered have survived to any degree (some have 1 or 2 leaves on them at the bottom). I didn't pay a lot for the trees, but I did invest a lot of time (digging, mulching, etc). Next time I'll go to a local nursery and spend a few extra dollars.
My husband made me a member as a gift, because he really thought they were going to send me 10 flowering trees. But they won't grow in zone 4,so I got 12 (accidentally, I guess) spruce trees. I can't stand spruce trees. Only 10 are still alive, but that's my fault. We'll see if they make it through the winter. Their newsletter is tedious & repetitive. How much can you say about trees?
I bit on NADF's ad for the FREE Tree BOOK and ten seedlings for only $10 membership fee. I just got the booklet on trees (that they have for sale). It does have a lot of good information on their plants and how to plant and care for them, but I had kind of expected a real book with more trees in it. They now have a web site that I haven't checked out yet. I hope that I don't receive my seedlings till mid May, since I live in the north.
I joined because I love trees and believe in their cause, but also because of the ten free trees. My trees arrived (in Wisconsin) the end of March 1996. They looked like they were in good condition, moist and sealed in a plastic bag. Unfortunately the bag was frozen to the side of my mailbox because it was only 10 degrees outside (which is almost normal for March.) Also there was still 3 feet of frost in the ground (which is also almost normal). I would think an organization like this could plan their shipments better. [update September 7, 1996]Of the ten free trees I received in March, only one is still alive.