Need professional evaluation of tree peony value

New Lothrop, MI

I need to find someone who can objectively evaluate the value of a 15-year-old Chinese tree peony for insurance and possibly legal reasons. My tree peony was destroyed two days ago by an inept landscaper. Yesterday, he retrieved it from his trash pile and replanted it. It's hard to say where we will end up with this: The plant may or may not "take" again, or it may or may not sprout from the roots (doubtful, since he dug it out with a shovel). I've gone ahead and purchased another, a 5-year-old plant, but clearly the value of a 5-year-old tree peony doesn't compare well to the value of a 15-year-old plant that was doing stunningly. We may or may not end up in court over this; the landscaper still doesn't seem to realize the true impact of his error and, at this point, appears to think I should pay him for the rest of the yard work he did that day.

At any rate, if any of you can recommend a resource in the Michigan area (or online), I would be very grateful!

I'm a new member here and looking forward to getting to know everyone. Here's a picture of my Big Flower with a Lotus Root (Ou Si Kui)...going to be a long time before I see this flower again, if ever. Sad.

Thumbnail by aderyn
(Zone 7a)

Hello, and welcome to Dave's. That is a beautiful plant and sorry for your lose. It's bad enough when we do something or not do something and we cause the lose of a plant.

This is just my opinion. Did he do the work for which he was contracted? If he did, I think he should be paid. He could take you to court for not paying and probably win. The damage done, legally speaking, is a separate issue.

Others, hopefully, will pop in soon. I wish I could put a price on this but I don't know them well enough.

New Lothrop, MI

Hi, thanks for the welcome and the sympathy.

The "contracted" issue is a little vague. He and his crew mow my lawn and occasionally trim my shrubs when I can't get to them. On this particular day, he was pulling/digging some unwanted tree sprouts that had established themselves near the roots of some shrubs where I couldn't get at them readily. The sprouts were nowhere near the tree peony, and he is at a loss to explain why he thought the peony was something I didn't want. One of the young men who works for him told me he had tried to question it when he was told to dig it up, saying it didn't look like something that was there by accident. Knowing this guy's personality, I suspect he may have taken the questioning as an argument about the assignment and didn't actually stop and look. I think you make a good point about the two being separate issues, though.

Incidentally, I've gotten one estimate that the value "probably approached $1000." Ouch. Not sure how objective this one is, though, because it was from a seller who specializes in tree peonies. Not that I think she's dishonest, just that she has something of a motive to support high prices for them.

As any gardener knows, my heartbreak at losing an incredible, old specimen plant exceeds any monetary value. Nevertheless, I think he owes me a replacement.

(Zone 7a)

I agree, he does owe you a replacement. You said he tried to replant it? Is it dead or trying to live? One day in the trash may not have killed it.

New Lothrop, MI

I can't really tell yet. It's woody, so it will stand upright even if it's completely dead. The leaves are all wilted and falling off, but it's possible that it's going into dormancy, maybe using its energy to regrow roots. This is actually part of my dilemma; it will be impossible to know how this all turns out until next spring. Even if it grows, I don't think it will be the equivalent of a 15-year-old plant, but I won't know until I see how it looks in the spring. I'm hoping to be able to get a value for the way it was and, perhaps, compare it to the value in the spring (if any).

It's a somewhat hard one to find, so I did go ahead and order one from the single place I found it. The one I ordered is a 4-year-old plant, so it is fairly likely to bloom this spring. If the old one doesn't grow, the question will be the value of the then-5-year-old vs. the original.

What I would really like to do is get this guy to withhold his billing for that day's work until spring, then adjust it accordingly. Calls for a pretty big leap of faith on his part, though. If I can get solid estimates from a pro, that would give me something to present when I discuss it with him -- something along the lines of "you can pay me $1000 now, minus the amount of your bill, or we can wait until spring and see what we have." It would give him an incentive to work with me, as presumably we will have something in spring (old plant or new) that will mitigate the damages.

I've contacted the American Peony Society, hoping they may be able to connect me with someone. Meanwhile, I appreciate being able to "talk it out" with you here! No one who doesn't garden gets it at all.

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

You need to see landscaping nursery for a written estimate. You will probably have to pay for it. And it will only be an estimation for court/insurance purposes for a number of reasons. How old was this tree peony and how many blooms did it have this year? I don't know what the difference is between a Japanese Tree Peony and a Chinese Tree Peony or what the differences are in replacement cost. Are you certain it was only one plant?

Aderyn is right. In a contracts case, you need to pay him if he completed the contracted work. You must find out the name of his insurance company and find out how to go on record to place a temporary claim. You may be okay if the plant was out of the ground for only a day. You really want it to be okay. In most cases all you will ever get is replacement value for a new plant(s). You'll need to find some good photos of where it stood. You may have to determine if it was a grafted plant. You might want to contact Klehm's Song Sparrow after you have checked their website. Also Adelman's might be able to help you.

Best case is that your tree peony lives and is healthy and unfettered. Worst case is that your landscaper has no insurance.

(Zone 7a)

Any news from APS regarding this? How is the plant doing?

Jamestown, OH

Oh Adryn, I am so sorry for your loss of such a beautiful, mature specimen! I have been collecting Chinese, Rockii, Herbaceous, and some Japanese peonies for a few years. I saw the first blooms on many this spring. I just love them! If this happened to me, I would not give the worker a dime until I determined if the peony lives. Do you have a homeowner's insurance policy that would cover this loss? Even so, you might have a deductible to meet before the reimbursement kicks in. I would call my insurance agent. Was your peony grafted? I know that my Rockii peonies are grafted on Herbaceous roots. If this is the case, your peony might not look like the original if it does bloo again. How deeply did you replant it? It might help to plant a couple of inches or so over where a graft union might be - where the first branches start at the base. How is it looking by now? Did you take photos of it after being retrieved?

Monetary value can be measured, but how can you measure intrinsic value, what the plant meant to you? It is easy to surf the web for Chinese peonies and obtain prices, but this was a 15 yr. old specimen - or has it been in your garden for 15 yrs.? If so, then the plant was 20 yrs. old. Perhaps a fair monetary price would be to double the value in 5 yr. increments and add more for the intrinsic value of the peony, which would be at your discretion.

I know that in China, very mature specimens are sold, but I am not certain how large a peony can be shipped, and the cost would be high.

Let us know if your peony is making it.

Best of luck!

Post a Reply to this Thread

You cannot post until you , sign up and subscribe. to post.