It's a true harbinger of spring and a moment of happiness in the heart of every gardener. I'm referring to the weekend that the local garden center hangs out the sign reading "Bare Root Room Open."
For a few weeks each spring, the garden center sells a variety of bushes and trees "bare root." Dormant plants are displayed in a chilly storage room, sorted into bins and labeled. They look like dead sticks with a few branches above and a few roots below.
This is not glamorous shopping. Gardeners who buy plants this way are going on faith that this will soon be a viable plant. The advantage to acquiring plants this way is primarily cost savings. Fruit trees cost around $25 bare root rather than $40 potted later in the spring. The other main advantage is the reduced bulk. We easily loaded four bushes and three trees in the trunk of our economy sedan.
Don't wait---the bare root opportunity only lasts a few weeks. Once the dormant branches start to sprout, it's time to pot them and then the bare root room is closed again until next year. Besides, planting trees in the partially frozen ground is fun and tells a good story later.