The Weather Network – P.E.I. tree nurseries gearing up for big post-Fiona sapling sales this spring

The Weather Network – P.E.I. tree nurseries gearing up for big post-Fiona sapling sales this spring

The phone has already started ringing at PEI nurseries preparing for a buoyant year of sales as islanders scramble to replace the trees – and privacy – they lost during post-tropical storm Fiona.

In Pownal, PEI, Woodgroup Nursery focuses on growing larger trees, some up to 15 years old.

“Most people are looking for something bigger to fill the gap. They’re seeing something they haven’t seen before, or they want their privacy back,” said owner Donald Wood.

“You get about a 10-year head start on what you buy in one pot, so you’re saving about a decade.”

A drone view of Woodgroup Nursery in Pownal which lost some trees during Fiona. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Wood said the privacy the taller trees will offer won’t be immediate, but it’s close.

“Depending on the tree size and the species you get, some of the spruces would grow right away because they’re seven, eight, or nine feet tall,” Wood said.

“Some of the hardwoods wouldn’t be as fast, but we still have up to 100 millimeters, which is probably a 15- to 20-foot tree and probably 5 to 10 feet wide.”

Wood said the larger trees his company sells start at around $200 and go up from there.

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Wood said his company has stopped importing trees because of cost concerns.

“Freight has become extremely expensive with diesel as it is, and you can only fit about 40 large trees on a semi-truck. So they get pretty expensive that way.”

This St. Peter’s Bay campsite suffered the same type of damage seen across the PEI after Post-Tropical Storm Fiona struck in September. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Wood said he encourages Iceland customers to plan their orders ahead of time to ensure they don’t miss out.

“We have a digging season in the spring. It starts when the frost goes away and we need to stop when the buds come out on the trees,” Wood said.

“It helps to know in advance what people want because you never know what people will want to vote for. Then we get another excavation window in autumn, in October, until the freezing.

“We hope that we can get enough to meet demand and that people will get what they want.”

Record number of calls

Jan Matejcek is the owner and managing director of Arbor Nursery in Earnscliffe, east of Charlottetown.

“We had a record number of calls from our existing customers, but also from many new customers who lost trees,” said Matejcek.

Jan Matejcek, left, and Kevin Garvey at Arbor Nursery in Earnscliffe, PEI (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

He said many buyers are trying to replace the trees Fiona cut down, even with future storms on their minds.

“I think people are looking for a tree that is hardy, that is well established, that will survive the storms and maybe even the droughts that we get in August,” Matejcek said.

“Buying locally from people who are here and have trees that survive in this environment is another layer of guarantee I think.”

A drone shot of the Arbor Nursery in Earnscliffe, PEI (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

According to Matejcek, growing hardwood trees is a significant investment because it takes years to get to market.

“Seedlings are basically anything up to a foot tall. There is a market for that. They’re quite cheap,” he said.

“However, if you get to a tree that’s about five or six feet tall, that’s a two- or three-year-old tree.”

Matejcek says many customers are trying to replace trees that Fiona has downed, while also keeping future storms in mind. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

“The problem with hardwoods is that you have to overwinter them, have rodent damage and freeze etc. so there are certain losses. There is the significant jump in costs.”

Matejcek said finding trees is also more of a challenge for any company trying to import them into Prince Edward Island.

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“There’s definitely a shortage of seedlings across Canada,” he said.

“Our business originally was to produce trees grown elsewhere and only buy them when they were around 5 feet tall. But we found we couldn’t find any reliable ones. So we basically started growing our own.”

Matejcek says Arbor Nursery uses a special type of pot that allows the roots to grow downward and then spread out horizontally, rather than clumping together in a ball. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

According to Matejcek, Arbor has been growing its own trees for about 10 years and consults the Island Nature Trust to ensure native seeds are used.

“We believe that with all the climate challenges we face, the market is definitely asking for more trees, and especially quality trees that will survive.”

WATCH: Trees that grow close together are better able to weather storms, study

The story, written by Nancy Russell, was originally published for CBC News.

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