Cruising down a country road just to the south of Aurora, Oregon there are fields of blueberries to one side, and wheat to the other. A bit further down the lane are endless rows of raspberries, and fescue and rye grasses grown for lawn seed. Then, the eye is captured by a sea of red, which upon closer inspection is a field of Japanese maples.
This is not a few hundred trees, but thousands, mostly red, but also green leafed and yellow, and variegated leaves with creamy margins and splotches of pink. Many people are familiar with “dwarf” Japanese maples, and there are dozens of popular weeping varieties here. Some might recognize the upright growing, red leafed ‘Bloodgood’, but on this farm are all the standards and others that are not commonly found in garden centers. And there are hundreds and thousands of each.
This is the dilemma, a classic instance where supply has overwhelmed demand. There are simply more Japanese maples than there are people willing to purchase and plant them. What can be done? The trees continue to grow, more quickly than you would suspect, and so it is not possible to hold them until better economic times arrive. They must be dug from the fields and sold, now, and if a discount of a few bucks will sell more trees, well, there will be fewer trees bulldozed and tossed onto the burn pile at year’s end.
For the past decade nursery growers (particularly in Oregon) have increased numbers of Japanese maples as demand was strong and prices climbed. When the recession kicked in supply quickly surpassed demand, but many more trees were in the pipeline and numbers continued to increase.
As economic cycles go, oversupply will turn to shortages, and this one will quickly change as Japanese maple growers have slashed the number of trees they’re growing for future years. Today the maples are big and cheap, but not for long. Within another year or two demand will have increased (if only slightly) and the number that are being grown will have dropped significantly. What will happen? Prices will go up.
Our lesson for today is that now is the time to buy. Trees are oversized, and prices are low! If the growers are fortunate, this will never happen again, but you can take advantage to save hundreds of dollars.