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tips hit the air, and they dry up, forc­ing the sec­ondary or lat­eral roots to take over.”

This process cre­ates healthy and highly fi­brous root sys­tems.

“The dif­fer­ence be­tween the trees that we grow and what we call the B&B — the balled and burlap trees — is that a typ­i­cal grower will take a seedling, plant it in the ground and then six or seven years later dig it up with a tree spade,” Flani­gan ex­plained. “That tree spade ba­si­cally cuts off 85 to 90 per­cent of the roots. So a cus­tomer would end up with a tree with only 10 to 15 per­cent of its roots, which re­ally stresses out the tree for many years.”

Flani­gan be­lieves that “great roots pro­duce bet­ter trees,” and added that his grow­ing process al­lows buy­ers to get a tree that has 100 per­cent of its roots in tact.

“The process is more la­bor in­ten­sive — but the end re­sult is a tree that is far health­ier and a tree that can be planted with lit­tle to no trans­plant shock.”

Once a tree out­grows its ini­tial pot, it is trans­planted — by hand — to a Root­maker tree bag where it con­tin­ues to grow. The trees may be up­staged sev­eral times be­fore be­ing sold. Flani­gan said he uses a cus­tom plant mix that he has made and de­liv­ered to the farm.

“We don’t have any metal tools near the trees,” he said. The older trees are spring fed by a well on the prop­erty via a drip ir­ri­ga­tion method, which Flani­gan said uses up to 60 per­cent less wa­ter than con­ven­tional ir­ri­ga­tion and puts the wa­ter where it’s needed. Brandy­wine­ also uses over­head spray­ing for smaller first and sec­ond year pot­ted seedlings. Hand wa­ter­ing is done for those trees Flani­gan calls “thirsty trees.”

“We also don’t use any syn­thetic chem­i­cal her­bi­cide or pes­ti­cide. We use all nat­u­ral so­lu­tions that are cer­ti­fied or­ganic,” he added.

Trees have been a pas­sion for Flani­gan for a long time

“It’s al­ways been in my blood — in my heart. I have wanted to grow trees since I was a teenager. Trees are a gift of life,” he said.

Flani­gan started as an agri­cul­tural sci­ences ma­jor at Penn State. Mid­way through, how­ever, he switched to mar­ket­ing, and ul­ti­mately built a ca­reer. But the pas­sion never left.

“It got to a point where I just had to do it — it’s now or never.”

Flani­gan has been grow­ing his busi­ness since 2010 – lit­er­ally. Once he made the de­ci­sion to launch the Brandy­wine­, Flani­gan started pot­ting trees in his house, be­fore find­ing a piece of land.

“I had more than 1,000 trees on my back deck, pa­tio, base­ment and liv­ing room — with the idea that I knew I was go­ing to find land and I didn’t want to have to let lack of land stop me,” he said. Flani­gan’s largest or­der has been 132 trees that he re­cently sold to an ar­bore­tum.

“We aim for the large or­ders, we have the ca­pac­ity, and we have the trees here,” he said.

Among the va­ri­eties Brandy­wine­ car­ries are sev­eral Cherry and Maple trees; Rosy Teacups Dog­wood, which has a unique dark pink flower and sev­eral un­usual Ginkgo trees.

“We also have some unique Mag­no­lias, in­clud­ing the Yu­lan Mag­no­lia — revered in China for over 1,000 years,” Flani­gan said. “It flow­ers early in spring. And it is just a sight to be­hold — a gor­geous, gor­geous tree and they are hard to find.”

All the trees at brandy­wine­ are rated for USDA zones 5, 6 and 7 — to with­stand the area’s win­ters. On the com­pany’s web­site is a tree cat­a­log out­lin­ing the 120 va­ri­eties that are avail­able, as well as a list­ing of when each va­ri­ety will be avail­able. In ad­di­tion, vis­i­tors to the site can view a video Flani­gan just added that ex­plains the air root prun­ing process.

Brandy­wine­ sells ex­clu­sively to pro­fes­sional hor­ti­cul­tur­ists. Flani­gan has a staff of four cur­rently work­ing with him. The nurs­ery op­er­ates from April through the end of Novem­ber.

For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.brandy­wine­ and on Face­book at www.face­­wine­Trees/


Robert Flani­gan has started an on­line and whole­sale tree nurs­ery — Brandy­wine­ He has 12,000 trees in­clud­ing this Mag­no­lia Denudata.


Be­fore pur­chas­ing land to grow his trees, Robert Flani­gan grew seedlings in his home — at one time hav­ing about 1,000 seedlings. Shown here are some of the seedlings in his base­ment.


Ste­wartia pseu­do­camel­lia at Brandy­wine­

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