Updated: June 15, 2019
Nature Hills Nursery Grade: D+
Overall rating: 67.0
Nature Hills Nursery Location: Omaha, NE
Disclosure: I was paid as a marketing consultant for Nature Hills Nursery in the past.
You can read details on what each category means and how we score it here.
|Years site Active||4.5|
|Range of sizes||9|
Nature Hills Nursery Review
NatureHills.com came down a few points this month, pushing their grade down to D+ Many of the issues disclosed previously still exist.
Considering there's now Nature Hills competitors guaranteeing a lower price and a few offer next business day shipping saying; 'Ships 7 to 10 days (weather permitting)' seems a bit vague. Ship costs can be up to 50% of your plant cost.
It also surprised us to see they are apparently still shipping spring bareroot.
There are a few things they have updated or added that improves the user experience. They also boast one of the largest selections of plants. Keep in mind that Nature Hills is a drop-sipper, not a real nursery. They send orders to 12+ nurseries around the country. It's much easier to offer a lot of choices when you're not actually taking care of the plants. The down-side to this is higher prices. In our opinion, their prices are higher than most others online. In fact there's a competing online nursery now offering a low price guaranty compared to Nature Hills prices.
They have added a pop up image if you mouse over any bare-root product. It's very helpful to understand what bare-root is. The pop up was first used a few years ago. It's nice to see they brought it back.
Nature Hills Nursery made a few revisions to the checkout process. They now accept PayPal. Nature Hills also made some improvements the their "Shop by Department" categories. The drop down menu include variety & types. Makes it a lot easier to find what you may be looking for.
We noticed last month that NatureHills.com made a few changes to the terms & condition and have a page dedicated to their plant guarantee. Their policy if your plant(s) don’t make it still has has some hoops you might need to jump through; “Nature Hills Nursery, Inc. reserves the right to request a soil sample for evaluation.” Then, if they do approve your loss, they don't offer refunds so you can't get your money back. Instead you get a 50% store credit for the cost of the plant(s). "We don't offer refunds..." "Nature Hills Nursery, Inc. will replace any plant that dies during the first year upon payment of one-half of the current selling price plus normal shipping and handling."
You also need to be aware of the language if you purchase the 1 year warranty; "Upon receipt of picture(s), we will issue a 100% store credit (valid for one year) for the cost of the plants only. Garden Center products do not qualify. Any destruction of plants resulting from livestock, drought, insecticides or herbicides, fires, floods, etc. are not covered. Guarantee does not include shipping cost. Warranty credit must be used in its entirety in a single transaction.” And you can't order online. You have to call in.
We've been running monthly tests using the same service Google uses to test how fast or slow a website runs.
The tests we ran back on February 14th and 15th indicated the site was slow. We ran 6 tests and it took between 6 and 11 seconds to finish loading a single web page. The website speed testing service had a pretty long list of issues that slow the site down.
We ran more tests May 13th and 14th with similar results as before when It took an average of 10 seconds to load a page.
Here's a recording of a test we ran March 15th, 2019. It takes a while for anything to load.
Check out the March test--->
The site seems faster for us. We ran 4 speed tests throughout the day on June 15th and the results from webpagetest.org reports were slightly better than the past few months. It took anywhere from 4.4 to 14.7 seconds for a product page to finish loading.
In April we commented that their copyright year at the bottom of the website was still saying 2018. A few days later they updated the year. It now says 2020. I guess the don't want to worry about it for a while.
Nature Hills has a good selection of evergreen trees & shrubs. In fact, they have a huge selection across all categories. Unfortunately, Nature Hills site search and the category pages are still not synced. They show different results. Site search also shows some inaccurate results. Nature Hills selection & sizes available is above average. You just may not be able to easily find everything they have in stock.
They have also been running ads for products that are out of stock. Their best-seller, the Blue Chinese Wisteria tree was in the #1 ad position on google search results when we checked on May 15th. That product is listed as out-of-stock on their website as of May 15th. It's now back in stock as of June 15th. They are offering a #3, 2 to 3 foot for $79.95. Keep in mind this was on June 15. Nature Hills says the Blue Chinese Wisteria trees 'Ships Early June'. so, does that mean Nature Hills is shipping Blue Chinese Wisteria trees now???
It appears Nature Hills Nursery is still using a third-party review service called Bird Eye. Bird Eye only shows positive reviews for Nature Hills Nursery. The discrepancy we mentioned last time regarding Shopper Approved still exists.
We searched Nature Hills on a different search engine (other than Google) and had another surprise from a company called Foursquare. This was the first time we saw this info box:
Between these instances and the fact they don't have a lot of product reviews for a site that has been active since 2002 and there seems to be a credibility issue. UPDATE: We're starting to see more product reviews, some that go all the way back to 2012. Some products have reviews clumped around specific days. Why would a Japanese Maple have 5 reviews and all from May 14th?
Nature Hills BBB profile lists 70 complaints with 14 of them closed. 40 reviews averaging 2.8 starts out of 5. It is interesting that the 11 most recent reviews were all 5 star reviews. That means the other 29 have an average of 1.9 stars. Just an observation.
Blue Chinese Wisteria Tree Un-boxed! Nature Hills boasts that the Blue Chinese Wisteria tree is their best-selling plant. We ordered a 3 gallon Blue Chinese Wisteria tree from Nature Hills last year. You can view pictures of what we received and the complete product review here. Having worked there, we will also reveal a few other tidbits we know about their best-seller.
The picture Nature Hills uses for the Blue Chinese Wisteria is just a wee bit different in bloom color than what the original photo looked like.
Up top is the original image and below the one Nature Hills uses after they photoshopped the heck out of it.
They also updated their copy due to customer complaints about the blooms not being as blue as their picture. The description now says the blooms can range from 'sky blue to rich lavender'.
Nature Hills can offer a lot of products since they send orders to nurseries around the country. If you can't find something in particular, check here. If anyone has it, they should. In our opinion, that is what Nature Hills is good for. Buying plants you can't find anywhere else.
What were the red flags?
- It appears they increase prices when they offer better free ship promotions. We saw a free shipping promotion a few weeks ago for orders above $49. All the products prices, however, were raised. You weren't really getting any better deal. To make matters worse, the coupon code to get free shipping wasn't working.
- The products that do have a discount looks something like this: $43.76 27% off! Makes it seem like you get 27% of the price shown. Nope. The discount is taken from some price not shown.
- As we mentioned above, Nature Hills site search results for evergreen shrubs was quite different then the evergreen shrub category page.
- Reviews. For having been around 16+ years, there's not a lot of reviews of Nature Hills Nursery products. And they seem to still use a service to suppress bad reviews.
- Nature Hills is a drop shipper. They don’t have any fields, they send your order to other nurseries for shipping. That’s why your plant(s) could come from different locations at different times. They don't seem to let anyone know where your plant(s) are coming from or when.
- You can also buy some of the same plants found on naturehills.com cheaper from the actual sources. We have received orders placed on Nature Hills from:
Waterloo, WI www.McKayNursery.com
Zeeland, MI www.GardenCrossings.com
Winters, CA www.FourWindsGrowers.com
Monticello, FL www.PlantMeGreen.com
Theodore, AL www.ThePlantFactory.com
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