Four years ago, in the summer of 2007, I planted a "Cupid" cherry in our backyard. It was quite small when we bought it, maybe in its second year of growth, and cost $20. It is now in full bloom, almost six feet tall, carefully pruned into a tree form, and we are hoping to finally get some cherries from it this year.
Last week, in the spring of 2011, my parents planted a "Romeo" cherry in their backyard. Their tree, when they purchased it, was in full bloom, almost six feet tall, pruned into a tree form, and it cost $99. Transplant shock might affect their harvest this year, but they will almost certainly get a full harvest next year.
So who got a better deal on their tree? I saved $79, but lost out on four years of harvesting cherries. These plants are supposed to produce, when mature, twenty to thirty pounds of cherries per year. If I had planted a mature tree, it probably would have produced around eighty pounds of cherries over those four years. Even if I only valued the cherries at a dollar per pound (which is probably unreasonably cheap), I probably would have had enough cherries to at least pay for the increased price tag on a larger tree, and likely more.
Now, when I bought my tree, it was a new release, and not available in tree form. I also didn't have a hundred dollars to spend, but I was planning on staying in the house where I planted it for at least another five years, so I felt that I had more time than money. But if I ever have to buy a cherry tree again, I will consider spending more for a more mature specimen. When I look at how much fruit I had to forfeit to save $79, it doesn't really look like I saved anything after all.