Each year, the Washtenaw Conservation District has a tree and plant sale. These are not prize specimen landscaping trees; they are really intended for habitat restoration and other “natural areas” plantings. The trees are tiny – none as thick as a pencil, though most were 18″ long or more – and generally sold in bundles of 25 per species. The big deal is the price – I think the trees worked out to 65 cents each, and the shrubs were more like 85 cents.
A group of us went in together to buy about 150 trees and shrubs, which we then split up, so each person got a nice variety of trees. We ended up with a dozen or so red oaks, about a dozen red osier dogwoods, and half a dozen serviceberry trees. We’ve had one oak fatality due to bad planting, one shrub nicked by the weed wacker and resprouting from its base, and four of the serviceberries appear to have been eaten. My fault for not protecting them better, though.
We’re very happy with them so far. As we look into doing more layered permaculture installations, we’ll definitely keep this sale in mind for a source of lots of cheap plants.