Buying Fruit Trees from Lowes

It was a beautiful spring day here yesterday. I noticed some blooms on my
lone apple tree (I'd lost the other two to deer.) I thought about buying
another one or two as pollinators. My wife was out driving around the
various nurseries picking up plants for the flower bed so I gave her a call
and asked her to check and see if any of them had some Arkansas Black apple
trees. She was just leaving her last nursery stop but she was going by Lowes
on the way home so she stopped in there. Yes, they had Arkansas Blacks and a
whole slew of other types of fruit trees.
I hopped in my car and drove down to take a look. They were nice looking,
about 4-5 feet tall. Looked like they'd had at least one pruning and were
sprouting new growth. I bought two and brought them home to plant. Dug the
holes and went to remove them from their pots and backfill the hole with
good dirt.
Yuck! A stench came from the pot. Moldy and foul. Most of the dirt fell
away from the root leaving a tap root not quite a foot in length. Not many
other roots to speak of. In the pot, it looked like the root ball had been
wrapped in something similar to burlap (but it wasn't) but there wasn't a
wrapped root system. I flashed back to a tree purchase from Lowes we'd made
as a gift for my mother-in-law a few years back. Same experience with the
root system. That tree didn't make it. We dug it up, returned it and tried
again with another tree. Same anemic root system. Same results. Got our
money back and didn't try again.
I guess I really need to look elsewhere in purchasing trees and large
What's been the experience with others purchasing plants from the big chain
stores: Lowes, Home Deport, etc.?
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