Bill Jones, Carolina Native Nursery, is one of my favorite nurserymen. (In transparency, I meet very few plant producers that I don’t adore. They’re just really great people with good energy.) Bill’s nursery, just outside of Burnsville in scenic western North Carolina, lies beside Price Creek. He’s a commercial-scale native plant specialist, growing about 200 different species, most are shrubs sold in 3-gal. pots.
Two main markets drive sales: Garden centers and residential landscapers in North Carolina and into the Mid-Atlantic. Retail sales off the nursery offer a way for the company to be supportive of area gardeners and homeowners seeking to install native landscapes or wildlife habitat.
Bill’s philosophy is to produce high-quality “garden center ‘fat plants.’” He added, “When fat plants come off the truck, everyone is happy.” New for Carolina Natives this year is that they’ve joined the American Beauties branded native plant program for retail.
And, while it’s not new, it’s pretty cool that Mid-Atlantic landscapers or retailers can receive Carolina Native Nursery plants by pallet using FedEx. Pallets are constructed by a local forest products company, providing local jobs from local resources.
Native azaleas, most grown from wild-collected seed, are a specialty. A few named cultivars are propagated vegetatively. Seedlings are transplanted into RootMaker trays that feature strategic air holes on sidewalls to develop strong root systems. Production from seed to a finished 3-gal. pot is about three years.
Environmentally sensitive production is important: The nursery is designed for zero runoff to keep any runoff from the nursery out of Price Creek, which is also a designated trout stream.
Plant producer readers of NewTerrain know that one of the biggest limitations on increasing native plant supply is limited supply of starter plants. In order to make high-quality, consistent finished plants, high-quality starter plants are required. While Bill says bareroot starts are available for many common items, young plants of specialty items are just not available. Liners are especially in tight supply. Increasing in-house liner and seedling production is his best way to assure the nursery has high quality stock to plant for future sales. Fortunately, he’s able to pull staff members from Asheville who are fully engaged with the company mission and have the production skills to help the nursery grow.
“All these plants are approved by Mother Nature,” Bill said as he helped load some native azaleas, Hamamelis virginiana and Alice and Ruby Slippers Hydrangea quercifolia pots into the trunk of my car. I agree.
NewTerrain March 1, 2017