‘Aphrodite’ Sweetshrub

“Mt. Airy” Fothergilla

Pronounced ‘father gil a’, this is a slow to medium growing shrub that gets 5-6’ tall.  It produces fragrant, white, bottlebrush-shaped flowers in early spring and the leaves turn brilliant colors in the fall.  Loves full sun but will take some shade.  While something nibbled the flowers of one of ours this spring, we haven’t had any other trouble with pests, disease, or grazers the rest of the year.

“Ruby Spice” Clethra

This beautiful plant is covered in fragrant pinkish-red blooms about mid-summer.  A fairly slow-growing, upright, suckering shrub that eventually gets about 8’ tall, Clethra is a great choice for part shade woodland gardens or wet areas, but is adaptable almost anywhere.  The leaves turn yellow in the fall.  Full sun to shade.

“Alice” Oakleaf Hydrangea

This is one of our favorite informal “filler” type shrubs.  Alice grows large (around 8’) and fast and makes the space feel lush and wild.  Large white flowers appear for most of the summer, fading to pink as they age, followed by red fall color on the leaves.  Maybe not the most spectacular in the fall, but they do have good character and some color as the season winds down.  Sometimes the leaves persist well into winter for those of us in the Asheville area.

Deer seem to enjoy the leaves almost as much as we do, so if you get deer you might want to get a more established plant, or just keep your eyes peeled with a large broom.

Also, check out some of the more compact cultivars;  Ruby Slippers and Snow Queen.

“Vernal” Witchhazel

Witchhazel is best known for its odd bloom times, but it’s a great plant almost all year.  The vernal variety (meaning spring), is technically native to the Ozarks, but we like it because it is a little more compact and shrubby than the common witchhazel (8-10’ tall fully grown vs. 15-20 with the common variety) and produces fragrant blooms in late winter/early spring vs. the fall. They are all easy to grow with excellent foliage and yellow fall color.  Nothing seems to faze witchhazel (even deer).  Full sun to part shade.

American Beautyberry

Beautyberry is a member of the mint family, so that should tell you it’s almost impossible to kill.  They produce neat little purple berries in mid to late summer on new wood.  They tend to get leggy so feel free to trim back periodically for a bushier plant.  A great native for slopes.  Full sun to part shade.

Carolina Sweetshrub

This is one of our favorite compact natives.  The leaves look almost tropical at times and they keep a compact, tidy shape without much pruning at all.  Flowers are a fantastic deep red and have an unusual banana-like fragrance, but usually it’s not that strong. ‘Aphrodite’ is a more recent cultivar with bigger leaves and larger flowers that rebloom in the summer.  Sun to shade and resistant to deer too.

For a list of what we have growing this year at the nursery, check out our inventory page!

I normally shy away from these topics because, well, people can be a little touchy about spraying things.  But I had a few lovely ladies come by last year and request it, so here we go.

How about we call it spritz?  We shall flit and spritz amongst the roses.

Brown spots on your plants mean there is a disease present.  There are surprisingly few options available for homeowners to deal with fungal problems, and usually they are hidden away in a corner, buried by an entire wall of roundup and pesticides.  This makes it hard to even find what you need to deal with the issue, so often folks buy Neem oil or some insecticide that has nothing to do with the problem.

Compounding it further is the fact that by the time you have a disease issue, it’s basically too late.  It’s not very satisfying to be out spritzing healthy looking plants.

The first thing to do is think about what time of year it is.  By the time late summer rolls around, your babies are all going dormant and will drop their leaves soon, so it’s fairly pointless to spray at that point for superficial issues like powdery mildew.  Some of the evergreens may benefit, but it’s best to go with disease resistant varieties with those anyway, especially the larger trees.

For the best (and easiest) protection from common foliage diseases, look for a systemic fungicide.  Spritz every couple of weeks starting in spring and go until the flowers are done.  Systemic types get absorbed into the plant so you don’t have to apply as often or worry about hitting every part of the plant to give it protection.  The one you see most often at the store is called Immunox and works well.

Infuse is another one on Amazon that I haven’t tried.  The key is to look for a type that’s systemic.  If you have a specific issue you are dealing with, just look for a systemic fungicide that has that issue listed.  Some things are hard to diagnose, so the simplest approach is to start early and hope that what you are using takes care of things.

Contact fungicides stick to the surface and don’t get absorbed into the plant.  There are numerous different chemicals out there that do that.  Copper, mancozeb, and chlorothalonil (Daconil) are all contact fungicides, and can be very effective on their own or in addition to a systemic variety.  When using contact fungicides, it’s important to get the undersides of the leaves- easier said than done.  They also wash off in the rain.

Here are some trees and shrubs that tend to get the funk at some point in the season:

Hydrangeas-particularly arborescens, macrophylla, and quercifolia.

Dogwoods (powdery mildew, especially the natives)

Fruit Trees

Hollyhocks -watch out, these get rust like crazy!

Japanese magnolia

Butterfly bush




We have a lot of disease pressure in the hot and humid Asheville area.  To keep your plants looking their best, try using a systemic fungicide like Immunox, starting in the spring, even if the plant looks just fine.  This can also be used on tomatoes to protect from blight and extend the season a bit.

Got some hippies next door in the hot tub smoking left handers?  Once you are toweled off and back at your house, consider some of these excellent plants for keeping the dirty business out of sight.  Here are 9 great plants for creating a privacy screen in the Asheville area, in no particular order.

  1. Green giant arborvitae.  The number one selling tree on the market right now for privacy.  It’s fast growing, more narrow that the Leyland cypress, and doesn’t have the disease issues that one does.  Downsides?  They get HUGE, 50-60’ tall and around 15’ wide, and they are everywhere.  Green giants like as much sun as possible and a good dose of slow release fertilizer in the spring to really kick that growth into high gear.  Deer also enjoy most arborvitae, though these get big enough where sharing isn’t a problem.
  2. Emerald green arborvitae.  Perhaps the second best seller in Asheville for screening.  This one stays much more in bounds, topping off at around 15’, but grows far more slowly.  Emerald greens are dense and don’t like to be touching each other or they can develop brown areas where they don’t get enough sun.  You also want to watch that they (or any arborvitae) don’t develop multiple trunks at the base, which can cause splitting over time.  Full sun.
  3. Nelly R. Stevens Holly.  Nellies are a great choice for screens.  They are fast growing to around 20’ tall and 10-15’ wide and don’t mind some shade.  No pollinator needed for berry set on this one either.  Full sun to part shade.
  4. Sky Pencil Holly.  One of our favorites, sky pencils have a little more formal look and fit in tight spaces.  Grows to 8’ tall and 3’ wide.  Good for city areas.  Full sun to part shade.
  5. Blue Ice Arizona Cypress.  This is another evergreen that does very well in the humidity and clay in the Asheville area.  It’s a big boy, 40-50’ tall and 20’ wide, with beautiful blue foliage.  Fast growing, especially in full sun with lots of nutrients. Deer don’t bother these as much as the arborvitae.
  6. Skip Laurel.  Skip laurels are very popular in the Asheville area and make an excellent, adaptable foundation plant or screening hedge (10-15’) in full sun or part shade.  As an added bonus they have fragrant white flowers in spring, unique on this list.  They are deer resistant too!  For downsides- they are expensive, expect to pay close to $100 for landscape size plants.  They also have some problems with disease, one of which is called shot hole, which can be a problem when there is a lot of overhead watering or rain.  When planting laurels, make sure to break up the soil well, give them a good mulch, and avoid planting them under overhangs or a drip line.
  7. Hicks Yew.  Yews are an excellent option for shady areas, especially if you aren’t looking for a tall tree. They are very low maintenance and can be shaped as needed.  Slow growing to around 10’, and poisonous.
  8. Techny arborvitae.  This one almost didn’t make the list because it’s hard to find.  Techny is a growers favorite, slower growing and more drought tolerant than the species.  15-30’ tall in full sun to part shade.  Here is an excellent article all about Techny’s.
  9. Yoshino cryptomeria.  A good substitute for green giants if you like a looser, more Japanese style look.  Fast growing, full sun.  Another one of our favorites at the nursery.


For the most versatile privacy screening plants in the Asheville area, look first to arborvitae or evergreen hollies.  Both of those are large families of plants, with many different shapes and styles to choose from.

If deer are an issue, consider hollies or cypress.  For shady areas, Yews or Laurels are probably the way to go, though some of the others can also work if it’s not too shady.

Choose your location wisely, especially when planting the larger growing varieties.  Keep in mind that with slower growing varieties, the tradeoff is usually a sturdier, longer lived plant.

Decide first on how tall you need your screen to be, then how much sun the area gets.  With limited space it often makes the most sense to go with plants that don’t get too wide at the base.  If you do decide to go with something larger, most evergreens don’t mind a little pruning and shaping as necessary.

Butterfly bushes are one of those plants that straddle the line between a shrub and a perennial.  They are very fast growing in the right conditions, and bloom on new growth that season.  That means that they can be cut back almost to the ground every year without worrying about messing with flower production.

They are wonderful, easy to grow plants, especially if you give them a little maintenance this time of year.

Late winter to early spring is the time to prune them, before they leaf out for the season.  If it was just planted, cut it back by about half its size or so, but if it’s established in its spot for a couple years or more, go ahead and go all the way to a few inches off the ground.  This will help revitalize it for the season and keep its size in check.

Below is one of those poor specimens that we’ve probably all seen.  It’s been planted in a spot with too much shade and hasn’t been pruned heavily enough over the years.  This creates a straggly, woody looking plant that is prone to splitting.  If you have one that looks like that, try cutting it all the way to the ground and see how it does for you.  If it comes back very spindly chances are that it’s not getting enough sun.

Here are a few more tips for growing these fantastic plants:

  1. They like a little more alkaline soil than what most of us have around Asheville, so when you trim them it’s a good idea to top dress with a little pelletized lime every other year or so.  Lime is also known as poor man’s fertilizer.
  2. If you have one of the more leggy old fashioned varieties like Black Knight, try putting multiple colors close together.  When they bloom, they will twine together and create a neat bicolor effect that looks like it’s all from the same shrub.  That could be done as a hedge as well.
  3. Choose wisely, they can be quite different in habit.  The newer varieties can be much fuller and shorter plants.  Check out the Monarch collection or many of the Proven Winners options if you are looking for a more compact variety.
  4. Deadhead.  All that crazy growth does take a little work to maintain.  If you cut off spent blooms it dramatically extends the bloom time and keeps the plant tidier, especially the older varieties.
  5. Topdress in the spring with fertilizer.  Fast growth means hungry plants.  If you like things low maintenance, go with a slow release fertilizer like Ozmocote 14 14 14.
  6. Try a white one!  White flowering shrubs like butterfly bush or paniculata hydrangeas can create a dramatic backdrop for summer blooming perennials like echinacea.
  7. Full sun is the way to go for the best blooms and habit.
  8. Don’t cut it back in the fall, especially around Asheville when the weather jumps from freezing to 70 degrees in the same week. Wait until late winter when you can be sure that it’s dormant.


Butterfly bushes are adaptable, easy to grow plants that do best in full sun with well draining soil and lots of nitrogen.  Give them a massive haircut each year from late winter to spring to keep them looking their best.

For years I felt that it was my obligation to do as much as I could to use the native heavy clay that I was cursed blessed with on my little piece of land in Weaverville.  Primarily this meant to mulch with as much organic matter as possible, every year, using the no till method.

And it works.  Many plants do great, even with very little amendment. We are talking clay so heavy that it often takes swinging a pick mattock just to get a hole dug.  I don’t dig, I slice.

I tried to till.  The rototiller just laughed at the clay.  To this day it sits at the nursery with a flat tire and a smirk.

So what’s the problem, you ask?  Three things:

  1. It’s tiring.  Breaking up clay gets old every time you want to plant something.  As much as I love Western North Carolina, something in my midwest blood dreams about some rich flat land in Ohio or something.
  2. It takes a long time.  Essentially what happens when you mulch, is that the mulch is breaking down to form a layer of topsoil over time.  A long time.  Meanwhile, you are still digging in clay.
  3. It’s expensive.  This is probably the most important point.  Mulching with good bark mulch every year gets expensive.

If you want a nice landscape and healthy plants, mulch is unavoidable (see below).  But there is a way to make your life easier, and save some money in the long run.  That is with topsoil.

The decision to bring in topsoil depends on how hard your land is.  My rule of thumb is the shovel test.  If I can dig with a shovel without a lot of effort, then I use the soil I have and stick to mulch.  If you are one of us cursed blessed to live on a ridge that needs a digging fork or a mattock to get a hole dug, I suggest starting with topsoil, then mulching.

This does not mean raised beds.  I’m not the biggest fan of raised beds, unless you are going for form before function.  They are great in neighborhoods with small lots to keep things cute and tidy, but the sacrifice in usable space often isn’t worth it.

I’d suggest wide rows, unsupported by anything for gardens, or using edging to define perennial beds.   There is also the dump and go method without shaping or defining anything, though that can get you into trouble when the grass starts to creep where it doesn’t belong.


If you are creating new areas in your landscape for gardens or perennial beds, and your ground is too hard to dig with a shovel, start with a good thick layer of topsoil, at least 6”.  This will give you a much more aerated and better draining soil, make gardening easier, and save you money over time because you won’t need to mulch as thick or as often.  Just don’t forget to mulch after you plant with a nice all bark mulch!

What about manure and compost?  For starting new beds, those products can be hard to find, expensive, and/or confuse the issue.  If you are experienced and have access to those items at a price that works for you, I’d say go ahead and use that instead of or in addition to topsoil.  Just keep in mind that it takes time for those inputs to break down enough for the plant to use, so supplemental fertilizer will most likely be needed anyway, especially for heavy feeders like garden vegetables.  For ease of use I suggest top dressing with a slow release fertilizer like Ozmocote, especially the first year.

Need help planting?  Click Here.

If you are looking for something to try in the garden this winter, it’s a great time of year for hardwood cuttings.

The plants that do well as hardwoods makes a fairly short list, and success for most plants isn’t as high as doing softwoods in summer, but the process is about as easy as it gets and well worth experimenting with.

Here’s how I do it:

  1. Fill a large bin or old nursery pot with potting soil.  This could be almost anything, as long as it’s at least 6” deep and has holes for drainage.  Dish tubs work, storage bins, old milk jugs, you can get creative with this.  3 gallon nursery pots work very well, especially the stout version.
  2. Take 2 node cuttings (or more) from the current years growth on the plant.  Some plants like willows can do great with larger cuttings of 4 nodes or more, but you only need two.
  3. Dip the bottom node in rooting compound.  Some things don’t need this but it isn’t that big of a deal to do it, so why not increase the chances that you will get roots.  I use Dip N Grow at a 1:4 ratio to water but I don’t think the type matters that much.  Just follow the instructions on whatever product you buy.
  4. Stick the node that has been dipped into the potting mix a few inches or until it’s stable, spacing about 1” apart or a little more, just not much closer than that.
  5. Water well and place in a protected area such as a porch or unheated garage.  You want to protect from the wind and cold snaps, especially after it has started to leaf out.
  6. Cross your fingers and check once a month or so to make sure that the soil isn’t too dry.  If leaves appear in the spring, congratulations, you’re the big cheese!  Just make sure to protect those babies from late spring frosts.
  7. From there you can either leave them be for the season and let them develop roots before potting next spring, or pot them up, fertilize with some slow release fertilizer, and start your own backyard nursery.  Keep in mind that plants are most tender when they are small and start to leaf out in the spring, it’s best to leave them be at that point.

Here are some plants that do well as hardwood cuttings:




Twig Dogwood

Arborescens hydrangea

Paniculata hydrangea


Japanese magnolia

Rose of Sharon

Good luck!