Early Years

Our History

    Appeldoorn Landscape Nursery has been producing live plants since 1975. It first began as Appeldoorn Greenhouses & Nursery, a producer of tropical and foliage plants in Asheville, NC, where it sold its production through its unique plant shop, Freightyard Foliage. The store was located in an old caboose and boxcar in the Biltmore Village section of south Asheville.

Bruce Appeldoorn in front of Freightyard Foliage,
ca. 1976. He had hair back then, folks!

    Freightyard Foliage had a unique and personal jungle-like sales concept, with all of its wares intimately inviting customers to feel and touch them. Plants were grown under fluorescent lights with mist and high humidity in air conditioning—the plants absolutely loved it and the customers did too.

    The customers also loved the hand thrown pottery done by local craftsmen, and macramé and plant displays that set our wares apart. Unfortunately, after 6 years, nearby construction obscured the shop’s visibility, and the little caboose moved elsewhere and the store into history.

    Production at that time was centered at a famous old Asheville greenhouse complex, the former Nik-Nar Nursery owned by the late G. Latta Clement. (Nik-Nar had been a grower and shipper of our native NC mountain plants to customers around the world, and had incredible magazine-level gardens in the 30’s and 40’s. Mr. Clement, a true plant wizard, died in the mid 1960’s, and the nursery fell upon hard times.) After purchase, the nursery buildings were restored to functional order as best as could be done with the very limited capital available to a fledgling business.

    Appeldoorn Greenhouses & Nursery grew a wide variety of plants, from cactus and succulents (over 500 varieties) and bromeliads to hydrangeas and vegetable plants. Landscaping activities required the production of woody ornamentals as well, and that began in the early 1980’s.

A Specimen of Rebutia Cactus,
Blooming its Fool Head Off in
the Greenhouses, Circa 1985

Simple but Elegant,
the Bromeliad,
Neoregelia Caroline

Our Display of Tropical Plants Surrounding the
Main Stage at 1980 Mountain Living Show,
Asheville Civic Center, Asheville NC

    The early 1980’s featured a rise in specimen tropical plant inventory, with outrageous dracenas, huge bromeliad clusters, and large palms occupying the greenhouses. We had a nice business in interior plant decoration and maintenance services going, with a weekly route servicing doctor’s offices, restaurants, corporate locations, and local businesses. The nursery staff was executing massive displays for home shows at civic centers and Easter displays at malls, with most of the work being done in the dead of night. It was a heady and exciting time; as always, any money earned went right back into the business.

    But by 1987, most of the nursery space was devoted to woody ornamentals. Over the years, several devastating storms and horrific freezes had eliminated most of the beautiful specimen tropical plants; a freeze of –16 degrees with a 60 mph wind was particularly memorable for its destruction. Ten years later, during the “Storm of the Century,” a wet 28” snowstorm brutally crushed one of the old wooden greenhouses to the ground. This record snowfall was immediately followed by sub-zero temperatures. All losses were, of course, totally uninsured.

    It was during this period that we designed and built our garden railroad project at the nursery. A fine example of such a garden was seen during a trip to the Museum of Transportation in Luzern, Switzerland. It combined both a model railroad layout outside and a miniature rock garden setting.

    This was an instant “must have” addition for our gardens! A local model train shop in Asheville owned by Reynolds Calvert was contacted and he agreed to help with supplying LGB large gauge track and trains.

    We laid out the design during the winter months, and after only 250 man hours of labor donated by local landscapers and friends, we had constructed the perfect layout. The garden measured 15 feet by 35 feet and contained 105 feet of track. All plantings were in perfect scale with the trains and buildings, and something was always in bloom. The results were breathtaking!

    Articles appeared in the Asheville Citizen Times and on the local TV station, WLOS. The railroad was extremely popular with children, and visitors appeared at all hours to see the operating sessions. The railroad garden was our pride and joy and remained so for 15 years.

Through the years, our landscaping services increased with the demand of a booming Asheville. Old greenhouses were removed and replaced with new ones. Water was always hard to come by in Asheville, as it is the driest part of the driest county in the state. A well and irrigation system was installed to supplement city water, but soon this was not enough either. After 8 years of drought, a change was long overdue. The 11- acre nursery property was sold in 2002 and our nursery business was relocated to Rutherford County, NC. It was renamed Appeldoorn Landscape Nursery to reflect its revised emphasis.