Christians are No Longer Cool

I left my sheltered world of a stay-at-home mom on the farm, went back to work, and quickly found out that being a Christian is so not cool. I don’t know if it ever was cool, but I’d never gotten flack for being one, until now.

It seems, I’m suspected of judging every single soul on the planet. Like Santa, I’m thought to be sitting at home making a list of who’s naughty and nice, and checking it twice. (I’m not. I’m actually watching NCIS:LA. LL Cool J is my celebrity crush.) I’m told by people, who do not know me or my faith, that I should never judge another person. It just isn’t right.

I looked up the word judge. It means to form an opinion or conclusion about.

Ok, yeah, I’ve done that. From like, preschool on.

But mostly over stupid stuff. Not the big stuff like race, lifestyle, financial status or who I thought should go directly to hell. It was mostly hair, or body (she’s way too skinny), or the way they raised their kids, or their big house, or just whatever. Dumb things. I don’t do that now because, well, I’ve lived long enough to consider my own parenting, hair, weight and weightier subjects.

And, I don’t get riled up over the morals of others because I don’t have a moral leg to stand on, and frankly, I don’t care.

I’ve done little judging, but definitely my fair share of critiquing.

Weirdly, there are people who are judging me for the possibility that I might be judging others. And, yes, I do realize that plenty of Christians are judgmental, but seriously? It’s not like we hold all the cards on that one. Non-Christians are just as quick to judge others, too. It’s a lesson for all of us, not just the Jesus followers.

It’s also assumed that I hate gays, hate Muslims, hate Obama, hate Hilary (well, she is annoying), and anything else left of right. Geez. I’m given too much credit. I rarely consider any of these issues or people. I’m too busy with Cinthia-world, which is not an easy world to run, just FYI.

If not all Muslims are radical extremists, then why are all Christians non-tolerant, judgmental, fundamentalists? Just asking.

Look, there’s a judge, and it’s not me. His name is Jesus, He instructs me to leave the judging up to him because it is too big and burdensome for my shoulders, and besides, I can’t see inside a person’s heart and he can. So, I do. Judging is too hard, too complicated. I haven’t walked where you walk. I haven’t traveled your journey. I don’t live in your skin. Nor you in mine. But, I am a big proponent of being traveling buddies, even the Navy Seals do that. I’d rather skip the judging (me of you or you of me), and see if we can help each other along the way because the way can be hard. And, while we’re traveling, let’s skip the critiquing, too. My dad called it gossip, and I know for a fact, Christian or not, we’re all guilty of that.




Container Gardening with edibles, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Edibles and Ornamentals: From Barney Bryant at BB Barns Garden Center

(The third “garden tour” of BB Barns employees. Hope it gives you inspiration. Check out Ellen’s garden, and Chris’ garden too. Enjoy!)

Twenty-six years of trucks have rolled into BB Barns Garden Center, carrying everything from tropical plants to trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials. We’re talking literally thousands of plants a year. You’d think, for co-owner, Barney Bryant, the excitement of these daily arrivals would’ve waned. Not so. Barn, as he is fondly called by friends and family, says very definitely, “I am passionate about people, plants and gardening,”  The nursery, located in Asheville, North Carolina, is a destination garden center, and it encompasses all three in that order. People. Plants. Gardening.

Barn, a certified plant geek, is still thrilled by the new cultivars and the old favorites. In his newest garden, one he calls a celebration of sun, Barn has returned to his mountain roots, growing dahlias and edibles side by side. A native of Franklin, North Carolina, he remembers his grandmother overwintering dahlias in her root cellar where it was cool and damp. He overwinters them in his garage, tucked away in vermiculite in dark boxes, where watering is limited to once a month. As the weather warms, the dahlias are pulled out of their dark winter homes, and by April 20th, they’re ready for planting. “Dahlias,” Barn says, “are great because they’re insect proof, and deer proof.”

BB Barns Garden Center, Red dahlias and coleus, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

‘Taxco’ and ‘Chiapas’ dahlias with ‘Mardi Gras’ and ‘Under the Sea’ Coleus. Before the dahlias emerge in early summer mixed greens are queen of this spot. While the dahlias are still blooming, lettuce, arugula, and other greens are seeded in for a fall crop here.

BB Barns Garden Center, Dahlia Border, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

The dahlia border; ‘Veracruz’ dahlias with ‘Little Lamb’ hydrangea paniculata and Dwarf Globe Blue Spruce

BB Barns Garden Center, Yellow Gardening tub, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

It’s possible to match your gardening tubs with your garden. Yellow gardening tub, yellow dahlias.

BB Barns Garden Center, corner of house used for herbs and veggies, transplanted and still blooming, Cinthia Milner

The corner kitchen: Right outside of Barn’s kitchen and next to the patio where he enjoys entertaining, are climbing cucumbers, and climbing spinach, Malabar spinach is a warm season spinach. It loves heat, and since it climbs, it is the perfect edible for a small garden. Used in salads and cooking. Moon vine, an annual vine that blooms in early to late fall, is climbing up behind the edibles. The dill is supported by the ‘Casa Blanca ‘Asiatic lilies that are just opening.

Casa Blance Asiatic lily

‘Casa Blanca’ Asiatic lily, highlighted by ‘Taxco’ dahlia, their sturdy stems could hold almost anything up, even heavy dill.

Barn loves to cook and garden, so it only makes sense that he combines the two. His taste in gardening leans toward an English cottage garden. His taste in cooking is more likely to lean toward his native mountain fare where vegetables were homegrown and home cooked. The garden reflects both.

His English garden approach is seen in his use of vines. “The English,” Barn says, “love their vines,” and Barn believes every garden should mix annual vines in with the perennial ones.

BB Barns Garden Center, Clematis 'Henryi', Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Clematis ‘Henryi’ and Thunbergia or Black Eyed Susan vine growing together on the edge of the house opposite the corner kitchen.

BB Barns Garden Center, Bergenia under soffitt, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

In keeping with the English Cottage Garden, no spot is left un-planted in Barn’s garden. No, this is not an edible, though it leaves look tasty. It is an ornamental bergenia, or pigsqueak. The common name belies it great use as a groundcover in dry shade (this is growing under the soffit), its beautiful magenta blooms in apring, and lovely burnished colors in fall.

BB Barns Garden Center, Kewensis with aralia, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

If Barn were asked for a favorite plant, he’d be hard pressed to give you one, but this Kewensis (Euonymus Kewensis Wintercreeper) would come close. A great dwarf groundcover that grows slowly, forms a thick mat, and attaches itself to walls. In front of it, Aralia ‘Sun King’ for a splash of lime green, and sweet box that is yellowing a bit. No garden is perfect, not even the owner’s garden!

BB Barns Garden Center, Malabar spinach, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Close-up of leaves of Malabar spinach. Barn says to use the young leaves and steam in lemon basil butter for 10 minutes. Simple and good.

BB Barns Garden Center, Malabar spinach and honeysuckle vines growing up the new arbor together, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

A new garden celebrating the sun, edibles and ornamentals. Growing up the arbor is Climbing Hydrangea, (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris for winter interest), Rosemoor’ Clematis (blooms May-September), and until those fill in the Malabar spinach is front and center. A perfect combination for those who love to cook and garden.

Header picture: container gardening and rhubarb growing over the steps

Lady in Red Hydrangea, What Can I Plant on a Bank, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

What Can You Plant on a Bank?

If you’ve shopped for perennials at BB Barns Garden Center, then you know we major on hostas. There’s a reason for that. Our perennial buyer, Chris Stone, loves her hostas. It wasn’t always true love, though. Like many who move to Western North Carolina, when she and husband Pat bought their “forever home” (their affectionate term for their charming mountain home), Chris was discouraged. Her previous job was crew leader at Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion. In Chris’ words, “All hot colors, reds, oranges, Tiffany roses, purples.” From the sunny land of Morocco, aka Orlando, she had to adjust to her new elevation (2800′), shade, and the fact that she now lived on the side of a cliff.

Sound familiar? In our top ten questions asked to the Outside Sales Staff at BB Barns, right up there in the top five is, What do you plant on a bank?

If you know our red-headed Chris, then you won’t be surprised that for her, step one was to change the topography. Six years, 25 dump trucks of dirt, and 100 tons of rock later, she had the nickname ‘The Dirt Girl’ (dubbed by the men hauling the dirt), and no longer a cliff, but a fairly steep bank to create her garden on.

Now, brick pathways traverse the embankment, and hostas and Japanese maples are the showstoppers of the garden. Chris did what BB Barns encourages their customers to do. No, not the dirt hauling and rock carrying. But, instead of yet another “Wall of Juniper” for slopes, treat that sloped space as part of the landscape. Plant trees and shrubs, and Chris would say, hostas.

Stained Glass hosta, What Can I Plant on a Bank, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Minler

When asked what she considers the triumph of the garden, Chris replies, “Serenity.” In this picture, ‘Stained Glass’ hosta, ”Dragon Wing’ begonia, ‘Viridis’ Japanese maple, a creek made by she and Pat, and for a touch of personal serenity, a hammock.

Feeling Blue Deodar Cedar, What Can I Plant on a Bank, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Blue Star creeper, ‘Feeling Blue’ Deodar Cedar (the lowest of the dwarf cedars, reaches 2-4′ tall and 6′ wide), Ajuga and ‘Halcyon’ hosta line the brick pathway.

Hostas seem to be that plant that is either loved or hated in the garden. Chris believes it’s lack of popularity with some is because we’re unfamiliar with all the cultivars and uses. Hostas are great on slopes (if you can duck-walk up it, you can plant it), can fit into almost any niche in the garden, in sun or shade (depending on type), are a perfect way to cover up the dying foliage of spring bulbs, have late summer into fall blooms, and can be be massed for show or planted separately as specimens. Chris has grown the hosta section at the store to include her now favorite mini hostas. But, the best thing about hostas? Their zone. Most are zoned 4-9, many are 2-9. That’s like, Denali to Charleston. Talk about versatility.

mini hosta garden

Chris’ colorful mini hosta garden. Most minis stay an adorable 8″ tall and 12″ wide, and are amazing spreaders which makes propagating easy.  They’re planted to see each specimen separately.

Mouse Ears hosta, What Can I Plant on a Bank, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

‘Mouse Ear’s Hosta. Remember Epcot? Chris’ favorite mini is the Mouse Ears collection.


Stiletto hosta, What Can I Plant on a Bank, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

This cutie is ‘Stiletto.’ It gets 6-8″ tall, 12-18″ wide, blooms mauve/lavender in August. Zoned 2-9

Hush puppies hosta, what can I plant on a bank, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner

‘Hush Puppie’ hosta gets 6″ tall and 16″ wide. A vigorous spreader.

Halcyon hosta, What Can I Plant on a Bank, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Halcyon hosta, not a mini, fills a corner perfectly. at 18″ tall and 36″ wide. The blue leaves makes for a pretty spectacular showing.

When Chris first arrived at BB Barns, she thought she’d work there until she was finished landscaping her “forever home.” But, as all good gardeners know, no garden is ever done. Her hostas may shine in the garden, but Chris fell in love with conifers, grasses, and Japanese maples (16 of those to be exact), too.

Little Bluestem Grasses, What Can I Plant on a Bank, Transplanted and Still Standing, Cinthia Milner

‘Standing Ovation’ Little Bluestem grass, ‘Duke Gardens’ Japanese plum yew, ‘Black Dragon’ Cryptomeria, Weeping redbud, and a fun orange container for color.

Seiryu Japanese Maple, What Can I Plant on a Bank, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

A picture really is worth a thousand words. Seiryu Japanese maple. And, check out the chairs in the far right of the picture overlooking the creek. That gives you an idea of the slope of the Stone garden.

Garden chairs near a mini hosta garden, What Can I Plant on a Bank, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

A welcome spot near the mini hosta bed. Chairs around a fire pit.

Japanese forest grass combination with Japanese maples, What Can I Plant on a Bank, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

It took 10 years and a lot of going up and down a bank (We do live in the mountains!), and although the garden is not finished (she and Pat want to build new terraces), the Stones can relish the serenity of a job well done with vignettes like this one to enjoy. Japanese forest grass makes a great color combination with a burgundy Japanese maple, and mimics the movement of the water.

Morocco is a long way away from Western North Carolina. Hot tropical colors have been replaced with cool mountain hues, but if there is anyone who now knows what can be planted on a shady bank, that is well above Epcot’s sea level, Chris Stone is it. Who wouldn’t want to mimic her garden?

Header picture: ‘Lady in Red’ lacecap hydrangeas; a great choice for a slight, shady slope.