BB Barns Garden Center, Garden Tour, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Edible Gardening from BB Barns Garden Center

“Who doesn’t love homegrown tomatoes?” asks Letha Hinman, BB Barns Garden Center’s annual, veggie and herb buyer. One could also ask, after a visit to Letha’s garden, who doesn’t like rhubarb, shiitake mushrooms, hops, squash, fruits, raspberries, and more?

This blog kicks off BB Barns Garden Center’s Garden Tours for the month of August. Four brave employees volunteered to give you a peek into their gardens, so look for a new blog each week (A Native’s Garden, What Can You Plant on a Bank, Edibles and Ornamentals: From Barney Bryant) . Letha’s garden is first because, as she said, “Who doesn’t love homegrown anything?” And veggies are always a good place to start, especially if you are a beginner, because what’s more rewarding than eating what you grow?

A little background on Letha (for those who always wondered about our engaging annual buyer). Letha grew up in Minnesota on a rural dairy and poultry farm. When she wasn’t helping with farm chores, she was baking. Not much has changed. She’s still gardening and cooking. But, after marrying Naval officer, Mike Hinman, her food palette expanded to include foods from around the world as she and Mike lived the military life. Now, fish and lamb (discovered in Iceland) are a family favorite, and papaya and mango (from their time in Hawaii) are added to her table’s fare. BB Barns’ customers benefit from her vast gardening knowledge, but we co-workers have the privilege of benefiting from her culinary skills. Now, you can too. Read on for a great recipe provided by Letha. This one originates from her roots, Rhubarb Meringue Pie.  If you’re game, when you see Letha, ask her about her shiitake mushroom recipe. She might share that too.

Every good garden starts with a place to store tools and some bees. Welcome to Letha and Mike’s garden. Click on the pictures for additional information.

Letha’s garden contains the standard fare, spicy jalapeños, squash, and tomatoes of several varieties. (Click on each picture to find out what’s growing.) Her good fortune is a large space to spread out and grow everything from corn to onions, but Letha assures us small spaces produce large amounts too, even container gardens can feed a small family.

And while every garden has it’s standard fare (What’s a summer without cucs and squash?), Letha’s garden goes a step further. Husband Mike didn’t agree to share his brewing recipe with us, but his hops make for a very pretty picture. Climbing up a cage where the family tosses the rocks from the garden, the hops shine in the sunshine, hiding the rocks and showing that food can sometimes be functional and tasty.

BB Barns Garden Center, Garden Tours,  Hops, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Hops for Mike’s brewing hobby.

Letha’s love of new ideas keeps the annual department hopping (no pun intended), and last year she tried something very new. shiitake mushrooms inoculated on old logs. Normally, she gets a spring and fall crop, but this year, bonus, when we were taking pictures we discovered a summer crop!

Letha has traveled to places many of us only dream of, but her roots are Minnesota. The perennial rhubarb has a spot in her garden, and below the picture is a recipe shared from her years of baking. Give it a try, and, make a note now, so you won’t forget: It’s time to plant fall crops. Brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, lettuces, brocoli, all go in the ground now. Check out the new plants Letha just brought in, and yes, even beginners can start now.

Letha's rhubarb. Many assume because we're zone 7a, we can't grow it here, but we can. Rhubarb is definitely a cold weather lover, and so Letha's home place of MN even has rhubarb festivals, but we're right on the border of growing it. One hour down the road in Greenville and this perennial vegetable with its beautiful red stalks wouldn't make it.

Letha’s rhubarb. Many assume because we’re zone 7a, we can’t grow it here, but we can. Rhubarb is definitely a cold weather lover, and so Letha’s home place of MN even has rhubarb festivals, but we’re right on the border of growing it. One hour down the road in Greenville and this perennial vegetable with its beautiful red stalks wouldn’t make it.

From Garden to Table, Letha’s Rhubarb Meringue Pie:

Prepare one pie crust

  • Mix together 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar (some brown sugar can be used)
  • 1/4 cup minute tapioca
  • 6 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Dash of ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup of milk or cream
  • Let mixture set for 10 minutes. Then fill crust with mixture. Bake for 45 minutes at 400° degrees until set.

For meringue beat 4 to 6 eggs whites with 3/4 tsp cream of tarter on high until foamy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla. Spread atop baked pie while still hot, starting with edges of crust making sure no gaps appear between crust and meringue. Then fill in center. Return to 350° for 15 minutes or until peaks of meringue are golden brown.

Thanks Letha and Mike for sharing your garden!

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

Bamboo screen, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

A Native’s Garden

BB Barns Garden Center is known for their ornamental gardening plants and products. The English Cottage appeal isn’t lost on customers who practically swoon when visiting the store, exclaiming how gorgeous it all is. But, BB Barns has their natives, too. Ellen Blair, who works as an Outside Sales Associate as part of the perennial team, is a native of Western North Carolina. Asheville is her home, and her career as a horticulturist has been spent in the region’s finest gardens.

BB Barns is now happy to have her on their team, and she was brave enough to go first on the virtual tour of BB Barns’ employee’s gardens. Thanks, Ellen!

As we at BB Barns already know, Ellen is particularly good at 2 things: using what’s handy in the garden and getting creative with it. What Ellen has at her house is a backyard full of bamboo, courtesy of past neighbors. 10 years ago, when her dog, Molly, who was old with dementia, got trapped in the grove of bamboo, Ellen got creative.

Bamboo Screen, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

The backyard, once the dog-run was over-run by invasive bamboo. Ellen cut 20′ long pieces of the “grass” that captured her dog, Molly, and let it dry for six months while contemplating what to do with it. The screen was the result, and the mountains she’s always called home were her inspiration. Each panel is 10′ tall and the whole thing is 30′ wide. It is a surprising and impressive thing to see in Ellen’s shade garden. See the bird stoop? It’s old bittersweet wood used in front of a birdbath. The irony of the bamboo and bittersweet used together!

Here’s a picture of the bamboo this screen helps hold back.

Bamboo Screen, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming

A close-up of the tight growth of invasive bamboo growing behind the screen.

With the screen in place, the old dog-run became the new shade garden. Japanese forest grass, hostas, hellebores, oak leaf hydrangeas, cimicifuga, ferns, and more were added in front of the screen, creating a great morning coffee spot. Often, our customers bemoan that living in Western North Carolina means living in the shade. What can they grow? Check out the following pictures, and then be sure to ask Ellen for help designing your own shade garden.

Japanese Forest Grass, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Nothing compares with Japanese forest grass for color in a shade garden. Foliage beats bloom with this chartreuse color pop, while adding movement in the garden.

Japanese Painted Fern, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Japanese Painted Fern is another great shade perennial. The cool colors of this fern help create a cool feel in the shade.

Oak leaf hydrangeas, fun face on a tree, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Oak leaf hydrangeas, a native plant for a native garden, that performs best in more shade than sun. The face is Ellen’s idea of fun in the garden.

Gargoyles in the garden, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

But even a pro like Ellen caves to the full-sun perennials, hoping they’ll bloom in “enough sun”, in the shade.The Rozanne geranium is blooming, but as Ellen pointed out, it’s a bit leggy. That’s what we love about gardening, all trial and error. Still, it’s a perfect spot for the gargoyles, gifts to Ellen who worked in the Historic Walled Gardens at Biltmore as a Gardener II crew leader. Perhaps reminiscent of the gargoyles that adorn the Vanderbilt home?

Ellen’s creativity isn’t limited to making screens. She enjoys creating themed gardens. While working at Biltmore, she helped create a white garden, a Victorian border, a hummingbird garden, a fragrant garden, a winter garden and a butterfly garden.

Butterfly garden at Biltmore, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Photo courtesy of Ellen, who helped create this butterfly garden at Biltmore Estates.

Now, Ellen uses her own yard to create themed gardens. This is the memory garden for her sister who passed away last summer. A sunny spot full of color and whimsy.

A Memory Garden, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming

Colorful ‘Tango’ agastache (hyssop), Rozanne geranium (in a more happy place), and Angelina sedum help create a colorful memory garden. The gargoyle reading the book reminds Ellen of her sister, who loved to read.

Stately conifers front Ellen’s garden, making passerby’s wonder about the garden behind them.

Stately conifers, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Towering conifers give evergreen privacy to Ellen’s whimsical garden.

When asked what kind of garden she created, Ellen replies, “A happy one. I used to do everything by the book, so to speak, like in 3’s and 5’s, and while I don’t disagree with those design concepts, these days, I just want a happy garden. I don’t worry so much about everything being perfect.”

Popcorn begonia, A Native Garden, Transplanted and Still Blooming

A happy, whimsical gardener, Ellen made these begonias “pop” with these cute containers–a gift for her sisters.

BB Barns Garden Center is grateful to have the knowledge and experience of Ellen Blair, who has made horticulture her career for over 20+ years. Our customers benefit from her wealth of plant and design knowledge, her easy-going approach, and her happy garden. See? BB Barns is a big believer in natives, too.