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.

 

 

 

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.