Some snooty gardener said, “Anyone can do a spring garden.” By that, they meant spring is naturally a floriferous time, and the whole world is a bounty of bloom without much effort from the gardener. I find that statement a teensy bit offensive because of the amount of work I put into my spring garden, but after a visit to my friend Barney Bryant’s garden last week, I admitted there is a touch of truth to that sentiment. His summer garden epitomizes summer gardens with bulbs, annual blooming vines, perennial vines, evergreens, and overflowing containers. I took a billion pictures, came home with a bucket full of dahlias and a goal of bringing more color into my summer garden.

Barney Bryant, known as Barn by his friends, is one of the previous owners of B. B. Barns. Barney is a Western North Carolina native with decades of gardening experience and a passion for people and plants. He grew up in Western North Carolina and, with his friend and business partner Ned Gibson, opened and operated B. B. Barns Garden Center for over thirty years. Here’s a glimpse at a previous garden. He opted to retire this year and now enjoys his garden and air conditioning. We’re all envious about both, naturally.

So, take a minute and indulge yourself in this dreamy world of summer. It is not too late to plant summer perennials and shrubs (just water like heck) and/or plan for next year’s summer garden.

Invest in Summer bulbs

Barn has a heart for dahlias. For the variety of bloom colors, sizes, length of bloom, and timing of bloom, they are the summer garden darling. Plant in mid-April, and here in zone 7a, digging up the dahlias or leaving them in is a personal preference. We’re borderline on how well they’ll survive the winter. Barn does not dig his dahlias up from year to year. Instead, he plants in well-draining soil to avoid rot in winter and covers them with a thick mulch. Gardeners vary in their thoughts on this, but Barn has been successful in repeat blooms. For him, the summer garden is not complete without them, and he’s rewarded with little loss each summer. He also enjoys Asiatic lilies for their fragrance, height, and array of colors.

Summer bulbs to incorporate into your garden.

  • Dahlias
  • Gladiolas
  • Ranunculus
  • Asiatic Lilies
  • Canna Lilies
  • Calla Lilies

Dahlias aren’t actually bulbs (they’re tubers, think potatoes), but for the sake of this blog, we include them with the bulbs). If you’re ready to delve even further into summer bulbs, go online for specialty summer bulbs to add. There’s so much to discover.

Dahlia bulbs in Barney Bryant’s garden

Lilies add height, fragrance, and long lasting showy blooms

Use Asiatic lilies for a bold splash of color and a fragrant garden evening

Hydrangeas are a must

Barn loves hydrangeas and his seminars on caring for hydrangeas are where most of us learned to love and care for them, too. If you plan your hydrangeas right, you can enjoy them all summer long. From Annabelle’s to Limelights to Wedding Gown.

Barn is as Southern as it gets in personality, tradtion and gardening. Boxwoods and Annabelle hydrangeas make a perfect combination in his garden

One of Barn’s favorite hydrangeas is Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Wedding Gown’. A double lacecap that blooms on old and new wood starting in early to mid-July. Its’ size is 3’-4’ x 3’-4’ so it is perfect to add to borders, even perennial borders. Gardens shouldn’t be perennials only—flowering shrubs can carry a lot of weight for the summer garden

Max out the containers

Barn’s container green thumb has always been strong and some of his combinations are enviable. He uses evergreens, annuals, climbing vines, foliage plants, and well, everything. If your spring containers are looking hot and tired, freshen them up with some quick annuals or perennials.

Barn’s front door container is in shade, so he opted for some serious foliage color. He planted variegated bear’s britches, bergina (a plant he uses a lot and is fond of), and hosta. The autumn fern is planted in the landscape just in front of the container

This thunbergia (Black eyed Susan vine) will bloom all season from spring until fall. Adding annual climbing vines in containers means you can add height where needed without taking up real estate. A trick I now use in my garden, thanks to Barn

When space is limited, add evergreen by using them in containers. The evergreens are the bones of the garden and give structure and backdrop to the rest of it.

Evergreen can be boxwoods or ivy and color can be shades/varigation of green.

The summer garden can be as bountiful as the spring garden and as Barn is fond of saying, “You need some color.” Yes, we do, Barn. Yes, we do. Be it foliage or bloom color, or both, add it to your summer garden.

Please add tips in the comments below on how you keep your summer garden colorful. And, because so many of you ask about Barn, feel free to say hello to him in the comments, as well. A shout-out from old friends is always welcome!

Happy Gardening!

Written by Cinthia Milner, Landscape Consultant, and garden blogger.

B. B. Barns serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and Tennessee.