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Good to Grow: Ingenuity abounds in Greenbrier County garden tours

By By Lynne Schwartz-Barker
Good to Grow
A private creek with stepping stone paths — not your traditional garden.
The gazebo and surrounding flowers — a labor of love in a Lewisburg garden.

Don’t you love a good garden tour? I’m fascinated to see how other designers and talented amateurs develop their outdoor spaces. I love to learn new plants, schmooze with like-minded people and enjoy a gorgeous day out.

I was recently privileged to view the work of talented designers in Lewisburg and White Sulphur Springs, when the West Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association sponsored its third annual Designers’ Choice tour.

Josh Polan of Riverbend Nursery, Rudy Horst of Tallyho Landscaping and Leo and Ryan Lewis of Windy Knoll Nursery wowed us with their posh landscapes.

Four of the six gardens we toured were on the grounds of The Greenbrier. Several of these, sited on hilltops, had spectacular views.

One homeowner’s salt-water infinity pool, the water tinted a dark blue, was perched on the edge of the hill, surrounded by white marble paving, hydrangeas, boxwoods and mounds of purple and white New Guinea impatiens — the view was priceless.

This large property had a series of simple gardens, using a limited, but choice plant palette. Young weeping copper beeches and weeping Alaska cedars were used as sculptural elements, kousa dogwoods had been pruned and trained to grow flat against a wall. Clipped boxwood hedges strictly defined garden spaces, echoing the modern lines of the house.

Another of the homes, sited on a narrow piece of land, had a rock-bordered creek below it, complete with a small waterfall spilling into a pond and handy stepping stones crossing the creek to a hiking trail on the other side.

The ingenuity, engineering and finances required to create a completely planned, natural-looking environment were impressive. Mature, gorgeous Japanese cedars and Norway spruce were planted to instantly enclose the space, making the creek and waterfall a private hideaway.

A long, private gravel driveway led to a third hilltop home, the drive ensconced by maple trees, oak leaf hydrangeas and masses of black-eyed Susans in bloom.

Near the house, a massive retaining wall that shored up the parking area was expertly camouflaged using beautiful boulders along the top of the wall with ferns, hellebores and junipers nestled into pockets of soil between the boulders, softening and enriching the stone.

The fourth Greenbrier home was more traditional, with a beautifully laid cobblestone parking court. An assortment of healthy shrubs, trees, begonias, vinca and roses enhanced the garden space, and a natural stone seating area and fire pit below the house looked like it would be fun to use on a lovely summer night.

The last two homes were in Lewisburg, one a 20-year labor of love between homeowner and designer. This was our favorite of the day, with a large, comfortable gazebo, an outdoor swing suspended from the upper branches of a massive shade tree, a patio with the biggest umbrella I’ve ever seen shading the seating area and a very cool, asymmetrical garage, in addition to a scrumptious plant collection.

The final home, where we enjoyed refreshments and conversation, had a simple, lovely garden and a great outdoor living space that generously accommodated 25 guests with a fabulous meadow/mountain view.

We learned a few new plants on this trip too. The designers recommended: Chicagoland boxwoods for their hardiness, green velvet boxwoods for clipped hedges, hydrangea vanilla strawberry for its long-lasting pink and white flowers and lemon drop daylilies, a 3-feet-tall stunner with very fragrant flowers.

They also recommend regularly spraying with a deer deterrent, of course, to keep the lush flowers blooming.

I can’t wait to see where next year’s garden tour takes us and which talented West Virginia designers we’ll get to meet.

Lynne Schwartz-Barker is the senior garden designer and a partner in Flowerscape, a family-owned landscape design, planting and maintenance company she started in 1984. She was a 12-year member of the Charleston Beautification Commission and wrote Gardenscape, a weekly gardening column for the Charleston Daily Mail and the Sunday Gazette-Mail, from 1985 to 2006. She is a board member of the West Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association and has been a contributing writer and designer for the Rodale Press book “Gardening With Perennials.” Lynne can be reached at

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