2017-07-09 / Insight

Barbara Hunter’s hosta garden covers nearly 3/4’s of an acre

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 •


Barb Hunter’s backyard is an ever growing hosta garden. Some beds are random and others, like this one are themed. Her Americana bed has hostas named “Toy Soldier” and “Revolution” and feature patriotic yard art. 
Photo by Phil Foley Barb Hunter’s backyard is an ever growing hosta garden. Some beds are random and others, like this one are themed. Her Americana bed has hostas named “Toy Soldier” and “Revolution” and feature patriotic yard art. Photo by Phil Foley MAYFIELD TWP. — She doesn’t have kids. She doesn’t have a husband. But Barbara Hunter does have plants — lots of plants.

Behind the retired postal worker’s modest blue Cape Cod home on Davis Lake Road there’s a veritable galaxy of hostas, day lilies and exotic tropicals.

And it all started 18 years ago with a Koi pond and the desire for a perfect lawn.

Hunter was delivering mail in the Stonecroft subdivision and noticed “everybody had a beautiful lawn.”

So, she had a water well big enough to support an irrigation system and bought herself a Skag walk-behind mower that she still uses.

Her garden began with a Koi pond a third the size of the one she has now and a few hostas and day lilies, most of which were gifts from customers on her Post Office route.

She got the idea for the pond after taking a garden tour. Her own garden will be one of six featured on the 2017 Master Gardener Garden Tour and Fairy Garden Contest set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 22.

When Hunter bought her house in 1985 there were three spruce trees, a silver maple, a honeysuckle and a couple of crabapples in the back yard. “If I had known then what I know now, I would have cut the silver maple down.” Hunter added more trees, among them a tulip tree and a sycamore, and as they grew the hosta beds spread. Now they cover nearly the entire back yard of the three-quarter acre property.

Her hostas range from three inches to over three feet and every one is tagged with a name and where and when Hunter acquired it.

The day lilies eventually moved from the koi pond to a large bed in the backyard, but now she wants to get rid of them and is selling them off at $5 a shovelful.

As her collection grew, Hunter joined several hosta clubs and completed the Master Gardener program. She said not only did it increase her knowledge of gardening, “It increased my circle of friends.”

The Eastern Michigan Hosta Society, which meets at the Mayfield Township hall in the winter and member’s homes in the summer, has more than 100 members in Lapeer County alone.

Last summer she attended the Hosta College in Piqua, Ohio, along with 400 other people.

Hunter eventually became a licensed Michigan small nursery grower. “I’m kind of like a drug dealer,” she said. “I sell ‘em to support my habit.”

Hunter said it’s 25-degrees cooler in her hosta garden on a 95-degree day.

Her hostas are interspersed with companion plants like bear’s breeches (campus hungarius) and delicate tropicals like (angel’s trumpet brugmansia), which spend the winter in her greenhouse. The garden is also peppered with fanciful metal creations welded by a friend from Wadhams.

Hunter used to have a collection of Masserelli cement gnomes and mushrooms, but she sold them to another Master Gardner in what she called a “pre-estate sale” last summer.

At 64, Hunter knows she won’t be around forever, so she’s made arrangements for her garden’s future. “On my death three garden clubs will dig everything up, sell it and split the profits,” she said. That way it won’t be plowed under or sprayed with Round-Up by the next homeowner.

She doesn’t think there are many people around willing to put in the effort it takes to maintain the garden. Hunter said she probably averages 40 hours a week tending to the garden.

“You’re always fighting weeds,” she said, noting every new bag of garden soil seems to have the seeds of something new and noxious.

Hunter’s business is “open by chance and appointment.” She can be reached at 810-358-9833.

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