Ruth WalkerComment

Barbara McCann’s Sun and Shade Gardens

Ruth WalkerComment
Barbara McCann’s Sun and Shade Gardens

Growing up in suburban Chicago, Barbara McCann began gardening as a child with her grandfather who would create a vegetable garden for the family.   


Her parents knew their six-year-old daughter was hooked on gardening when she began saving the caraway seeds off her pork chop at dinner – something that she typically loved to eat.  When asked why she wasn’t eating the seeds, she explained that she was “saving them to plant pork chops.” 

Fast forward to today and McCann no longer grows vegetables; she focuses on what beautifies her yard. But gardening remains her favorite pastime and that’s fortunate because remaking her yard has been a long-term project.  


When Barb moved into her Northport home in 1980 the shrubbery was overgrown to a point that she had to chain saw one shrub to open a side door. That was the beginning of her Northern Michigan gardening adventure which included “a lot of trial and error,” says Barb. 

She started in her gardening adventures by reading Crockett’s Flower Book, authored by the late PBS TV series host who is best known for his victory garden books.  Today she also reads gardening magazines, checks out the wealth of scientific information on the internet and regularly checks out the local library’s collection of books. 

Gardening’s role in Barb’s life is significant in many ways but particularly as a way to get her through major life changes.  “It’s a major stress reliever for me,” she says, adding that she doesn’t listen to music while working, preferring to listen to the sounds of her neighborhood.


 While many of Barb’s gardens are in full view for passersby on Michigan’s M-22, visitors to her yard are surprised by her “Secret Gardens” – those that are behind the house. While she sticks to flowers in all her beds, she has both shade and sun gardens that cover about 3,600 square feet of the two acres on which her house is located.

Playing a starring role in those shade gardens are Barb’s collection of hostas – over 300 different varieties and an estimated 700 plants.  Ironically, she explains, she never liked hostas until discovering newer varieties available now. It was in 2006 that she first found a hosta that appealed to her at a local nursery; she used it to fill space under a birch tree in her yard.  Today they’re throughout most of her garden beds – labeled with identifying markers that give the name of each variety.  Not surprisingly, some have special meaning to Barb such as “Sweet Home Chicago.”

In her sun gardens Barb grows raspberries given to her by neighbors Charlie and Juanita Kalchik along with native and adaptable flower plants.  Another bed holds extra plants that Barb pots and uses to fill gaps in her beds as they arise or gives to friends.  Other beds hold a variety of colorful flowers.

 Key things to know about Barb McCann’s garden:

  • Two of the current beds are redeveloping.

  • Each landscaped area changes with the seasons, plant purchases and sometimes just on a whim!

  • Barb does battle with the deer using a rotating series of treatments including Milorganite, Deer Scram, Liquid Fence and Bobbex.

  • Gardening is its own reward for Barb, but it also warms her heart to know that it’s pleasing to others and makes them happy as they drive past or as she welcomes them on a garden tour.


Barb McCann’s sun and shade gardens are located on North West Bay Shore Drive (M-22) just south of Northport. It will be one of eight gardens on the Northport Area Heritage Association’s fundraising tour on July 31. The tour, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is $25. Students and children are free. Tickets are available at the Pennington Collection, Tamarack Gallery, Grand Traverse Lighthouse and the Northport Museum or they can be purchased the day of the tour at the various gardens.

The products she uses to deter deer from her can be purchased at select retailers or ordered online. Several of them are shown below.

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