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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Heavenly Hosta

As I've become familiar with different plant societies and plant collections, I've come to realize that my various collections are not considered large by people who specialize in one plant. Yet, for the average gardener, I think my collections would actually be considered quite varied, even bordering on the brink of obsessiveness.

A few days ago I mentioned that my Hemerocallis collection (Daylilies) topped out at 450 different varieties. Today I'd estimate it to be somewhere in the upper 300 range. My Hosta collection is quite smaller with about 140 - 150 Hosta varieties. Gee, that sounds like hardly anything.

Shade gardening was something I had little interest in until 5 or 6 years ago. Shady spots were spots I couldn't grow my beloved perennials and I bemoaned those areas. Little did I know how much I would come to love to work in those delicious gardens. Nor did I realize just how many beautiful plants would thrive in those cool, shady areas.

Collecting Hosta was easy at first, only four yards away from me was a perennial plant farm that specialized in Daylilies and Hosta. Their Daylilies were older varieties and I didn't shop for any of those but the Hosta, well, when you have no Hosta, any Hosta is desirable.

(I'll take a guess and say that this is Hosta 'Pineapple upside down cake' in the foreground. In the back drop on the right is Hosta 'Thunderbolt' which in time will become a true show stopper.)

As populated as Long Island is, it still amazes me that there isn't a Hosta club that meets here locally. Hosta lovers in our area travel to New Jersey and belong to the Tri-State Hosta club. It's a large, very active club and local folks love belonging to that group. The only problem for me and most likely for other "younger" gardeners is that you need to set aside a full day for a Hosta meeting. When one has to travel the length of Long Island, through New York City and into New Jersey, it requires a number of bridges/tunnels and tolls. It's just something that's difficult to fit in to a family's busy lifestyle.

(Hosta 'On Stage' is stunning but it has somewhat fragile foliage that suffers damage easily)

I guess I should be thankful that I don't participate in a Hosta club. It allows me to be much more relaxed in growing Hosta. Believe it or not, I've forgotten the names of many of my cultivars! Others have name tags but they've been chewed beyond recognition by my wonder-doodle Calie. Does that lessen my enjoyment in this beautiful plant? Not one iota.

When it comes to growing Hosta, I find them very easy plants, forgiving of many conditions other than full baking sun. Since I don't have full baking sun anywhere here, that's not a problem for me.

While many people think of Hosta as shade plants, I consider them "shade tolerant" plants. In my book, that also means they are "sun tolerant" plants and I find that the Hosta that get 5 hours of full sun increase much faster than the Hosta that are shaded all day. Water is a key ingredient, while they will survive through drought conditions, Hosta thrive with lots and lots of water. Ideally, if you have a wet boggy area, plant some Hosta.

(Hosta 'Queen Josaphine' has leaves that look as if they've been polished with wax)

Less than one year after I planted a new shade border along my back fence, the neighbors behind us removed 30 trees from that property lines. Plants that I thought were going to be growing in full shade were suddenly subjected to mid day sunshine. Instead of looking awful, they thrived! The plants there have grown so large that I need to get in there this spring and do some serious dividing. The only downfall in my opinion was that the tree workers ruined our old wooden fence. The neighbors assured me that they planned on replacing the fence with a much improved model. Unfortunately their idea of "improved" was a 6' high white vinyl fence which is such an awful eyesore now with green mold growing along its surface.

Hosta come in an amazing variety of sizes, leaf shapes and colors. Yes, there's also a difference in blooms but I rarely consider a Hosta because of it's blooms, it's the stunning foliage that gets me every time.

One recommendation I would make to anybody who wanted to add many Hosta to their garden would be don't always buy the variegated varieties. In the above photo you can see the heavily variegated variety 'On Stage'. It would not show up as well if I had another variegated Hosta next to it. Instead, the simple, blue foliage of this lost named Hosta is the perfect foil.

The general rule of thumb is to plant the lighter colored Hosta with more sun while the darker and especially the blue Hosta prefer more shade. I definitely agree that the chartreuse Hosta need more light to keep their bright colors but they don't always hold up well to that light.

The above photo shows Hosta 'Whiskey Sour' (I'm pretty sure on that), a fern, a second blue Hosta and my amazing Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' tree. While H. 'Whiskey Sour' has a light colored foliage, it's very soft, flimsy would be another good word and it shows damage (sun scald and slug bites) easily.

Some Hosta will get enormous while dwarf varieties might never get larger than the palm of your hand. This photo shows Hosta 'Thunderbolt' which I think is going to some day be a giant. Right now it's been suffering from our 70 lb. doodle who runs along this pathway to chase the many squirrels that frequent this corner of our garden. I expect in another two or three years it will have doubled or tripled in size, just in time for when Calie finally stops those darn puppy rips (she's two years old now).

Tomorrow I'll post some photos of Hosta that I have growing out in my front sun perennial borders. Many varieties are doing quite well there and if you are living as far north as we are here in New York, you too should be able to incorporate Hosta in sunny borders.

See ya! The sun is shining and although it's cold, I'm going outside!


GardenJoy4Me said...

Melanie !
1ST.. Happy Birthday to Don (the poster kid for being BUSY!) haha
2nd .. Your wonder doodle is too cute ! .. funny how most gardeners LOVE their pets to bits ? I haven't met a gardener who doesn't love animals .. there has to be a connection there ?
3rd ..You just had to tell me of your gardening today ?? JEEZ !
4th .. I love those hosta pictures. They are so gorgeous ! I have so little room but I ended up pushing the envelope with having some in sun & dry conditions and to my amazement they too were beautiful (until the hail storm in June .. BIG sigh) .. I never consider the blooms .. just the foliage really.
Thanks for the tip on what the colours may indicate for me .. lighter more sun, darker more shade. I hadn't heard of that before.
I can't imagine having that many cultivars of a particular plant ! I would be in heaven and yet close to loosing my mind for trying to remember which names went with which plants ? LOL
You have such gorgeous companion plantings .. everything looks wonderful !
Dave would love to live there .. I better not let him see this post, he would pack up the boys in the 'hood and start hitching a ride .. haha
"Joy of the frozen NORTH"
PS .. bitter winds and SNOWWWWWWW !!!
PPSS My hubby loves golf too .. he is headed to South Carolina with some friends in March !

kate said...

I loved your comment about, 'bordering on the brink of obsessiveness'. The thing about collecting is that some collectors have such huge collections that a mere 150 plants begins to seem quite small.

I can understand your love of Hostas. I wish I had more space because I enjoy growing them. They grow incredibly well here - the soil is much to their liking - and the best thing is that we have very few slugs.

I hope you continue to post photographs of your collections ...

It's mind boggling that someone would replace a wooden fence with a vinyl one. They probably thought they were being thoughtful as well as practical. Yikes!

Mad Man Bamboo said...

Hey I know what its like to be a "plant collector", 50 plus varieties of bamboo and growing. I love shade gardening and hostas. I only have 5 varieties, but once I finish my back yard, I'll be adding more. Great post, great blog and great photos!


Anna--Flowergardengirl said...

Girl--when you decide to get back in the swing of things---you go full speed!! I'm loving it cause I like hosta, my husband, and your pool area. I am learning from you. Keep it all coming since you are so gung ho right now. You got all that knowledge locked up too long. Anyway--it was fun to be at your blog today. Love those hostas!

Melanie Vassallo said...

Joy, you won't believe this but I saw my first crocus bloom today!

Kate, I just don't understand why people still buy into the white vinyl fence thing. I love white picket fence but around here people put these huge expanses of white 6' high stockade and it's just awful.

Sean, only 50 bamboo ;-) I'd like to see that collection, guess I'll have to stay tuned to your blog to see more.

Anna, yup, I've got so many ideas I feel like I'm about to explode with them. Hopefully the urge sticks around.

Glädjekällan said...

Lovely hostas you are showing us. I am also very fond of them but I don't have space to have so many as you.