Monday, May 30, 2011

Hosta thoughts May 30, 2011

It is the end of May 2011 and as I look out at the garden from any upstairs window I see hosta. They really are the year round backbone of the garden.

I would like to do several things in this post.
1- I want to identify my own personal top ten hosta. I would like to do this so I can look back in 3-4 years and see how that has changed.
2- I want to give you a list of hosta that are newer and might move into that list in the next few years.
3- Finally I want to just tell you my hosta tips- or at least the ones that come to mind.


Top ten hosta and why.

Liberty- If you only have to have one hosta this is it. It gets big, but not enormous. It grows rather quickly and has great color contrast. It is still rather new, having only been around for maybe 5 years.

June- This one is real close to the top. It is a wonderful powdery blue, splashed with yellow, which will be more or less gold depending on how much sun it gets. (The more sun the more gold.)

Sagae- This one is a big hosta but stands up well. As with most of these favorites it needs space. It likes to be the center of attention. It can be all by itself.


Montana Aureomarginata- I sometime think of this hosta as the showgirl of the garden. It has striking color contrast. It is upright, meaning it doesn’t hug the ground like June. It is like a fountain shooting up.

Sum and Substance- This is the original giant hosta. I have a specimen in the front yard that must be ten years old. It is probably the biggest hosta in the yard. It is on the yellow side, has only the one color, and has big leaves. As a plant it has been around for a while and is a parent of a number of other hostas.

Pandora’s Box- this is the only mini hosta in my top ten. The individual leaves are maybe an inch long. It is no more than 3 inches high. (This is in contrast with the Sum and Substance leaf that might be 20 inches long.) While it is tiny it looks like some nicely striped regular size hosta. In the second picture Pandora's box is next to several other small or mini hostas.




El Nino- This is a smaller blue one with a distinctive white edge. Give it some dark mulch and wow. I really like the blue ones with edges. This is the best one I have found. While the top two listed above are at the top of the list the remaining 8 are in no particular order. I like El Nino more and more.

Guardian Angel- This is one of your streakers. It comes from Blue Angel, which is a big blue hosta. That means it gets big. It can take overhead sun. I have a mature clump that is gets a bed of its own.




Great Expentations- This hosta was on the cover of the main book about hosta 20 years ago. I had a really nice clump that I divided 7-8 years ago. It is regrowing but is still not the size it was. That is another way of saying it is slow. It is worth the wait.

Lady Isabel Barnett- This hosta came from Sum and Substance so has the size and shape of that plant. It is green with a yellow. It is another specimen plant. I mean it can handle a bed of its own. You want space around it so you can see the entire plant.


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honorable mention for old favorites
Abba Dabba Do
Love Pat
Krossa Regal
Spilt Milk
Whirlwind
Gold Standard
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Hostas to watch that are relatively new
Empress Wu
Sleeping Beauty
Mount Tom
Queen of the Seas
Winter Snow
Gunther’s prize
Mighty Mouse

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Hosta observations:

Except for dwarf or mini hostas, hostas need space. They display so much better if there is room between them. There is nothing nicer this time of year than a well tended hosta bed where there is space between the plants. Put down some mulch around the plants and stand back. Let the color contrasts between the yellows, greens, and blues provide the interest.

Hostas transplant easily. In order to get or keep that space between the hosta, you do have to move them. The best time clearly is early spring when they first come up. That is the ideal time to divide them. At the same time if you want to move an entire clump you can do that on a cool day at almost any time.
I did read a good tip this spring, which was actually for transplanting lilies. The tip was to prepare the in hole before you dug up the plant to move. While this is rather obvious you don’t always do it. Of course you should not only dig the in hole but you should mix in the compost or fertilizer first.

Hostas grow at different speeds. Some accommodating hosta will be slow. Sometimes this is a positive. Most grow so quickly I find myself wanting some shrinking product. I wonder if there is sort of an anti fertilizer. Someone suggested just mixing in some clay.

There are a number of hosta that should be displayed almost individually. Guardian Angel is one. You want a real circle around it with not much else.

There are times when I am overwhelmed with the garden. How can I possibly keep up, unless I retire and just garden?
At those times I think about simplifying the garden. Having these large hosta, that take up a lot of space, is one thing to do. Let them grow in the spring, give them some mulch, and that’s it. There is not much else to do before September.

Some hosta, like other plants, take a few years to really get going. I know we all understand that for something like daylilies. Well, hosta can take the same 3 years, particularly the larger ones. In deciding what hosta to plant check them out in an established hosta garden. The Dubuque Arboretim has one of the largest collections in the country.
It is a place to see lots of really mature plants. Make your decision as to what to plant based on what the plant will look like in 5 years.
Please understand I am not suggesting you plant your hosta 10 feet apart. That’s where the moving them comes in. Plant them with the understanding that some will need to be moved in several years.

There are lots of companion plants to hosta. I would start with early spring blubs. They will be finished by the time the hosta get big. Bluebells work quite well, and as you have seen from this blog, the work well with the big hosta.
Daffodils are fine, but you do need to leave the spent folliage longer than you might wish. I realize that some of those wonderful looking hosta gardens at the moment look good because they had zero spring bulbs. That is your trade off. And as we all know it is all about trade offs. You make your choices and there are consequences.

So enjoy this wonderful plant. I really do think it is at its best right now. The colors really are wonderful.

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