Hosta shoots

Hosta shoots -courtesy Marcus Bawdon http://www.countrywoodsmoke.com

‘Everyone has Hostas’… OK so you may think them unfashionable, but I love them… the whole growth process –  new shoots spearing up above the soil surface (right now in Old School Garden), the unfurling leaves, the full blousy foliage and the delicate flowers of pinks, lavenders and whites.

Otherwise known as the ‘Plantain lily’, Hostas come originally from eastern Russia, China, Japan and Korea. They are very hardy. Most of the 40 – 70 or so species (there is disagreement over the exact number) and over 7000 cultivars are grown for their foliage, though for many the flowers are also noteable. True perennials, their foliage dies back and they descend underground over winter, to send up new growth spears in spring and achieve their full glory in summer with some varieties flowering into early autumn. Some species also give a second, albeit brief, display in autumn.

 

The leaves vary between round, ovate, lance or heart – shaped and are between 12cm and 50cm in length. They come in all shades of green, some solid in colour others with margins or centres variegated in shades from white to golden yellow. Flowers range from bell to trumpet shaped, and are held in one-sided racemes or ‘scapes’.

 

Hostas will grow in full sun to full shade – they flower better if in the sun and the yellow-leaved varieties also do better in full sun. Overall, however, they tend to do best in dappled shade and where they are away from the hot noon-day sun (the blue – green leaved varieties have more intense colouring in the shade). They need moisture at their roots and this is even more the case in full sun – so they need watering in dry spells and generally do best in moist ground which is rich in organic matter and neutral to slightly alkaline . Foliage will start to wilt if they are too dry. They can be easily propagated by division at almost any time of year – a sharp spade or knife thrust down to split the roots is all that’s required.

Slug and snail damage

Slug and snail damage

Pest problems focus on slugs and snails which can nibble the emerging shoots – such damage can scar the leaves for the rest of the season, so preventative and quick action to remove slugs and nails is crucial, especially in early spring. Sometimes, especially in water – logged ground, the plants can be susceptible to ‘crown rot’ and if this is the case they should be moved to a more suitable site. Hostas have low levels of allergens. Some Hostas are edible, their young shoots being forced and harvested in the far east, eaten sauted or rolled in proscuitto!

 

Hostas look good in groups around ponds and damp areas, and are particularly useful in areas of medium to light shade.   Their foliage makes for a bold texture so they are good as focal points, contrasting well with grassy – like leaves and stems. They are also good in containers where the leaves and flowers can be seen close up. I grow most of mine this way, in black planters in our Courtyard Garden – the black provides wonderful contrast to the rich greens and yellows of the foliage. But it’s important to keep them well watered once growth starts. Other ideas for using Hostas include:

  • ‘Plant different varieties in large masses or drifts for reliable color and texture in the garden.

  • Brighten shady garden areas with gold or variegated hostas.

  • Use hostas to bridge gaps in seasonal perennial bloom.

  • Variegated hostas with white or cream margins paired with other white flowering plants glow in “moonlight gardens” when homeowners arrive in the evening from work.

  • Hosta leaves emerge just as spring bulb foliage starts to fade, hiding it from view.

  • A single hosta in a container is dramatic and sculptural. Hostas look great in containers paired with other foliage plants or annuals. Remember to provide adequate water.

  • Plant fragrant hostas close to paths and walkways for best appreciation.

  • Use small hostas for edging along walkways and flower borders.

  • Hosta leaves and flowers are attractive in floral arrangements.’

Source: University of Minnesota Extension

Images from:  Newtonairds Lodge Hostas and Garden (the national collection), Wikipedia and other sites as shown on picture titles.

Further information:

RHS- Growing Hostas

British Hosta and Hemerocallis Society

Slug resistant Hostas

How to lift and divide Hostas (video)

Hosta varieties and where to buy etc.

The National Hosta collection

Winsford Walled Garden, Devon- success with Hostas

Hosta shoots wrapped in prosciutto

Hostas and their flowers

 

Old School Gardener

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