With Fall just around the corner, the sun is riding lower in the sky casting longer shadows on the garden. One plant that welcomes the extra coolness and shade is the hosta.
Hostas are the unsung heroes of the shady garden. There are 70 species of hostas and over 3,000 registered varieties, so you have lots to choose from. Though they do bloom, they are grown primarily for their beautiful foliage which adds interesting texture and color to the garden all season long.
TYPES OF HostaS
Many varieties have wonderfully fragrant blossoms, especially Hosta plantaginea known as the August lily. I have one called 'Aphrodite' that is known for its extremely fragrant white flowers. Long after the other hostas' blossoms have faded its double flowers perfume the evening air. Even though August is over, my August lily is only in bud. Hopefully it will blossom soon!
What do garden nuts do on their vacations? Visit other gardens of course!
Every year I make a pilgrimage to the NH seacoast to check out the plants at Prescott Park. They have a display garden that includes many All-America Selections plants and other favorites that are well-marked, giving me a chance to see how they're holding up in this dry summer. It also has beautiful formal gardens and a special collection of hostas that were donated by Anna Kay of Birchwood Farms.
Even though it has been brutally hot and dry this season, most of the hostas look great. I am always intrigued by the variations of color and leaf shapes. The names also add to the fun. What would you call a hosta with thin leaves and serrated edges? How about 'Hacksaw'? Another one with narrow leaves and ruffled edges called 'Curly Fries' was named the 2016 Hosta of the Year.
'Midnight at the Oasis' has a cool refreshing look.
'Rich Uncle' is gold with thick, large leaves that look like they have been quilted. 'Paradigm' is similarly textured but is gold with wide green edges.
'Clear Fork River Valley' is also heavily quilted or corrugated-looking.
Other large-leaved varieties are called 'Titanic' and 'Blue Mammoth'. On the opposite end of the size spectrum are the tiny ones such as 10 inch tall, almost white 'Vanilla Cream' and 3 inch tall miniature hosta 'Pandora's Box'.
My favorite has to be 'Eternal Flame' with its pointy, heart-shaped leaves. It has a feeling of movement.
Hostas require little care and are very long lasting. An inch or two of compost spread in the spring before the shoots emerge will keep your plants well-fed. They are able to shade out most weeds, keeping maintenance to a minimum. Unfortunately the moist rich soil and cool shade that combine to bring out the best in a hosta also make the ideal environment for slugs. Hostas with heavily textured leaves tend to be more slug-resistant that smooth-leaved varieties.
Made in the Shade
To avoid the "hosta ghetto" look in your shady garden plant them in combination with other shade-loving plants such as coleus, New Guinea impatiens, torenia, begonias, fuchsia, and sweet potato vine.
Hostas also are great to plant in combination with spring flowering bulbs because they will cover the tired-looking bulb foliage with their late emerging leaves. Since hostas die back to the ground in the winter they make excellent foundation plants for a shady deck or porch where ice and snow would damage shrubs.