Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hostas


In the Garden
By Catherine Dougherty
The blessed relief from the heat dome and the ensuing showers have given the garden a reprieve this year. It is not often that the arrival of August is met with cloud cover and it is much appreciated by anyone who is playing outdoors, with the exception of sports enthusiasts. Following the insufferable heat it is advisable to reconsider the value of shade and in doing so, the value of shade loving perennials. The choice is limitless and the joys of gardening in the shade obvious.

First of course are the lovely and extremely popular Hostas, which are possibly the most important perennial in the garden. Originally from the Orient, they arrived in Europe in the 1700’s to abide in royal gardens, coming to the United States in the mid 1800’s. With over 2,500 cultivars on the market today, they may be found in any size or variation one desires and their spectacular foliage is beyond compare. The Hosta has gained in popularity until the more common varieties are now readily available in garden centers. However the rare or newly introduced Hosta must still be ordered at a specialty nurseries. (Note: Cultivars are "cultivated varieties" that have been developed for some desirable or improved feature such as plant form, size, bloom, leaf color, variegation, pest resistance, etc.)

The rule for planting is that those with green or yellow on their leaves may tolerate more sun than those with bluish foliage. However if the leaves begin to have burn on them, they must be moved to deeper shade. For bluish foliage, the Blue Mammoth is a fantastic addition. The Blue Mammoth is unique in that the deeper the shade, the bluer the giant corrugated leaves become. It grows to a breadth of over six feet with a height of a full 36 inches so it must be given plenty of room. The large white bell-shaped flowers appear on strong spikes in summer making this one extravagant and show stopping addition to the garden. In spite of the initial expense of ordering a rare Hosta it should be noted since they divide easily, the gardener is allowed to have many for the initial price of a single plant.

The Hosta is very low maintenance and will provide lovely lasting color for many years. They may be planted with bright annuals such as impatients, begonias, and coleus to create an inviting and attractive shady bed.

Photo is of a shady mixture of Hostas, Caladiums, a Lily, Begonias, and to the far right is Comfrey.