Lea Brit has a 25-year career in advertising and marketing with clients like Coke, IBM and Hilton Head Island Dev. Brit directs The Color Learning Center, writes and speaks on color, design, plants and nature. Reach Brit with questions or comments at leabrit@mail2color.com.

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Hostas
by Lea Brit    

Why would I want a large, green, basically flowerless plant? I have plenty of lawn, trees, bushes and shrubs,” my friend sputtered when I suggested hostas as her landscaping solution.

Like most new gardeners, she had dreams of profuse, lovely scented blooms everywhere. Later, realizing that gardens of Eden with bounteous blooms, need full-time gardeners, she wanted easier plantings.

Got a time, garden or landscape problem? Try hostas. Adaptable and tolerant hostas are virtually carefree, surviving long after lack of care or adverse weather has killed off other plants. Once established, they are very self-sufficient, thriving for years with minimal care.

 

Historic Hosta

Their botanical name is Hosta in the family Liliaceae and they are commonly called hosta, funkia or “plantain lilies” from Latin planta for “sole of the foot,” which the leaves resembled.


Medium-sized ‘Torchlight’ makes a big statement in your garden or a special pot on a patio table. Burgundy and lavender blooms intensify round, shiny-green leaves edged in white.


‘Golden Gate’ has very large and thick pointed, shiny golden foliage, beautifully paired with medium lavender flowers in early spring. Richard Jolly, a professional landscaper who owns Pine Forest Gardens and Landscaping in Tyrone, Georgia, chose it as his favorite large gold hosta for its ease of cultivation and its dramatic, long-lasting statement.

Today’s garden hostas were originally hybridized in China and Japan. In the early 1700s, they were discovered, described and stolen by Europeans, who typically ignored their origin and fought to “name” them. Thus, there are numerous inane names “honoring” men who had nothing to do with the plants, including “hosta” for Thomas Host, a grass expert.

Hostas grow in dense, leafy clumps with blossoms on stalks extending up to 3 feet from the foliage. Blooms are violet tints, lavender to purple tones and white, in funnels or trumpets, opening successively up a stem. Short-lived flowers appear in late spring to midfall and some are fragrant.

 

Easy Growing

Many gardeners get their first hosta as an orphan — a plant nobody wanted, an unappreciated gift or bedraggled markdown. After gardening a few years or moving to a yard with hostas, they begin to appreciate these often overlooked, easy-growing plants.

Hostas have become popular in the last century as growers searched for substantial, versatile plants. Even neophyte gardeners do well with hostas, enjoying their adaptability and having fun choosing among the many different types, huge variety and assorted hues.

Primarily grown for beautiful foliage, hostas can be focal points in your garden. Use a large, dramatic, unusual hosta singly for a strong accent. There are around 5,000 named cultivars and a wide array of leaf colors, shapes and textures.

Spread hostas apart to display separate species or plant them clumped together with tall plants for a merry melange. Use nice stone planters for shady patio or porch plantings. With thousands to choose from, sizes range from the new tiny miniatures, with thumbnail-dimensioned leaves to huge types, with serving-platter proportioned leaves, over 2 feet long.

 

Superb Shade Selection

The ultimate shade-tolerant plant, hostas are a hardy garden favorite for adding texture and diversity to shady areas. There are fewer blooms in shade, while colors are less washed out and more intense. Thus, foliage is important. Restful for eyes, the many tints, tones and hues of green intermingle, providing visual continuity.

Hostas’ foliage variations range from subtle to dramatic. Their green extends from deep, intense blue green to pale green tinged yellows and whites. Rare, except in new leaves and buds, beautiful spring or yellow green is common in hostas. Colors can be solid, splotched, spotted, striped, edged or bordered and leaves may be shiny-smooth to wrinkled, puckered, blunt or pointed and sword-shaped.

Some hostas are sun tolerant, but partial shade generally produces the showiest foliage. Listed for hardiness Zones 3 to 8, they tolerate more full sun in Northern zones without blistering, while full Southern summer sun blanches or burns them. During extreme hot weather, they may need watering to prevent scorching.

Hostas grow splendidly in almost complete shade and form masses of diverse, extraordinary foliage. Richard Jolly of Pine Forest Gardens and Landscaping in Tyrone, Georgia says, “Blue-hued varieties in particular need shade. Sun and heat can actually melt the wax coating that makes their leaves appear blue.”
 

A collection of mini hostas in a stoneware bowl makes a superb moveable patio, porch or garden accent. Easy care and flexible, add flowers or move it to add color to a bare spot.

A patrician presence at 3 feet in height, ‘Krossa Regal’ is an upright-growing large hosta with shiny steel blue foliage. It is a dramatic singular planting or background border to colorful flowers.

A glittering, extraordinary treasure that lights up any shady corner, ‘Stained Glass’ is the 2006 Hosta of the Year. Up to 4 feet wide, its bright, gold-centered foliage lasts late into the year-end.

Landscaping Backbone

Make hostas the backbone of your garden. Often used in landscaping public areas and parks, hostas are tough, durable, easy-care plants that grow nearly everywhere. Disease resistant, hardy and versatile, they are great in landscapes and don’t need fussing over.

“Plant hostas in irregular drifts to add variety, break up the landscape or connect disparate areas, buildings or other features,” continued Richard. “They are outstanding planted in groupings with flowers or bushes. They make excellent borders and you can use them in woodland settings, interspersed with native plants. “And,” he emphasized, “they are great for rock gardens.”

Hostas are connectors. They make a connection between lawn and larger-growing shrubbery and trees. Instead of a naked-looking tree base or skinny bush stems, hostas make a gentle connection, create a tie-in and giving a flow to the landscape. They are good foundation plantings, although they die back in winter.


Background Beauty

Once a boring “fill-in” plant, today’s hybridized hostas are an ever-expanding variety of choices. Hostas are exceptional ground covers and background plants. They can be strong anchor plants in gardens and are beautiful nestled in woodland settings.

They like mixed company and are superb planted among flowers, shrubs and trees. Plant hostas interspersed among spring bulbs. As the daffodils, tulips and hyacinths die back, the hostas grow up and camouflage withering vegetation. Sheltering and shading delicate woodland plants, hostas’ dense, heavy foliage helps reduce weed growth, while retaining soil moisture.


Get the Hosta Habit

Visit public gardens and plant nurseries to see various varieties of hostas and consult experts on recommendations suited to your yard and garden design. Select healthy, high-quality plants, and plant them anytime the ground isn’t frozen. Divide overgrown plants in the early spring or late summer.

Through crossbreeding, available varieties increase yearly. From sleek, ultra-modern to bounteous, overgrown cottage gardens, there are hostas to fit your yard and your personality. Choose a few hostas and start your collection. Too many hostas are never a problem. It’s hard to make a mistake with hostas. Just plant them, leave ’em alone and let ’em grow.

 

Which hosta is right for your garden?
Here are Richard Jolly's recommendations:


Mini:

Use hostas as potted plants, like this bright mini ‘Shiny Penny’. It is fascinating as new foliage is bright golden, becoming light green as leaves age.

‘Illicit Affair’: With a parent called ‘Cheating Heart’, it’s got to be unusual. A vigorous 6-inch tall mini, leaves start bright gold. Centers gradually turn lime green, then dark green with a gold second flush.

‘Pandora’s Box’: At 3 inches high and 9 inches wide, it is the smallest variegated. Great for rock gardens and containers, this striking, super miniature has blue-green leaves with pure white centers.

‘Shiny Penny’: Bright, golden new foliage changes to light green as leave age, creating contrast. Clumps 6 inches high by 18 inches wide are topped with 18 inch scapes of lavender blooms in mid-July.

 

Medium:

Night Before Christmas’: A must-have with deep, green wedge-shaped leaves, center striped in bright white. Midsummer lavender flowers top a 18-inch high, 24-inch wide clump.

‘Revolution’: Substantial 18-inch tall plant has dark green foliage with cream centers speckled in soft green. Revolutionary coloration on a loyalist with character.

‘Torchlight’: Burgundy petioles adorned with lavender blooms top a 14 by 24 inches wide clump of dark green, round leaves edged in white. Wonderful!

 

Maxi:

‘Stained Glass’: Ideal for shade gardens, bright gold foliage shines in shade. Long lasting and fragrant, it is the 2006 American Hosta Growers’ Hosta of the Year.

‘Krossa Regal’: Upright, growing 36 inches tall, its shiny, steel blue foliage is a dramatic statement or a great background for borders and flowers. Lavender blooms top 3 foot wide clumps.

‘Golden Gate’: A favorite, large gold and topped with violet-hued flowers in early spring. It has very large, thick, pointed shiny-gold leaves.

 

 

(From State-by-State Gardening May 2006.)

 

 

Posted: 03/21/12   RSS | Print

 

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