Here come the Hostas

As a child I was too impatient to wait and see what the fuchsia bud would reveal and so I would prematurely pop them! With some of that same eagerness in Spring, I’ll scrape the gravel topping in the hosta pots, to seek out the first signs of them putting their snouts above the soil.

purple sheathed hosta ‘snouts’ in mid-April

Once they first appear, hostas soon rush to unsheath their spiral-bound leaves and they do so with a great deal of elegance, which is why I like to keep my few potted hostas within eyesight so I can appreciate the changes.

In late winter/early spring the keeled slug migrates towards the surface of the soil where it can do untold damage to emerging shoots and leaves. ~ British Hosta Society

Another reason to keep hostas potted is that the opportunistic gastropods will find it harder to reach them, especially as mine are situated on gravel. Even early in the year there is one type ready and waiting for hostas to emerge:

I first happened upon Hostas when tending a mostly shade garden and they were an ideal and obvious planting choice. Those with gold pigmentation however tolerate more sun and more sun means more flowers. The glaucous leaved though are bluer in the shade so it all depends on what we want from our hostas. What they want most from us is plentiful, regular, summer feeds and watering. Too often they are relegated to dry shade corners, their tongued leaves full of holes and simply gasping.

Foliage is mostly why we treasure these Plantain Lily plants, although there’s the added bonus of slender spikes of blooms, bell, funnel or star-shaped, in pretty pastels from white through to lilac. And with such accessible stamens, they attract pollen crunching pollinators too.

hoverfly on hosta flower – summer 2020

Before leaving London I cashed up hostas ‘Halcyon’ and H. Fortunei Hyacinthina at a summer fair and replaced them in my new home with the variegated ‘Patriot‘, ‘Dream Queen‘ a tetraploid (double the normal chromosomes) with thicker, tougher, more slug resistant leaves plus a nameless all green one from a local plant sale. 1 And a gardener who was dividing some big blue varieties gave me one that he thought was ‘Big Daddy’.2

There are about 25 species of hostas. Most originate from Japan and are called Giboshi.

Different species grow in different environments – some grow near water around rivers and swamps, some in flat fields, while others find a little dirt in cracks and cling on mountain sides”. Hosta Collecting in Japan

With so much hybridizing since, there are now hundreds of garden varieties with all sorts of fanciful names. My ambition is to try and obtain one or two originals and savour them for my upcoming Japanese style garden. But whatever their species origins, hostas with their restrained colour palette are perfect plants for this theme.

1. Further research on the nameless one confirmed it is Hosta ventricosa – the Blue Plantain lily
2. Not blue enough for’Big Daddy’ but likely another giant hosta ‘Empress Wu’

Further Reading:
Hosta species update ~ W. George Schmid