Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hosta Vision

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A dark, blustery morning here on the mountain. A sliver of moon struggles through the snow squalls to let us know it's up there. The ground is white from last night's snow and Karl the Wonder Dog makes it clear that this is not a morning to be sniffing around. I concur even though all I do is hold the leash.

The confines of the house with a cup of coffee and a screen full of summer pictures provides reminder to what kind of summer it was. I have been reviewing pictures of our hosta gardens here at the house in preparation for mapping out the new shade garden I pictured Tuesday as I wrote "Floating Snow Flakes". It's difficult for some folks to construct something this big in their mind or even on paper but for me it's a matter of how I want people to flow through the garden .........and from there everything falls into place.

When I planted the foundation garden here on Peacham Pond Road, I was learning about hostas. I had patience, and frankly in 2001, there were few big hosta gardens in Vermont and almost no place that was publicized to go see 200-300-400 different hostas at one location. The interest has grown rapidly since but back then it required quite a bit of salesmanship to convince people there were more than the 6-8 hostas they had grown accustomed to seeing at nurseries and garden centers.

As I started planting, I had yet to develop a sense of the mature size of the hostas I was planting. This small-medium-large thing was confusing at best and I had not learned that some hostas are slower than death to grow while others delight the gardener with good growth. The old barn foundation I was planting literally had tons of rocks to plant around but lacking the vision of true size, I over-planted most areas so that after a couple years the rocks were completely covered over by June.

Granite is in abundance in this part of Vermont and within a garden it becomes soft as its uneven edges break the complexity of masses of hosta leaves. Stone requires some mechanical assistance to move in quantity but once in place, it changes the landscape so quickly that you're immediately gratified regardless of the price.

Here's a comparative example. Last September we laid out the stones for what is to become our daylily display garden. We will follow this same lesson plan on the hosta/shade garden. Our friend Brien Ducharme took the cherry picker on his logging truck and placed stones to form the skeleton of a fine garden. All last winter people drove by asking themselves who would bring in stones in a part of Vermont already covered with more than its share. The land looked just as you see it in this picture of a year ago because the building hadn't been started. We knew it would become a great garden but some doubted our sanity--actually at that point, few knew whose sanity they were questioning because they didn't know we were moving.

We prepared the land with an herbicide, rototilled several times and then began planting. Slowly we incorporated trees and shurbs and a couple hundred daylilies. Today the garden is only half planted, maybe a little less, but it represents the same plan we'll follow on the new shade garden.

The ground is frozen hard now and nothing but planning can take place over the winter. That's fine as we need time for mental work and some relaxation from the heavy stuff. If you have a new garden in mind, follow suit and you'll be pleased with the eventual outcome. Keep an eye on our gardens and share your questions and comments. Good gardeners grow with each others ideas and cares!

Writing fromthe mountain above Peacham Pond where the morning temperature is down to nine degrees and the young blue jays are noticeably less fluffed up with protective feathers than their parents, aunts and uncles.

Good Gardening Wishes,

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm


Signe said...

Beautiful hosta-photos. This is one of my favorits.

joey said...

Dear George ... so loved your post since hostas are the heart of my shade garden, overplanting over my treasured wildflower garden. The day we purchased our 1st hosta ('bout 30 years ago) at the Royal Oak Farmer's Market, we met Pauline Banyai, who not only held our hand as friend and mentor in choices but invited us to her home to meet 'Gold Standard', her baby. ( Pauline died knowing she shared not only precious time but invaluable lessons about love of earth for those of us, blessed to have known her. Must go back and read more about coffee grounds since my mother taught me ... after enjoying a good cup, give back to the earth! And I do, each day loving coffee, throw grounds back to the earth (but never in my hosta beds). Thank you, dear George ... so much to learn through invaluable gifted souls like you and Pauline. Happy Thanksgiving!

Susan Tomlinson said...

It is easy to see how beautiful that garden will be. Beautiful photos of the hostas.

They don't grow well here, which is a shame, because they are so lovely. Ah well.