Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spring Hosta Thoughts

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A cold afternoon here on the mountain. Just back from snowshoeing in the woods with Gail and Michelle. It was nice out there but now I notice the temperature and barometer are dropping and the wind is coming up. Guess the storm that was talked about is heading this way.

33 degrees might not be a temperature at which to be thinking about hostas but despite the cold I have been spending lots of time on that subject lately. For those of you who ever visited us when Vermont Flower Farm was located at our house, you'll remember a fine hosta and shade garden that started by the driveway and mailboxes and traveled down along the road and into and around an old barn foundation.

Over the past year and a half I have been developing a new hosta display garden at the nursery and it should begin to show some maturity this season. Visitors commented regularly about missing the opportunity to see mature examples of hostas they were interested in purchasing as well as hostas that we didn't have for sale but were growing on for future sales. It was a good fit for everyone.

I finally decided that our website should include every hosta we grow, and should indicate whether it's just on display or available for sale. Now that I am most of the way through this I am doubting myself and just hope it will not cause confusion. We do have a nice collection and the several hundred we offer for sale is a larger number than most nurseries around here. You'll have to check out the site when it's finished and come visit and then make your own decision. Three resources to help you with hosta decisions are the American Hosta Society, the New England Hosta Society and the Hosta Library. Give them a try.

One of the most commonly found hostas in garden centers, public gardens and gardener's personal gardens is Elegans. This is a large hosta which many are thinking of when they tell me "I want one of those big blue hostas I see in all the magazines." Up top is a picture of Elegans as it breaks through the soil when spring temperatures begin to rise. As the leaves unfurl and temperatures change, the leaves begin to grow and a very nice plant develops.

Sometimes people catch me looking at the underside of hosta leaves in our gardens but that's because I love to see the vein structure that supports big leaves. Elegans has big leaves at the end of June-first part of July here in Vermont, and the blue of the leaves contrasts so very well with just about any other perennials you want to match it with.

Elegans is not a fast grower but I have found that with regular waterings and a combination of manure tea and Epsom salts , plants really do come along nicely. Last summer I planted a couple dozen at the nursery in a place that I can keep track of. I am going to try to force them along so landscapers and gardeners will be able to purchase mature specimens. Here's a picture of one that Austin potted up last summer from a garden at the house as we moved some specimens to the nursery. This is the size that I am in hopes of having in good supply in a couple years. You cannot pick one of these two bushel pots up by yourself but when planted with a little care they will offer a very impressive eye catcher that will come complete with a wide array of garden compliments.

Here's a picture (below) of one along the road at the Peacham Pond garden. It is surrounded by Abiqua Moonbeam and Albo picta on one side and Sunpower, Hyacinthina, Richland Gold and August Moon on the other. A couple maidenhair ferns served as accents although hostas grow faster than ferns and the ferns are less obvious now.

Probably the only downside to an Elegans is the flower scape which is short. The beautiful flowers appear just above the leaves and do not stand out as prominently. The flower size is large enough to bring attention and at bloom time the leaves are still holding sufficient blue color so the contrast is obvious.

This last image is of an Elegans at the bottom of the stone steps along the garden by Peacham Pond Road. It was getting towards sunset when I took the picture but you can see the size and the contrast this hosta affords its surroundings. The dandelions should not be in the picture but the Soloman Seal bells hanging on the left of the frame show a companion plant that hosta growers should consider.

As green thoughts bounce around on the cold days remaining this winter, give Elegans a thought as a possible addition to your gardens. It's relatively inexpensive, offers a great garden dimension and looks kind of neat when raindrops bubble up against new flower scapes. All hostas don't have to have catchy names and big price tags. This is a keeper!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where two more degrees have ticked off the temperature and January 24th has inched closer to night.

Warm Gardening Wishes!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm A website-update-in-progress where some hosta narratives are incomplete but the information and pictures that are there should be an incentive to grow more. Questions? Give us a call at 802-426-3505 or email at lilies@ Sharing information is what good gardeners do!


Jeff Branch said...

Just when I thought my hosta obsession was over, you go and post beautiful photos of them :).

I just hope critters don't get mine over the winter. I think I have already discovered some damage to some potted hostas under my deck - I'm thinking squirrels have been poking around in them.

George Africa said...

Squirrels may have been digging but if you lived up here you would know it to be voles. Have to say that over the years the chipmunks did a great job "planting" lily scales for us and as a result we are now finding some old ones that we thought were long since lost.

Two years ago we found some of the Original Enchantment lilium that we bought from Oregon Bulb Farm. Not so much that it is a beauty because it isn't but it has a heritage that's important. Good luck with the critters!

George, The Vermont gardener

Rondell said...

What a snowshoe? That anything like soft shoe where you do the tip tip tapping with your toes?

Rondell said...

I forget to aks you. Is you from Africa because my people from there ... originally.

George Africa said...

Hi Rondell;

Try this on the snowshoes:

I use Green Mountain Trapper and bear paws.

RE: Name: Said to have origins with Dutch. Several people shared geneologies years ago and spelling differed and ancestors represented all walks of life, all races, and from good to bad people. Traded in spices, diamonds, cloth goods, people,--the continuum, depending on which way the ships went. I'll check out your blog. Thanks for finding me!

joey said...

George, I so enjoy catching up and reading all your creative posts but always a *sigh* when I see hostas, bones in my garden. Good idea to show customers mature plants ... Enjoy your snowshoes and the remains of winter :)