Saturday, February 06, 2010

Building A Hosta Garden

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The sun is shinning brightly here on the mountain as I wait for the mail lady and watch the birds have a late buffet. This morning started early--too early--as we awoke at 3 AM for why we don't know. Everyone but me fell back asleep in time but for me, "toss and turn" prevailed until I gave up and got on with Saturday chores. Gail and Alex headed for Jericho by 7:30 and at 8 I was making a recycling run with friend Mike. Even the trash and recycling collector was an hour late getting set up for the day.

Mike and I stopped at the post office, then the store for a paper and coffee, made a trip up to Marshfield Falls (longest waterfall in Vermont) to see how deep the ice is getting, got rid of the recyling and stopped at the nursery to check out the place and take some measurements. I want to purchase supplies this week to finish off the inside of the office. The roof in already insulated but the sidewalls need to be insulated and then strapped for the 8" pine ship lap I intend to use.
Don't know if I will get to the wooden floor I want to put down but at least another part of the building will be completed before spring weather jump starts me into seasonal frenzy.

One of the first big projects of the season after the potting and transplanting are done will be to finish the new shade and hosta display garden. We have had nice hosta gardens in the past and I have written about them many times. If you have missed my comments, try this link from our Vermont Flower Farm website. It's named Building Hosta Gardens. It mentions some thoughts about building shade and perimeter gardens and there are some pictures of me moving large stones about. Over the next couple blogs I will summarize the evolution of our hosta and shade gardens from the first one at our house to the new one at 2263 US Route 2. Here's a look back.

The barn foundation that we turned into a shade garden was vacant as a result of an early 1900's fire. Gail learned the details last spring when she was supposed to be registering a subdivision request at the Town Clerk's office. She became enthralled with her own title search and has vowed to complete her historical review of our land before spring arrives again. Here are some pictures of that garden at the end of the first year.

West wall straight back, south wall on left. White markers that are prominent are manufactured by Parker Davis Co. Although some say they look like cemetery markers they are so big, they actually stand out very well within a mature hosta garden. The labels are 4 mm corrugated polypropylene and I use Avery clear plastic labels completed on a laser printer. For garden tours
where the speaker is apart from the audience or for times when self guided tours are offered, these large signs bring compliments from those unfamiliar with the number of hostas we have on display.

The stones forming the front and side walls are described in the article offered above. The bags of potting mix in the fore section are Fafard Brand #52 Mix. It's a heavy, coarse bark mix I really like for potting and planting hostas and daylilies. It allows for good root growth because air circulates well between the big particles.

The size of this barn for the late 1800s in rural Vermont was quite special. The southeast corner at the bottom of the photo reaches diagonally back past the yellow wheelbarrow. As I finished this garden three years ago, there were close to 500 hosta varieties within the walls. The corner by the two small trees in the front of the picture is an astilbe display of 40 species and thousands upon thousands of self hybridized seedlings. Some time soon I need to sort through those hybrids and see if there is anything of merit growing that I don't know about.

The picture just below here is a shot from the driveway up above. I constructed an overlook area so you can walk to the edge and obtain this view. The road extends to Peacham Pond a half mile below our home. The white markers are absent now and by mid June the entire garden will be a blend of greens, blues and yellows.

Here are a couple shots of a side garden I started in 2001 and 2. I learned that spacing 4 feet apart doesn't cut it for large and extra large hostas. As I finished this garden piece, I planted a large hosta named Maple Leaf in front of the big stone where the gray and green hoses come together. Now the Maple Leaf is big and beautiful and the stone is not visible except in late fall and parts of winter and early spring.

In the background are 7 pieces of granite as much as 11 feet tall before being planted. Many visitors call them The Sever Sisters. A visit this spring would find the area around the stones to look like a woodchuck home as there are vacant holes everywhere because we have begun to move specimen plants to our new nursery. Just the same, the stones are surrounded by a number of mature epimediums and the backdrop of Lilium superbum and Lilium henryi remains. Mid to late August is the time to see this.

Here are The Seven Sisters again before the area was planted. The backdrop on the left includes Hosta 'Tall Boy', Hosta 'Lakeside Cha Cha', and Hosta 'Fragrant Bouquet'. There are perhaps 50 other varieties planted within this garden. Dowsers have registered this garden as being the confluence of some of the most powerful underground rivers recorded in the area.

This garden has reached maturity now. It has not been kept well for three years and I have hired a college bound, dollarless youth to clean things up this summer. The garden is not open to the public any more but is a nice sampling of hostas and other shade plants that do well in Vermont.

Stand by for the next blog in which I will show examples of the mature hostas that now stand strong. If you have questions or comments, we enjoy both.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where 12 mourning doves are eating millet from the platform feeder and red squirrels steal the last of Gail's cones.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm


jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

A huge and impressive undertaking, George! I'll look forward to seeing what it looked like after a couple of years of growing. Shade gardens are so underrated by some people who just don't seem to realize the vast potential in having a shady, cool spot.

Teza said...

This was a most enjoyable post - I somehow felt I was walking behind you listening as you passionately discussed the creation of this wonderful garden. I envy you the space that you have, with the hardscaping provided by naturally occuring stone, and all that sumptuous, dappled shade. I so look forward to the next chapter! Good to see another unabashed 'Shady Character!'

Kelly or Alex said...

Thank you for your advise on the safety equipment. We will definitely get the chaps and safety shield/hearing protector. We are new to this and take good advice seriously. Thanks for visiting.

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Great information George, and I know that will be a beautiful mass of greens come summer. I can't wait to see it then.~~Dee

J to the... said...

how fantastic, a hosta garden. i have much too many snails for that.

George Africa said...

Hello Jodi;

I like what you say about the potential of a shade garden. I always reflect on the woman I wrote about one time who I found in the garden one day. She had apparently been coming for many years and I didn't know it. She ran a program for troubled young women and she told me she brought many to this garden when she found them and things were difficult. Now she said she was bringing back "graduates". Things like that make me sad and make me proud at the same time as I built this garden to a powerful level and then have neglected it for three years while we moved to our new nursery. This year the garden will be reborn.

Thanks for writing!

George Africa said...

Note from George: The comment from "Kelly or Alex" is about my safety suggestion to them. The live in Maine and were writing about their farm and saying they are getting into wood cutting for fuel. I suggested that they remember kevlar type chaps when using a chain saw so they slice wood, not legs, and eye protection, especially at wood splitting time. When you work in human services and rehab as I do, you sometimes see things differently. I always said if I was ever rich I'd buy a million pairs of safety glasses and pass them out in my travels to all the workers I see doing important jobs but forgetting about their more important eyes. Stone workers note advice too.

George Africa

George Africa said...

Hello Jenn;

I'm loving the macro pictures on your site. If you drink coffee or live close to a restaurant where coffee grounds go in the trash, grab what you can and sprinkle under your hostas. Slugs don't fare well with caffeine and you'll notice quite a difference. Just don't start late in the season when swiss cheese leaves already prevail. Coffee is good, but it will not fill in the holes.


Floraselect said...

You should Try Planting some Hosta Blue Mouse Ears.