Sunday, February 07, 2016

Planning for Hostas

 Sunday, February 7, 2016

Now 9 AM and the temperature has risen to 29.3°. The wind is up to 3 mph, the birds are feeding heavily and the gray sky is offering up a few snowflakes that drift slowly to earth. Karl the Wonder Dog has been out for two walks and is now snoring in front of the wood stove. Life is good!

 2015 was our 8th growing season on Route 2. For Gail, Alex, some very special friends who help, and for me, it was a rewarding year too. I taught Alex how to use the rototiller and he helped me begin to get control of the weeds. Almost 5 acres of plants, lawn, and weeds is a challenge. I prefer not to rototill the large gardens for various environmental reasons but tilling is a way to eradicate some weeds before they get established. Our plan last year was to till and then in fall apply 6"-8" of maple leaves between the rows and then top as many rows as possible with wood chips left from last winter's logging operation at our home. We probably ended the fall-early winter with 60% of the gardens completed. 

My passion has always been hosta and the hosta display garden is beginning to reach the vintage that I have been waiting for. It has not been without major challenges. Hosta are not for all gardeners because they require patience which is often absent in modern day, "I want a mature flower garden today" gardeners. I can appreciate that as I get older. The gardens were just underway nicely, perhaps growing on into years 3-4 when a tropical storm flooded the area and covered the gardens with ten feet of water. Many hostas were lost and many were buried  under a couple feet of silt.  During the 2015 season, the survivors were looking great and some of those that were buried began to rise to the surface with shouts of "Guess my name" because of course the labels and my memory had been washed away.

Now the gardens deserve your visit if you already grow hosta or if you are considering a new hosta garden or incorporating some in existing gardens. Almost all the hosta on display are available for sale in gallon and 6-quart pots and some have been planted so they can be field dug. There is a peacefulness to the hosta display that we understand now. When visitors we have never seen before get out of the car and say "We'll be in the hosta garden for a while." we know word has gotten around and folks want to enjoy the peace that the various sized leaves in shades of green, blue, white and yellow now offer.

We always ask "Do you grow hosta now?". Sometimes it's uncomfortable and embarrassing because there's no way I can remember all the customers, especially when Gail handles sales more often than I do. Just the same, my curiosity is rooted in my desire to be sure that people know how to grow the best-looking hosta as quickly as possible in a manner that will keep them looking nice for a long time. I share my methods with others freely and encourage questions.

Initial spacing is always a trick because no matter how experienced you are with your gardens, the variables of sunlight, annual water supply, temperature and growth of surrounding trees and shrubs impacts on how quickly the hosta mature. Personally, I like to see space between the mature plants but hosta don't stop growing. Six to eight foot on-center spacing at initial planting time looks silly for sure but as these pictures show, in time the space between more mature hosta fades away in 4-5-6 years. You can use annuals or smaller, quicker growing hostas to fill in during the interim but chances are that you'll need to get out the shovel and make some adjustments over time.

If you have some questions or just want to find out what hosta are all about in a garden setting, stop by this summer. By mid-June each spring the hosta are usually looking good and they are their best by mid July.  We traditionally open on Mother's Day but any time you see the gates open in Spring, stop by. We're always here to help you grow your green thumb!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens
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On a variety of other social media related to gardens and gardening!

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