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February 6, 2008 > Pat Kite's Garden

Pat Kite's Garden

Hostas

Hostas are all the current rage. My new Joy Creek Nursery catalogue lists 33 of them (www.joycreek.com). Folk wanting a pretty, low-growing plant that grows in shade/part shade are the market here, especially as so many modern yards are narrow and overshadowed. I have tried Hostas twice, some while ago. Both times the resident snails and slugs applauded then went in for overnight kill. But as long as you know, and are more protective than myself, consider finding a shady spot for these pretties.

Alternatively monikered by the older term "Plantain Lily," these 6 to 48-inch plants are mostly grown for their pretty heart or lance-shaped beautifully textured leaves. Leaves are green, gold, and variations on a theme of green and/or yellow. If you prefer a particular leaf shape, purchase when the plant is in full leafy splendor.

While in the past flowers were considered a leaf accompaniment, the newer varieties mention pretty blooms of dark purple, lavender, lavender-pink as well as the standard white. There are a few scented types, including 'Sugar & Cream,' 'Old Faithful' and 'Fragrant Dream.' Flowering time for most is June, July and/or August, so people often design in series. However Hosta 'August Moon' and Hosta 'Emily Dickinson' (one of my favorite poets) flower as late as September. Flowers, on spikes, each last only a day. Hostas look their best when planted in groups and should be watered well during the growing season.

Hostas were first described in 1780. The name comes from the 19th century Austrian Nicolaus Thomas Host, physician to the emperor. Initially these Asian natives were grown only in greenhouses, as nobody believed them to be hardy. But, other than being snail tasty, they are. Several like morning sun, but most thrive in shaded good soil by themselves or beneath deep-rooted deciduous trees and shrubs. Since trees eat a lot of vita-veta-vegimens, as Lucy would say, recommendation is to give them an annual dose of slow release high nitrogen plant food. And do provide them with a nice size planting hole. As the Joy Creek catalogue states "When planting, remember that a $5 plant can look like a million if you give it a $50 hole." Keep in mind that Hostas go dormant in winter, so remember where you have ensconced them. I have a marked gardening tendency to see an empty space and want to fill it.

By now you have received the annual barrage of garden catalogues. They make me so happy, and I toddle out looking for a bare patch. Spring is springing! Hope is eternal.

As a mention, my book, Gardening Wizardry for Kids, is the April selection for the Connecticut Agricultural Foundation 2007-08 School Calendar. Makes me happy.

Pat

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