Being a good sport in the Hosta world
Hostas are easy to grow in the right conditions but it is impossible to grow them from seed true-to-type, and so they have to be propagated by division.
But if you had a mind for creating a name for yourself in horticulture the possibility of breeding a new variety of hosta with your name on it is waiting on your threshold. All the species and new varieties are excessively promiscuous and it is difficult to avoid them crossing with one another. It was in the United States that most of the innumerable varieties have been bred, some of them bearing the names of their breeders like the golden edged sport of Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’, Hosta ‘Frances Williams’ by Mrs Frances Williams in the 1930s.
In the last 25 years, Gus Krossa has produced the classical upright giant Hosta ‘Krossa Regal’.In 1965 Hosta ‘Royal Standard’ was the first hosta to be patented by John Grullemans.
Although most hostas are appreciated for their foliage this was one that had exquisite fragrant white flowers. You can always spot one of hybridizer Tony Avent’s plants, not because of his name ascribed to the plants but the nutty names he gives them, like Hosta ‘Elvis Lives’, ‘Elephant Burgers’, ‘White Wall Tire’,‘Red Neck Heaven’, ‘Waving Wuffles’ and what he describes as the ugliest hosta ever bred, a spotty one called ‘Outhouse Delight’ .
Hosta ‘Elvis Lives’ in amongst some of the more popular American hybrids at the Tatton Park flower show this year.
Paul Aden, who was one of the founders of the American Hosta Society, was keen to exploit the advantages of tissue culture in its early days in order to get his introductions propagated as rapidly as possible in large quantities. Regarded by many as the doyen of hosta hybridisers, he has introduced such popular varieties as the large leafed Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ and the blues Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ and ‘Love Pat’.
Hosta. ‘Love Pat’ and Hosta. ‘Pauls Glory’, fairly slug resistant varieties.
Some of the ‘Dwarf Hostas’ that are at present so popular for crevices and containers like Hosta ‘Some and Substance’
Hostas are held in low esteem in the UK
The Americans cannot understand it. They regard the UK as having the perfect climate for growing hostas and we don’t seem to like them. Here in British Isles they grow bigger, and in varieties like Hosta ‘Halcyon’, the flowers are more colourful and stay in bloom for longer.
It is cool enough to preserve the waxy glaucous bloom on the likes of Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’, but the yellow varieties have a tendency to look sick rather than coloured.
Giving Hostas with yellow in them less of the shade and plenty of sun, particularly in the afternoon, will burnish up the hues a bit. However the quandary comes with varieties that have yellow and green in them like Hosta ‘On Stage’. The advice is to experiment with position to see what brings out the best colour by growing them in containers before you commit them to a position.
Hosta ‘Halcyon’, Hosta ‘Some and Substance, Aurea’ with Hosta ‘So Sweet’ that is grown for its attractive fragrant flowers both bred by Aden. This particular plant breaks the rule that white flowers are the only fragrant ones.
Hosta fortunei ‘Albopicta’ flourishes for much longer in the UK than the US and Hosta fortunei ‘Aureomarginata’ has better colour in its flowers in the UK
If hostas are in containers it is easier to preserve them against the only real problem that hostas have. This problem is such that it is probably one of the main reasons that the British become so dismayed with hostas. The day we first proudly place our newly acquired hosta becomes the precursor to the morning that we become starkly aware that we share this country with an enormous population of molluscs.
For inexperienced gardeners this can be utterly disheartening and turns many nature lovers into hardened killers of slugs and snails. You will usually find that the true hosta lover will quite uninhibitedly resort to every possible deterrent and pest control available and all at the same time.
Certain thick leaved varieties like ‘Sum and Substance’ or ‘Frances Williams’ are fairly slug resistant which is enough to supply the traditional herbaceous perennial border with the necessary foliage effects. In our garden we have the ultimate police force in operation in the form of a pair of Khaki Campbell ducks out on slug patrol every day.
Home for hostas
Hostas enjoy any moisture retentive soil, enriched with plenty of organic matter especially leaf-mould. Some shade is generally appreciated during the day especially by the variegated varieties. Don’t plant them in the pool, they may survive, but only just.
Plant at any frost-free time from October to March spacing plants at least half a metre apart to allow plenty of room to spread over time. Hostas only gain their full characteristics as a clump matures in its 4th or 5th year.