Hostas In The Garden
The huge popularity of hostas in contemporary gardens coupled with the hype generated around them has made it quite difficult to envisage gardening without these plants. The contribution of hostas to any garden is definitely outstanding. In fact, no other enduring plant possesses such luxurious and splendidly colored foliage. Neither is any other plant so distinctive in terms of leaf outline as well as the shape of its clump. Besides looking wonderful as separate specimens, hostas also grow excellently well in clumps of the same variety or of diverse specimens. While cultivating hostas, it is extremely important to select the right hosta for the appropriate place. In other words, hostas that grow well in hot and sunlit locations in the wild will hardly stay alive when grown in shaded places along the sides of ponds or streams or in a marshy land. Similarly, hostas that have a preference for cool and damp locations will not survive when grown in sunny positions. However, it is opportune that nearly all types of hostas have their individual cultural prerequisites which lie somewhere halfway between such extreme conditions and, therefore, are comparatively easy to accommodate in the gardens.
Time and again, hostas are cultivated in conditions similar to those in woodlands. This is to ensure that the leaves of hostas are in good condition for a longer period in the shade of the trees compared to what they would be if grown outside shade. However, there is a downside of growing hostas in woodland conditions – often the ground becomes extremely arid during the summer and before planting the hostas one should plant about the way they would water the plants. In case you are thinking of installing irrigation pipes underground for this purpose, it is essential, you should complete this prior to the planting. In addition, you should make advance planning regarding the density of the proposed woodland as well as the amount of shade the trees would cast in advance. Always remember that hostas thrive best when grown along the woodland edges or in woodland clearings or glades where it is not intensely shaded.
Often, it also becomes essential to trim the hostas as well as elevate the canopy by getting rid of the lower branches. Nevertheless, elevating the canopy may lead to an odd effect, as all trees in the woodland would then have comparatively slender stems growing straight upwards and this may often result in damage by winds. You can, however, solve both these problems by growing a shrubs as well as smaller trees. Ideally, you can grow halesias and stewartias to solve these problems. Even the Japanese as well as various ornamental maple varieties and a number of magnolias are suitable for this purpose. It may also be necessary to have structural planting mostly comprising evergreen shrubs to reduce the force of the winds through the woodland. In fact, several varieties of hollies as well as aucubas (particularly those that produce slender leaves), viburnums, skimmias and similar deciduous shrubs like fothergilla, corylopsis, disanthus, and summer-sweet (botanical name Clethra alnifolia) are perfect for this purpose. Even rhododendrons having distinctive foliage like R. yakushimanun, R. makinoi and R. smirnowii are suitable. You can also plant R. hyperythrum, which has rolled leaves, and the rusty indumentum to overcome these issues in your woodland garden.
In fact, one of the most tempting places for planting hostas is the woodland areas. This is because such places are usually larger compared to the landscaped gardens and the gardeners are tempted to plant hostas in clusters or groups depending on the land contours. The woodlands are particularly suited for somewhat relaxing style of gardening. Usually, majority of the hostas develop into thick, rounded stacks, some varieties grow in large numbers and have a tendency to grow into clumps or seed by themselves always retaining their individual identity.
All forms of the hosta species H. clausa are stoloniferous, meaning they bear stolons. The deep lilac-purple flowers of the hosta variety called H. c. “Normalis” open naturally and are among the most excellent in this genus. As the name of another H. clausa form called H. “Tapis Vert” indicates, is a green carpeter. On the other hand, the leaves of H. “Birchwood Parky’s Gold” are heart-shaped greyish-yellow, while its flowers have a pleasant lavender hue. This variety of hosta spreads fast like the H. “Fool ‘s Gold” whose leaves have yellow margins. Several varieties of variegated hostas having lance – or strap-shaped leaves also spread quickly and are excellent as ground cover. For instance, the H. “Resonance” is ideal for this purpose, much akin to other varieties like H. “Yellow Splash”, H. “Neat Splash”, H. “Bold Ribbons”, H. “Ground Master” and H. “Yellow Splash Rim”.
Several collections and forms of H. sieboldii not only run by themselves, but also self-seed. H. s. “Alba”, a variety producing white blooms, is especially useful in woodland gardens, much like H. “Purple Lady Finger”, which bears deep purple flowers that never open as well as H. “Tall Twister”, which also produces dark hued flowers. Another variety called H. “Lancifolia”, which produces slender, glossy leaves and dark hued blooms, also spreads fast creating a thick and lustrous ground cover. You may create the same effect by growing hostas that have a tendency to form clumps in the form of mounds. You may grow H. “Krossa Regal” or H. “Big Mama”, which are relatively larger hostas that form clumps, among such drifts.
There are several plants that mix easily with hostas in woodland conditions. Some of these plants include arisaemas, astilbes (provided there is sufficient dampness), columbines (Aquilegia), ginger lilies (Hedychium), martagon lilies, toad lilies (Tricyrtis), annual smyrniums, ajugas, lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis), and Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum). In addition to these plants, woodrushes, which have slender leaves that highlight the utter thickness of hosta leaves, and sedges too go really well with the hostas.
Nearly all hostas growing in the wild in extremely soggy soils like H. atropurpurea and H. alismifolia are very hard to grow and, hence, you will rarely find them in cultivation. Then again, these hostas may also be very small for producing the same lush waterfront effect. In fact, the hostas that create the most excellent luxuriant look will generally not succeed in locations where the roots of these plants are always wet. Hence, your strategy should either be to grow these hostas on elevated mounds along the waterfronts or to grow them in a place that is a little far away from the water body, where the soil is relatively dry. This will ensure that the crowns of the plants remain dry, but the roots can avail lots of water.
When planting is done in places receiving adequate sunlight, gardeners usually prefer hybrids obtained from H. plantaginea – for instance, H. “Flower Power”, which bears lavender-hued flowers, H. “Honeybells”, which produces white blooms with a tinge of lilac, and H. “Royal Standard” that bears white flowers. All these forms of H. plantaginea are reasonably priced for ground in clumps in huge drifts. Likewise, you may also grow the yellow-edged H. “Fortunei Aureomarginata”, which is not only available easily, but also grows vigorously to cover large stretches of ground along a sunny streamside. At the same time, these plants produce lavender-hued flowers on tall spires, which they retain for several weeks together.
Irises that have a preference for moisture, for instance I. laevigata, I. pseudacorus and I. sibirica, which have firm, straight and slender lance-shaped leaves, have wonderful foliage that go well with the smoothed forms of hostas. Similarly, astilbes with their feathery flowers that create a delicate haze and lacy foliage go a long way in highlighting the distinct foliage of the hostas. Currently, daylilies are available in a greater assortment of hues and they also do well when grown along the waterfront. Hostas planted in marshy lands or places close to water bodies will only flourish provided you grow them in drifts and bold groups, keeping the plants set somewhat close to one another. They should essentially be grown in a manner in which they grow on their own in the nature.
There is a great range of hostas as well as other plants that can be successfully grown in shade and close to water bodies. While it is true that majority of the hostas would love grow in such a damp condition, several hostas that produce yellow leaves will, however, remain chartreuse. In other words, their leaves will have more of the green color than yellow. Many varieties of relatively larger hostas especially look wonderful when they are grown in such conditions. These include different forms of H. montana as well as H. sieboldiana “Elegans”, especially the clusters of hostas having extremely high flower scapes at their back, like the stately H. nigrescens, H. “Krossa Regal”, the flashy H. “Tall Boy” and H. “Tenryu”, the tallest of them having spikes measuring about 2.1 meters (7 feet). In the front, you can complete the picture by growing relatively smaller hostas – nearly all forms of H. “Undulata”. All these hosta varieties appear to be very pleased when they are planted somewhat higher than the waterline. In addition, stoloniferous hostas that produce leaves in the shape of straps, such as H. “Neat Splash Rim” or H. rectifolia “Chionea” possess the ability to form long drifts rapidly.
If you desire to grow hostas in moist shade, you will find a large number of these plants that love moisture. There are many other plants with contrasting, but bold foliage that also prefer moist and shaded locations, such as like the showy rhubarbs (Rheum), whose leaves are equally large or sometimes even larger compared to the hostas. However, usually the leaves of these plants have a reddish tint or maroon color and their margins are jagged. The foliage of rodgersias is also similarly bold and lobed with a variety of shades of green and deep red. Growing ferns will help to provide even finer foliage. For instance, you may grow ostrich fern (botanical name Matteuccia struthiopteris) or the sensitive fern (botanical name Onoclea sensibilis). These varieties of ferns have a preference for extremely moist conditions.
At the same time, a number of bamboo varieties like Fargesia spathacea and Fargesia nitida also prefer damp conditions. In fact, these two bamboo species are excellent for planting along with hostas in watersides and both form dense clumps and the plants grow to develop a fountain shape. Even the fascinating South American chusqueas love to grow in damp conditions, but these plants grow straight and are very inflexible. When grown in a large mass on relatively damp soils lying between the edge of a water body and the hostas, candelabra primulas also appear wonderful. These plants are in bloom for many weeks during the mid-summer. Bellingham hybrid lilies also love moisture and damp conditions and, similar to candelabra primulas, they also flower for extended periods during the middle of summer. All these varieties can be grown alongside hostas beside water bodies to enhance the beauty of your garden.
In the past, gardeners would have seldom considered a hosta border in sunny positions, as there were just a couple of hosta varieties that could be successfully grown in such conditions. Moreover, all these varieties produced green leaves and had either pure white or almost white blooms. The situation has changes now, as there are numerous varieties of hostas that make it worthwhile to grow them in sunny borders, but also make these borders attractive.
All these started with the hosta variety called H. plantaginea, a sun-loving species from China. However, it is extremely difficult to breed from this variety of hosta. In fact, Kevin Vaughan and Paul Aden, who worked to breed hostas with relatively larger as well as appealing flowers, used H. plantaginea to introduce new genes into the process and discovered that when this hosta variety was crossbred with hostas that usually have a preference for shade, they gradually started tolerating sun and, at the same time, assumed a number of interesting and exciting aroma of H. plantaginea.
It was also found that it was possible to achieve some of the late-summer effects in the newly bred hostas even when grown in the sun. This was something that was unimaginable earlier. Growing these plants at the base of any wall receiving sufficient sunlight may make them near tropical. This is truer in the case of the larger varieties of hostas, especially when planted with the bristly foliage of kniphofias, yuccas, and phormiums as well as the crocosmias having grass-like foliage and the band-shaped leaves of daylilies and agapanthus. These plantings will not only provide interesting colors, but also attractive shapes to the borders when the plants grown in the borders traditionally are no longer in their prime. In fact, the light in the garden during the end of summer is somewhat different from the light during early or mid-summer and the more interesting plantings appear calming in line with even among the most restful gardens during the summer.
It is even possible to create further hotter effects by using a number of the yellow hostas like H. “Fragrant Gold”, H. “Gold Medallion”, H. “Super Bowl”, H. “August Moon”, and H. “Midas Touch”, which produces best colors when grown in the sun. Perhaps the matted leaves of these hosta varieties contrast best with the shining green-hued leaves of H. “Invincible” or the smooth, satin-like textured leaves of H. “Sweetie”, which are viridian to yellow having a white border. These hostas may be grown together with clusters of yellow-variegated yuccas, for instance Yucca flaccida “Golden Sword” or Y. filamentosa “Bright Edge”. You may also mix them with phormiums having yellow stripes like the vertically growing Phormium tenax “Radiance” in sunny borders of your garden.
If you are growing hostas along shaded borders, the finest place to grow these plants is at the base of a north-facing wall (in the case of the northern hemisphere). Irrespective of the type of construction, the leaves of hostas seem to be breathtaking when the plants are grown close to or against a north wall. Growing the plants close to the walls (in fact, even near fences) offer an advantage – though the walls and fences cast shade, the plants remain open to the sky, denoting that they are receiving adequate sunlight for healthy growth. However, the walls also pose a disadvantage and that is they may also shed a rain shadow. This problem intensifies if the wall is high – in fact, the higher the wall, the greater the problem. Therefore, it is essential that you make some provisions so that the plants receive sufficient moisture. Using seep hoses will help you to solve this problem effectively.
Growing evergreen ferns like Polystichum setiferum as well as the different forms of this species may help to offer an excellent background for hostas at the ground level. Similarly, you may also grow both forms of the Christmas as well as the sword ferns P. acrostichoides and P. munitum that not only appear appealing with snowdrops, but are also helpful in covering the fading foliage of the hostas. Even growing deciduous ferns may be helpful in creating an appropriate environment, particularly the claret-mid-ribbed Athyrium otophorum var. okanum, which is claret mid-ribbed, and the silver-grey hued Japanese painted fern (botanical name Athyrium niponicum var. pictum). On the other hand, subtle fern-like woodland rue prospers on absorptive soil and partial shade. This plant appears wonderful when it envelopes the H. “Patriot” or Hosta “Francee” in the delicate miasma of its deep-green foliage.
The dicentras, heucheras and pulmonarias are also some of the plants that provide excellent company to hostas when grown in shaded locations. In fact, the light glaucous grey-hued lacy leaves as well as the mulberry-hued lockets of Dicentra “Luxuriant” and Dicentra “Bacchanal” highlight the passionate frosty blue colors of hosta varieties like the H. “Blue Vision” and Hosta “Betcher’s Blue”. On the other hand, the pulmonarias, which produce leaves whose surface is hairy and rough, also like to grow in similar conditions as the hostas, such as speckled shade and soils that have been prepared properly and possess the ability to retain moisture. The intricate leaves of the pulmonarias help to make the bluish-green or greenish-blue foliage of some hosta varieties like H. “Devon Blue” or H. “Blue Skies” appear absolutely soothing.
It has often been found that plants grown in the shade often have a tendency to have rounded forms similar to that of the hostas. In fact, relatively fewer plants with vertical habit succeed when grown in shade. One exception is the astilbes, which have vertical flower spikes. These plants can solve your problem provided the soil in your garden is somewhat moist. Another species that solve the problem to some extent are the irises, particularly Iris foetidissima as well as its different forms – I. spuria and the relatively taller I. orientalis, which grows up to a height of 1.2 meters (4 feet) and bears white flowers. On the other hand, nearly all varieties of I. sibirica can tolerate some amount of shade, but they will not grow well when there is too much of it. Another way to solve the problem is to grow the vertical foxgloves and Japanese anemones, which have flowering stems that are robustly upright.
Terraces and courtyards can prove to be perfect settings for growing hostas, as these plants look extremely beautiful when grown against buildings, as well as hard landscape or architectural features. Growing vividly variegated or multicoloured hostas may possibly produce a tastelessly restive feeling, as would a large assortment of diverse types of plants in the same place. Moreover, you may also be tempted to grow smaller hostas in large number instead of planting larger hostas in smaller numbers.
In fact, if your courtyard is small, it is best to grow hostas that usually produce simple leaves. Therefore, the best varieties of hostas producing green leaves that are most suited for small courtyards include H. “Green Acres”. This hosta variety grows up to the height of your waist and spreads about 1.2 meters (4 feet) across. It produces large, intensely grooved green leaves that dangle more or less vertically from their petiole tips. Another hosta variety that is appropriate for this purpose is H. “Invincible”, which produces firm, olive green colored leaves that are very polished and held nearly horizontally.
Alternatively, you may also opt for hostas producing blue or grey colored leaves, as these hues usually have a waning effect, making the smaller gaps appear as larger. If you prefer this variety of hostas, your first choice ought to include H. sieboldiana “Elegans”, H. “Snowden”, H. “Big Daddy” or H. “Halcyon”. You may also opt for other similar hosta varieties like H. “Buckshaw Blue” and H. “Tokudama”.
If your courtyard receives plenty of sunlight, you should opt for the aromatic hybrids of H. plantaginea, as they will flourish excellently in such conditions. These hybrids produce bold leaves that contrast wonderfully with the Jasminum officinale leaves that are petite as well as intricate.
The anatomy of hostas
Propagation of hostas
Cultivation of hostas
Growing hostas in containers
Pest and diseases of hostas
Companion shade plants for hostas