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Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Buena Vista Garden, by Yarddawg

The Comeback Kid for Earth Day Twenty Ten

Time again for my annual Life in Forsyth tribute to the greatest living plant on earth. Hosta. Well, certainly my greatest plant weakness and fetish anyway. With over 2,500 cultivars (at last count) on the market, there are plenty to choose from. I have so many it is easy to slip another in without Mrs.Yarddawg noticing.

Meet Hosta ‘Great Expectations’. Another shady character for sure. Charles Dickens never met this one. It is my personal comeback hosta (so far) of the 21st century. Ain’t she pretty? I first planted “Great Expectations’ late last century and for three years it got smaller and smaller as each year passed. Why, I don’t know. Hosta experts are at a loss to explain why some varieties thrive no matter the conditions while others struggle. For me this one struggled in the ground. Noted hosta expert and hosta breeder Bob Solberg, owner of Green Hill Hostas in Chapel Hill suggested I dig it up, re-pot it, and leave it in the pot permanently. From a vigorous transplant in year one to a bare remaining and pathetic sprout stub in year three, “Great Expectations’, which I expected to die, has recovered nicely in its new home.

Great Expectations, like many hosta’s and humans too, likes morning sun and afternoon shade. The morning sun helps develop the true foliage color. Too much hot, late afternoon, sun can scorch the leaves especially if the soil is too dry. Plant in soil amended with compost or leaf mold and add mulch around the plant for best performance. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not too wet. Pest problems for me are mainly slugs. If you live where deer are your neighbors you probably already know that deer consider hosta as a salad bar. These pesky varmints will eat the leaves right to the ground overnight. Hosta’s will also perform well in pots and containers and will thrive almost indefinitely if the container is the right size for the plant. Large ones go in large pots and small ones in small pots. Duh! I recommend using a good quality potting soil rather than garden dirt if planting in containers. Hosta’s range in size from 5’ x 5” to 6” x 6” or smaller. Colors also vary widely from greens, blues, yellows, golds, chartreuse, whites, stripes, and variations in between. The mid-summer flowers, some fragrant, are an added bonus to the bold foliage. These perennials will die down in late fall, recompose themselves, and burst back bigger and better than ever the next spring. Once established these plants are almost carefree and are easily divided and shared with friends or planted elsewhere in the garden.

Expect “Great Expectations” to achieve 18 – 28 inches height and width at maturity. It is a relatively slow grower, so patience is advised. It can be found locally and for less than ten bucks usually.

More on hosta. And finally, for a little fun please check out this photo link of the self proclaimed “worlds ugliest hosta” called ‘Outhouse Delight’. Proudly bred right here in North Carolina by Tony Avent at Plant Delights Nursery near Raleigh. Plant Delights offer a wide variety of hosta for sale.

Happy hostaing!
- Yarddawg
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