Spring brings about a flurry of gardening activities, but the most common activity of April is planting. Each client I work with seems to have a different gardening situation. Some have shade, some sun, one needs a shrub, and another prefers a few perennials.
Not all gardening dilemmas can be satisfied with something different, unique, unusual, or eclectic. Sometimes a simple solution is really all that is needed. Some of these simple solutions are plants that have been around forever, and many times we think of them as boring choices. I have decided there is nothing wrong with being boring—my garden is anything but, and it contains many of these so-called boring plants.
Hundreds of varieties
One group of plants that could be considered simple or perhaps boring are hostas, also called plantain lilies. They are in fact quite beautiful, exciting, and the anchors to many gardens. With hundreds of varieties to choose from, it seems difficult to choose just one.
Years ago, garden centers thought it was necessary to carry 50 or more varieties of hosta in their stores each spring. Fortunately that is no longer the case. If you are a hosta collector, you can still have the newest, most unusual varieties, but in many cases you will have to know other hosta collectors or do most of your shopping by mail.
Today you will find only the toughest, most diverse, and beautiful hostas available at your local garden center. On average our center carries 12 to 15 different varieties of hosta, and we think this is more than enough. Hosta varieties grow anywhere from 12 inches tall to about 3 feet tall and every height in between. You will find varieties in a wide range of colors and shapes—blues, golds, mint greens, variegated, fat leaves, skinny leaves, striped leaves—not just a bunch of plain green foliage.
Hostas have long been considered the workhorse of the shade garden, but there are some varieties that are more tolerant of sun, such as ‘Patriot’ and ‘Francee.’ You can also still find hostas grown as a single specimen. Many of the big 3-foot-tall blue varieties are used in collections or single varieties as a large sweep of color under trees or along the shade of a house.
With many gardeners totally burned out on hostas, I am always looking for a way to make them fresh, new, and popular again. This is a great group of plants, and they are quite forgiving if they are planted in less than ideal conditions. For the most beautiful and impressive hostas, always plant them in part or full shade (just not deep shade), in good soil (does not have to be excellent) that is moist but well-drained. Fertilize them once annually just as the new growth begins to emerge in March, and cut back the foliage in the late fall once they have turned completely yellow. Slugs do love hosta, so eggshells or sand around the base is a good deterrent. Division is typically not necessary but should be done in early March if necessary.
Hostas look beautiful paired with colorful impatiens or begonias. Hostas also make nice container plantings for a shady porch or patio. Plant them alone for a dramatic effect, or plant them as filler with a fern or other large tropical plant for a really low-maintenance container garden you will enjoy all summer and fall.
What’s in a name?
Sometimes the name alone is what sells a hosta. You could select ‘Blue Angel,’ ‘White Christmas,’ ‘Guacamole,’ but what about ‘Strip Tease’? I decided to plant ‘Strip Tease’ in my own garden last year and label it. It is located near my patio and has turned out to be a great conversation starter. I watch people just looking at it. I suppose they are wondering why or how it got that name. Hosta ‘Strip Tease’ is actually quite beautiful and was one of our top-selling hostas last year. If you look this one up on the Internet, make sure you search for the full name as “hosta strip tease.”
ASK THE GARDENER
by Angie McManus
I have a peace lily whose leaves are developing brown spots on the edges.
The brown spots on your peace lily (Spathiphyllum) could be a couple different things. It is generally a very easy-to-care-for plant and will live in many different environments, although it prefers medium light and well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. It is susceptible to myrothecium leaf spot, which is more of a circular spot and not necessarily on the edges.
If it is more of a browning all along the edges, it may be due to uneven water levels. If this is the case, you can take a pair of gardening scissors and remove the brown edges. If you think this is not the case, the best thing to do is take a sample to your local garden center or to your County Cooperative Extension service. They will be able to look at your sample and give you a diagnosis, along with treatment options.
If it turns out to be a fungal leaf spot, the treatment will be different than if it just needs nutrients. It is always better to find out the problem before treating for it.
HAVE A GARDENING QUESTION?
Go to www.KentuckyLiving.com, click on Home & Garden, then “Ask The Gardener” link to ask a question.