Garden Tales: Hostas
- Growing Hostas
Hostas are extremely popular, hardy herbaceous perennials grown primarily for their beautiful foliage. They are easy to grow, shade-tolerant plants.
If you are looking for a plant that is happy in the shade, produces great foliage and beautiful flowers then look no further than the hosta.
The hosta is a native of Japan and it was Englebert Kaempfer (1651-1715) who was a doctor and botanist with the Dutch East India Company who was the first Westerner to see a hosta. Kaempfer was also the first to draw and describe one.
He gave them names which reflected the style of the times calling one Joksan, vulgo gibbooshi Gladiolus Plantagenis folio (meaning 'the common hosta with the plantain-like leaves'); the other he named simply Gibbooshi altera (meaning 'the other hosta').
The hostas were renamed by also by a doctor who followed Kaempfer who was also a botanist. Carl Thunberg (7143-1828) renamed the hostas in Linnaean binomial style, calling one of them Aletris japonica, transferring it to the genus Hemerocallis in 1784.
It was an Austrian botanist, Leopold Trattinick (1761-1848), who first proposed the generic name Hosta in 1812. The name hosta was chose in honour of an Austrian, Nicholas Thomas Host (1761-1834), who was not only a botanist, the author of Flora Austriaca and a work on grasses. Host was physician to the Emperor Frances II.
The hosta can survive in all zones and is a hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs). The flowers bloom from August to September. The young leaves and stems are said to eb edible when cooked, steamed or sir fried.
Hostas can handle a variety of soil conditions; light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soils; and acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils.
I acquired my first hosta plant this year when we moved into our new house. I have included them in various garden designs but this is the first time I have had one in my direct care.
The hostas are clustered around a senior maple tree in our backyard. The roots of this ancient run throughout the yard and the one hosta, a small plant with a single flower, that I decided to transplant was sitting right on top of a root.
Hostas are fairly simple to transplant; but I did not want to harm the tree or the hosta. So rather than using a shovel to dig it up, I got my trusty hand trowel of the shed. It came out easily enough and the tree root was not visibly marked.
I had already filled the wheelbarrow with the soil I was moving to a new garden bed beside the side porch along the driveway and placed the hosta on that.
It was a cool and cloudy morning so the trauma to the plant would be minimal.
I spread the soil over the cardboard that I had lain down two days ago and watered twice since then, the last time just before I put the soil down. Once the soil was in place, I situated the hosta and made sure the roots were well covered and the soil was all around then I watered again.
The plant is doing well and is in an area with dappled shade so should stay happy. If you are seeking a plant for that shady or partially shady spot one that will provide great foliage and gorgeous flowers and ask little from you then the hosta is your best bet.
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