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On Gardening: It's the Year of the Hosta, so let the beauty commence

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Lifestyles

The National Garden Bureau designated 2024 as the Year of the Hosta, but I would dare say that once you start growing hostas, every year thereafter will be a cause of celebration. It is a job well done, however, that the National Garden Bureau made this declaration as there will always be gardeners, both young and old, who need to experience the sheer joy that comes with growing hostas.

To be sure there will be some anxiety associated with hostas and that comes from an insatiable hunger for more and especially the new varieties. Don’t be confused and think that the gardener wants to get rid of a variety or two to make room for the new hostas; this simply means buying the lot next door to expand the collection.

An example in my own garden came about last year. I will always love and treasure Shadowland Autumn Frost as I am fixated with the creamy almost white variegation. I am using it with hydrangeas, azaleas and impatiens. Somehow, I was offered the opportunity to trial Shadowland Miss America. In the most miserable of hot, dry summers, she stood out, showing how she got that crown even if it is in name only. She will reach 19 inches in height with a spread of 47 inches displaying leaves with white centers and light green streaking.

This year she is even more impressive and I am fraught with two dilemmas, one being that the hydrangea companions are doing so well and now starting to crowd, and two, I don’t have Shadowland Hudson Bay, the Proven Winners Hosta of the Year. Plus, I’ve seen what is in the pipeline so to speak.

All of these are in the fenced backyard where on the other side it is Yellowstone. You see I also have another half dozen or so varieties in multiples of three. Among them included is Shadowland Empress Wu, a blue-green selection that is so large she reigns like royalty and offers a place where granddaughter Emma Grace and the feisty furball Tootie can hide and play. I’ve got to create more room.

It wasn’t always like this for The Garden Guy. I grew up in West Texas in an area we called The Big Country. In other words, there were a lot of stars at night, hardly any trees to block your view or create shade during the day; no shadowland to be found. This is not hosta country.

I did my horticultural schooling at Texas A&M and you might think it to be a gardener paradise. That was 15 miles down the road. In College Station, we had high pH water, around 8.5 with high soluble salts. A Boston fern had a life expectancy of two weeks. I went to great effort to collect rainwater but it was a losing proposition for a student going to school and traveling as an intern.

 

Once I began my career with Mississippi State and University of Georgia, it was like a portal to "Hosta Heaven" opened up. My garden for the most part is all on the side of a forested hill, but the soil is fertile and organic rich and loved by the Shadowland hostas. If you asked if this is heaven, I would say no and its not Iowa either, its West Georgia on the hilly side of the Chattahoochee Valley.

This is the Year of the Hosta and if you are a newbie in gardening or growing hostas then be prepared for a passionate affliction of wanting them all. Since the American Hosta Society book is 197 pages of registered varieties, you might think about starting with the Shadowland series. There are 19 varieties to choose from, all sizes, colors, textures and patterns of variegation.

Now is a great time to plant hostas, in fertile well-drained organic rich soil and shade if you are in the South and you will have the green thumb.

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(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)


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