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On Gardening: Shadowland Autumn Frost is a heart-humping hosta

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

Shadowland Autumn Frost is an award-winning hosta that will stop you in your tracks.

Recently I posted a photo and called it a heart-thumping hosta. One of my Facebook followers said something rather meaningful: "You will love it Norman, I have 300 assorted hostas!"

That statement says it all — hostas can be addicting. I have gone to 30 hostas in what seemed like a nanosecond and when I saw Shadowland Autumn Frost, my heart started beating harder and I simply could not wait. I admit I wasn’t expecting a collision with the design side of my horticultural endeavor.

I think I now know why you see so many photos of gardeners growing a gazillion hostas all mixed together.

First off, it somehow works. All those leaves come together in a design and color scheme that the best of artists would struggle to put on canvas. I am not there yet — I am still the guy that joyfully designs my hosta plant partnerships.

So let’s get a little important information down first.

Shadowland Autumn Frost is not a giant hosta like the Shadowland Empress Wu. It reaches 12 inches tall with a 24-inch spread. Shadowland Empress Wu has blue-green leaves. Shadowland Autumn Frost foliage emerges a frosty blue with extra wide yellow margins that age to creamy white during the summer.

I love how hosta champions lead to a lineage of more award winners. Shadowland Autumn Frost is a sport of the 2010 American Hosta of the Year, First Frost. My guess is you’ll love Autumn Frost even more. So back to The Garden Guy’s conundrum on how to use it in the landscape.

First, it is natural to combine with big-leaved hydrangeas. No matter whether yours are blue, purple or pink, hostas and hydrangeas are simply a marriage made in gardening heaven, so I took advantage of the opportunity.


Next, I wanted to try them with the new series of Soprano impatiens coming out next year, which by the way are disease-resistant and put the fun back into growing impatiens. This combination with Autumn Frost is a Holy Wow!

The scapes of lavender purple blooms reach 12-14 inches tall and bring in the hummingbirds as well as your favorite salvia. Oddly blooms of a hosta often go unappreciated. I still remember the flower arrangements with the blossoms at church in Mississippi, yet I have never seen it again.

The hosta is in the lily family and has the common name of plantain lily. Because of their lush foliage you would swear they are from some tropical South Pacific island. Unbelievably, they are very cold hardy. Shadowland Autumn Frost is recommended for zones 3a to 9b, which is a huge geographic range.

Instead of the tropics, hostas come from Japan, Korea and China, and there are about 40 species. There are thousands and thousands of varieties and hybrids, making it the collector's dream plant. Shadowland Autumn Frost is one of a dozen varieties in the series coming from Proven Winners.

No matter which Shadowland hosta you choose, the bed should be rich in organic matter, so incorporate 3 to 4 inches of humus or compost to improve drainage and aeration. While tilling, add 2 pounds per 100 square feet of a 12-6-6 slow-release fertilizer with minor nutrients. Plant at the same depth they are growing in the container, placing the crown of the plant slightly above the soil line.

At The Garden Guy’s house, watering is a regular midmorning ritual unless a rain event is assured. Since Columbus, Georiga is the home of hot summer temperatures, I want my hostas going into afternoon heat, hydrated for best growth and performance. Shadowland Autumn Frost can take a little sun but not much.

The Shadowland Hosta Series offers everything you could want. The Garden Guy's favorites are the dazzling variegated Shadowland Etched Glass, the monolithic-sized Shadowland Empress Wu and my new love Shadowland Autumn Frost.

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