With 6,000 named varieties, the world of hostas can be daunting for novice gardeners.
That’s why Judith Hammond, president of the Mid-South Hosta Society, distributed a list of the 10 best and easiest-to-grow hostas for our area during her recent lecture at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens.
This succinct list was compiled by Larry Tucker, a founder and past president of the society who loves to get gardeners hooked on hostas one or two varieties at a time.
Hostas range in size from the tiniest minis like Little Wonder, which spreads 6 to 8 inches, to the gigantic Empress Wu, which grows 4 feet tall and up to 6 feet wide. Three of them could fill a whole garden.
The worst enemies of hostas in this region are voles, pesky field mice that burrow underground looking for tasty roots to eat. Hostas’ must be yummy.
I once asked a hosta expert if there were any varieties especially liked by voles, and he replied: “The expensive ones.”
You can keep your hostas from getting gobbled by digging a planting hole big enough to accommodate a large nursery pot with the hosta inside. Allow two inches of the pot to stay above the soil.
At the lecture, someone suggested putting hostas into wire mesh baskets from the Dollar Tree before planting in the ground. Aboveground containers work well, too.
Another asked if planting daffodil bulbs near hostas keeps voles away.
June Davidson, a member of the hosta society and a founder of the Mid-South Daffodil Society, said interplanting hostas with daffodils is a good idea.
Daffodils are finished blooming as hostas are sending up their leaves. The hostas will hide the floppy daffodil foliage for the six weeks it needs to finish sending food to the bulbs, he said.
“Daffodils bulbs are poisonous, but I don’t know if they will keep voles from eating hosta roots because the voles can go around them,” Davidson said.
A bed of hostas is like a salad bar for slugs and deer, and if you have an issue with the latter, you already know there’s not much you can do about it other than stop growing the plants they eat.
But sprinkling egg shells or diatomaceous earth (fossilized algae) on the ground around hostas can repel slugs because the sharp particles cut into their slimy but tender exteriors.
Some people have luck controlling them by setting shallow saucers filled with beer in the garden. Slugs slither into the saucer, but they don’t slither out.
Other gardeners go out at night with flashlights and buckets of hot soapy water or ammonia and water to drown the slugs.
Choosing hostas with tough leaves mitigates slug problems, too.
Here’s the down-and-dirty list you need to get started with hostas:
Blue Mouse Ears form an 8-inch-round mound of thick round blue leaves with pale lavender flowers in midsummer.
First Frost, a medium-size hosta, has blue-green heart-shaped leaves with a creamy center and pale lavender flowers in late summer.
Golden Tiara is a rapidly growing and reliable small hosta with yellow leaves with light green edges.
Guacamole is medium-size with upright apple green leaves and subtle dark green borders.
Halcyon, also medium-size, has frosty-blue foliage in a dense low-growing mound. Good slug resistance.
Little Wonder, a mighty mini, has cream-edged green leaves that form a thick clump with purple flowers on 14-inch stems in midsummer.
Sagae’s large wavy, vase-shaped green leaves with cream edges are valued for their structural presence. Sagae is also resistant to slugs.
Satisfaction has large and slightly ruffled leaves of brilliant gold with dark green centers.
Sum and Substance has very large rounded chartreuse leaves that turn gold in the sun. Its lavender flowers bloom in August, and it’s slug resistant, too.
The best time and place to buy hostas is at the spring sale put on by members of the hosta society in early May at the Memphis Botanic Garden. The sale typically features more than 1,000 plants representing 100 or more varieties.
This past May, miniature hostas like Curly Fries sold out in the first 30 minutes.
Members of the hosta society will next convene Sept. 15, beginning with refreshments at 6:30 p.m. followed by the meeting at 7 p.m.
Susan Webb, a landscape designer from Huntsville, Alabama, will speak on “Growing Green with Hostas and Ferns.”
It is free to members, $5 for visitors.
Want to learn more about the abundance of trees that grace our landscapes? You might want to enroll in the five-week urban forestry adviser course that begins Sept. 7 and continues on consecutive Wednesdays through Oct. 5.
Participants will meet from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Memphis Botanic Garden for indoor and outdoor instruction.
The course covers tree biology, identification and selection, diagnosis of disease and pest issues, risk management and more. A team of certified arborists and urban foresters will teach the class.
Participants who complete the classwork and give 20 volunteer hours in tree-related activities will be certified as urban forestry advisers. The $85 class fee includes a handbook and dues for both the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council and its West Tennessee chapter, which is presenting the course with the botanic garden.
The course is designed for the general public, municipal employees, and members of neighborhood associations and garden clubs.
Class size is limited. Call Laurie Williams at 636-4128 to register.
Chris Gang, email@example.com