Hostas are herbaceous perennials, meaning that their foliage (leaves) dies down each winter but not their roots. They originated in Japan, China and Korea coming from either lowland or mountain areas. Hostas were introduced to Europe in the 1700s and came to North America in the mid 1800’s. Hostas are easy to grow in well drained soil and they prefer shade with some sun; for example, planted under or around a large deciduous tree, or next to a house or garden shed that allows some shade. Hostas can take up to 8 years to mature; most will look great at the 4 year mark. They come in all shapes, sizes, and different colours ranging from solid blues to greens with margins of yellow & white. There are over 3000 registered or named, varieties coming from approximately 35 cultivars.
The American Hosta Grower Association (AHGA) each year since 1996 have chosen a Hosta to be the Hosta of the year. This Hosta choice must be easy to grow, widely available with sufficient supply and reasonably priced. This season choice, The Abiqua Drinking Gourd, fits very well. This Hosta is a medium specimen, at maturity it is 22 inches high and up to 46 inches across, mounding in shape with the most deeply cupped blue green leaves of any of the Hosta cultivars. Next year’s choice has already been chosen to be the Hosta called “Victory”. It looks to be another great selection. For a complete list of previous Hosta’s of the Year, drop by our Garden Centre. Some of my favorites like Sum & Substance (large specimen 2004), June (medium specimen 2001) & Fragrant Blue (medium specimen 1998) are still available. Once the Hosta bug bites, the addiction for all things Hosta begins. To feed your addiction check out the Ontario Hosta society’s website, for great pictures and you will see you are not alone.
Late spring to early fall these unwanted pests can attack. Holes in your Hosta leaves are a sure giveaway that this little worm like thing, is eating your plants, and if left untreated can result in a very unsightly Hosta garden. Slugs are nocturnal, love the shade and water/moisture. They are best treated with a domestic slug & snail killer in a pellet form, which there are many to choose from. Most contain Ferric Sodium EDTA, please read the direction and keep away from children & pets. Diatomaceous earth (grounded up marine fossils) or silicon dioxide and boric acid can be used but are usually only available in dust forms. They are difficult to use and can be washed away quite easily. Beer traps will work but need to be checked daily. I think my/our customers have a better use for beer, but “to each their own”, I once read.
Syd, “What is eating my Hostas?” I hear this question almost daily. The answer is always the same, “Slugs”.
Crushed egg shells will work and I can still remember my young niece Katherine visiting years ago, as she looked down at my front garden bed and commented “Look mom! Uncle Syd is growing eggs in this garden!” I had no time to crush them, so I would throw the empty egg shells into the flower beds. Lots of crushed egg shells are needed to work on a real slug/snail problem. Some may remember our own brand of truly organic slug and snail killer, before it was provincial law/trendy again. Ahead of the curve were myself & Dan. This was a mixture of crushed egg shells from a Mink farm (I think they are all gone today) and a high end blood meal. The smell of those egg shells, I will never forget.
The chemical companies and I will always have a love/hate relationship over my organic back ground. I will, however, use a small amount of granular fertilizer this time of year on my Hostas. I suggest a 6-12-6. Low enough in nitrogen not to encourage weak fall growth, but I find the salts in the fertilizer to help control snails & slugs. I thank my dad for his love of gardening, his old ways and being curious of all things new and old.
There is nothing more appealing than turning a corner and seeing a shade garden full of Hostas in someone’s yard.