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"Here Come the Hostas," by the Whistling Gardener

One of the many things I love about spring is the re-emergence of my favorite perennials. It is so satisfying to see them come back fresh, blemish free and often twice the size of the previous year. Nothing brings on this warm, fuzzy feeling more than the return of my hostas.
The Whistling Gardener’s Hostas in his shade garden. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

One of the many things I love about spring is the re-emergence of my favorite perennials. It is so satisfying to see them come back fresh, blemish free and often twice the size of the previous year. Nothing brings on this warm, fuzzy feeling more than the return of my hostas.

In case you are unfamiliar, hostas are shade-loving perennials that are grown primarily for their bold and colorful foliage. Their leaves vary from green to blue, as well as tons of green and yellow variegated forms. The leaves can be tiny and narrow or quite large and often heavy with texture. 

While the flowers are a secondary perk, they can range from white to purple with a few varieties even having some fragrance. Hostas make great companion plants to other shade lovers like ferns, astilbes, Bergenia, and mondo and Japanese forest grass, to name just a few.

Hostas are easy to grow as long as you give them plenty of water and bait for slugs. There are some varieties that have thicker leaves which makes them more slug resistant and there are also a few varieties that are surprisingly sun tolerant. 

Occasionally, you might see them sold under the name of “Plantain Lily” or “Funkia.”  Don’t get confused, they are just hostas. Here are some of my favorite flavors with descriptions direct from our Sunnyside Nursery website.

Eola Saphire:  A special selection for the shade garden with striking, seersucker-like, metallic blue-green leaves. Larger than others, this dramatic hosta is sure to attract attention. Slender spikes of purple-white flowers appear in summer. The thick, heavily textured foliage is resistant to slug damage.

June:  Distinctive gold leaves with striking blue-green margins stand out in lightly shaded beds and woodland gardens. Pale lavender flowers appear on showy scapes above the foliage in summer. Heavy, substantial foliage resists slug damage. Selected as 2001 Hosta of the Year.

Liberty:  A gorgeous sport of “Sagae” with blue-green leaves that have wide, dramatically streaked, yellow margins which fade to a creamy white. Produces showy lavender flowers in summer. The thick foliage has remarkable slug resistance. Adds stunning color to any shade border or woodland garden. 2012 Hosta of the Year.

Krossa Regal:  Shimmering, frosty-blue, upright foliage makes this hosta a real standout in the shade garden. Pale lavender flowers are displayed on five-foot tall stalks above the foliage. Thick leaves resist slug damage. Makes a dramatic statement when paired with creamy variegated hostas.  Regal Splendor is a variegated form of this hosta.

Paisley Print:  Remarkable foliage with creamy colored petioles that lead into brilliant, creamy yellow, feathered variegation that spreads through the center of each heart-shaped leaf with wide, wavy, vibrant green margins. Showy towers of pale lavender flowers appear in midsummer. 2019 Hosta of the Year.

T Rex:  An enormous hosta with a lush foliage mound of epic proportions. This garden giant produces extremely large, slightly corrugated, undulating, green leaves. Relatively slow growing, given time and growing room in a shady spot, it is certain to become king of the garden. Produces tall scapes of showy white flowers in summer.

Praying Hands:  From Monrovia’s prestigious Designer Hosta™ Collection, with unique, narrow, tightly folded foliage that resembles hands folded in prayer. The thick, dark green leaves are heavily rippled with very narrow, gold margins, matte finish topsides and exposed shiny undersides. Resists slug damage. 2011 Hosta of the Year.

Most garden centers will have hostas available all through the season, but the early shoppers will always get the choice varieties.  If you snooze, you might just lose. Stay safe and keep on gardening!

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at sunnysidenursery@msn.com.

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