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RE: A Hosta Plea

  • Subject: RE: A Hosta Plea
  • From: "Andrew Lietzow" <alietzow@myfamily.com>
  • Date: 1 Feb 2004 18:17:58 -0700

Glen and list, 
You struck a nerve and woke everyone up!   The snow gives gardeners a welcomed respite.  I always hate to sse the Hosta begin to die back but by Christmas time, I'm glad they are taking a nap so that I can, too.   Then, when a post of interest comes along, we actually have time to read the content!  

RE:>>There are just too many hostas being introduced each year, too little serious evaluation.  
Personally, I'd like to see more hybridizers make an effort to patent their plants.  Now that I've said that, I really don't know why, but the concept sounds good on its face.    

RE:>>I am now behind in my yearly fix for hostas by 3 or 4 years and this is a very good thing. 
When I first began to recognize that I had run out of new Hosta space on my city lot of 8,250 SF, it was rather sad.  After the initial withdrawal symptoms were dealt with, I discovered I can be more selective in purchases, and that I have more time to devote to arranging plants into the landscape for enhanced appeal.  And, for those who have acres of room to spread plants all over, they don't appreciate the challenge of the small city lot.   I think it's much harder to make plants look good in a small space than if you have several acres.  

This is, of course, much work now that I many plants that are 10+ years in the same spot.  Some become anchor plants that can be worked around,  while others simply HAVE to be moved because I stuck them in an entirely wrong place in the beginning.  
Fortunately, because I've gone on so many tours in the last few years, I've learned a lot about what can be accomplished on a smaller lot with 300+ varieties.  My mentor, Russ O'Harra, did this so well.  There is lot that can be learned from studying his garden and those who would garden on a postage stamp.      

One of the biggest benefits of slowing down is that I have begun to discover that there are many "wimps" that require entirely too much care--I don't want to grow Hybrid Tea Roses, I want to grow Hostas that are robust specimens who convince me, and visitors, that this is a greatest genus of plants on earth.   I can't offer my entire yard as an infirmary so the wimps have to go!  

I've also begun doing something most unusual--I'm now watering my plants.  :-)  Years ago I remember Kevin Walek saying, "we're not giving our Hostas enough water, in the spring in particular" and I thought to myself, "now there is a novel idea--actually applying artificial (reliable) rain to the garden"!  Oh, I wasn't quite that stupid, but after visiting gardens like those of Ed Elslager, and reading about/hearing about how much water he applies to his garden, a light came on.  I'm hoping the new irrigation system will bare great fruit this spring.  I wouldn't have time for this detail if I was still in the addiction stage.  

I have visited the gardens of Andrew and Kay Munger, in Kalamazoo, MI, twice.  I know that this is not a Conifer list (their gardens are awesome more for the conifers than the Hostas, though the Hosta are nice, too), but if you've never been to their gardens I highly recommend a tour.  I think they Conifer people are probably complaining about too many new introductions, as well, but subtle differences are worth noting.  

The point is that I have finally discovered that I am in a constant state of evolution as a gardener.  I know many of us on this list are, as well.   I try to enjoy ALL phases, yet it seems that whatever phase I am in at the moment is the one that I am enjoying the most!    Ain't it great?     

I am content to have spent the most time ever this past summer performing some planned crosses; repositioning plants into the landscape for enhanced viewing pleasure, learning about hardscape, and about those very basic gardening details--soil, water, nutrients and microclimates.   With luck and if God taries, I may just figure out how to grow Hostas yet!  

It all takes lots of resources--time, effort, and money.  Yet, Glen, because you have slowed up the rate of collecting, you have found more time to work on enjoying the hobby more thoroughly, and begun sharing the fruits of your labors (your own seed bank, e.g.).  So, IMO, you are wise to be 3-4 years behind on your collecting addiction.  

So, while there is not much one can do to slow the escalation in the numbers of not-so-unique Hostas, there remains lots we can do to learn to appreciate the ones we already have, and to promote the classics while we ferret out the worthwhile up-and-comers.    I, like you, am a bit frustrated by the dirth of new ones, but can we deny folks the joy of registering a "new" cultivar just because their new plant isn't really all that new?   The market will figure out whether the plant is truely ad worthwhile addition.   

Fortunately, there will never be an end to the need for good hybridization efforts.  In fact, I think we've only begun to scratch the surface on what can be accomplished.   We haven't even named the genes, isolated them in sequences, or done much if anything to create GMO's.  Wouldn't it be great to be able to splice in a gene that promotes nematode resistance?  (HS1/HS2?), or resistance to slugs?   Or to have some red blooms?  Ran--when do you think you're going to get this done?   I can hardly wait to add such a plant into my Ran Lydell tribute bed!!!  

These are the plants that are in our future and well worth pursuing, IMO.   They won't get lost in the shuffle of megalab TC production, and the rush to market of too many wimpy plants.     

RE:>>Thank God there is no red hosta YET.
Here you beg the question, "Why"?   

Great post.  Ciao, 

Andrew in Des Moines, where we're supposed to receive 9 lovely inches of the white stuff in the next 24 hours. 

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