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Rocks and Water on the Mountain


About four weeks ago Claire Peplowski and John Lanier were commenting on
their rocks and water in their hosta gardens in New York and North
Carolina and the steepness of their mountain slopes. When many people
were at the Hosta Convention, I made a three day trip to visit John. So
this post is to add more information specifically on John's garden. I
took John some hostas from my garden to add to the 450 or so diferent
cultivars he has planted in his.

John and Laura Lanier built their beautiful new retirement home on a
steep five acre plot of land in Yancey County near Burnsville, just a
few miles north of Ashville. It is situated about 3500 feet altitude on
the slopes of a steep mountain which reaches another 1500 feet skyward.
When I say slope, I'm talking about 45  to 60 degrees in many spots. For
example, in some places in his garden, John had to tie a rope to himself
at one end and a tree at the other as he planted hostas with one hand
and a foot.

In only four years, John and Laura have made a paradise of their home
and garden containing more than 450 different kinds of hostas plus
hundreds of different companion plants. Hostas are in mass plantings
often of  one kind, in drifts, curved rows, tucked in rocks, edging the
borders, in contoured bed surrounded by rocks of all kinds, shapes and
sizes...some as big as a truck and sunk halfway into the mountain;
others rounded by erosion and tucked into rock walls here and there. And
water???Springs and creeks galore but all are intelligently diverted
into natural channels to provide a good combination of drainage and
adequate air in the soil. There is constant and uniform moisture in the
high organic soil which results in beautiful growth of hostas as well as
other companion plants grown in varying amounts of light under tall
trees of many native hardwood species..

John's location is near the top of three adjacent mountains which create
a natural barrier of windflow at about 5000 feet. This directs the
prevailing winds which are often moisture laden, into escape channels
between the mountains. The physical topography serves like venturies
which speed up the flow of air, compressing it, condensing the moisture
and creating clouds and beautiful mist-like rain which drifts down into
the decending slopes on the sides of the mountain. This represents a
virtually perfect environment with cooler temperatures, high humidity,
high rainfall and almost constantly moist soils, rich in organic matter,
with excellent drainage. I consider this natural environment to be
almost perfect for most hostas. It probably is very similar to many
similar environments in Japan where hostas thrive.

Besides working in his wonderful garden, John occupies his waking hours
with his tissue culture lab. He has been culturing hostas for many years
now and has become a real expert. He is considered Mr. Clean by his
friends. Shoes must be removed when entering the house...not just
Laura's rule, but more John's to keep the lab spotlessly clean of
sources of contamination.His combination of three car garage, where he
grows propagules under lights on shelves...and his new greenhouse where
he overwinters and begins or maintains growth of hostas out of season,
is all the facilities he needs to grow thousands of new, rare, hostas
for a few contract nursery people. John knows his stuff and it shows.
But you will never find John unless he wants you to find him Can you
imagine30 or so homesteads up Skillet Lick Road which  is only a mile or
so in length, extending up into a protected cove between three
mountains?. John may seem lost but he has found his paradise in the
steep mountains of Western North Carolina...rocks, water, trees, soil,
hostas  and all.

His Friend Jim

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