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Re: hostas of course

  • Subject: Re: hostas of course
  • From: halinar@open.org
  • Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2003 22:37:37 -0700

Chris:

>So we are all out there buying TC's for cheap money. What are we 
>getting.   Admittedly  there are some hostas that retained their 
>qualities in TC but not all.

Using TC for propagating hostas produces lots of hostas cheaply, but 
it is becoming obvious that many hostas just do not easily propagate 
true to type.  The TC plants are sent out as very small plants, but it 
can take another year or two to figure out if the plants you have are 
true to type.  However, there is also another problem.  Many people 
who buy the TC starters place them into gallon pots or maybe smaller 
pots and then move then up to gallon pots and all of this is being 
done by minimum wage labors who are being supervised by people who 
don't really know anything about hostas.  To them the hosta in the pot 
is a plant to be sold.  When you look at these pots in the garden 
centers you are impressed because they are loaded with fans.  I 
recently saw some gallon pots of Wide Brim that had 10-12 fans each, 
for $4.95.  When the average garden puts these into the garden the 
plants are already way overcrowded.  

The problem with propagating true to type hostas isn't limited to TC 
plants.  If you push standard techniques to the limit you can get just 
as many off types as with TC.  Francee and Whirwind are particularly 
difficult to maintain.  If you keep isolating the "off types" you can 
eventually select out some superior types.  For example, I have 
several selections of Francee that are larger, have wider edges and 
look a bit like Patriot.  I also have some Patriots that I've been 
selecting and reselecting and now have two plants that probably 
qualify as being different enough to register.  I have a selection of 
Whirlwind that isn't as twisted as the normal form, but I have so many 
other off types that I don't know what to do with.  

Hostas sports that are simple histogenic layer switiching are easy to 
understand, but I think there are two things happening with these 
other off types.  Some times when you are propagating hostas you will 
find a plant that is clearly different.  However, other times you look 
at the plants and see something a little different, but maybe not easy 
to see.  If you take these plants and keep propagating them you will 
eventually end up with a plant that looks similar to the original 
plant, but otherwise be superior - maybe the substance is better or 
the edge is wider.

It's my feeling that some hostas sport slowly and it's necessary to 
keep reselcting to stablize these plants.  When we do this by 
traditional hosta propagation techniques we can pick out superior 
forms.  However, when hostas are TCed they are repeatly put back into 
TC.  At a certain stage of development it may be possible to see that 
they are off types and a honest propagator will discard them, but many 
off types may not be easy to detect.  This is where I think some of 
these weak growers are coming from.  

These sports, other then the histogenic layer switching, are propably 
the result of transposible elements jumping around.  It's my belief 
that some of these transposible elements jump to locations that cause 
a significent change, but other transposible elements move about in 
such a way that they don't have a dramatic effect.  If you don't pay 
attention to these changes you can easily end up with off types and 
these off types are then propagated by other people who don't know 
they have off types.  

Joe Halinar

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