Late bloomer toughs out summer heat

Whereas hostas are grown primarily for their spectacular foliage, I look forward to the blooms that are  usually set in early summer; and, even though the ones growing in our garden are late bloomers, it is worth the wait, for just as the foliage begins to show signs of summer heat distress, tall but strong stalks rise from the clumps, each topped with whorls of huge flower buds.  Once the pure white flowers open, the sight and smell is beyond words. Furthermore, the buds open in succession, so the show goes on for a good while. In fact, as I am preparing this column, the fully mature buds are ready to open anytime now, ending the wait soon.

Perhaps one of the most popular perennials for a shade garden, hostas are prized for their magnificent foliage which comes in many, many shades of green, as well as those of blue, and from plain to variegated. One can grow them to line a border, around trees or in containers. And, since lots of different varieties are available in the market these days, a gardener has a number of options to incorporate them in the landscape. A nice resource to lean upon, if in a fix as to which ones to start with, is the list of the recipients of the ‘Hosta of the Year’ award given each year by the Amercan Hosta Grower’s Association. For example, this years’ winner is called ‘Liberty’; for 2011, it was ‘Praying Hands, for 2010 ‘First Frost’, for 2009 ‘Earth Angel’ and ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ was the selected for 2008. For those who like to plan ahead, ‘Rainforest Sunrise’ has been declared as the ‘Hosta of the Year’ for 2013. While I haven’t had the honor of growing all the award winners, I do have in a pot the ‘Blue Mouse Ears’, a delightful pint sized hosta with bluish-green foliage.

Hostas are easy to grow. But, to know pretty much all there is to know about this versatile yet gorgeous perennial, a great book to refer is edited and compiled by Paul Aden, aptly titled the The Hosta Book. Equipped with details to educate a beginner or an expert, the book has several pages of colored pictures along with descriptions of the varieties recommended. For the benefit of not only the gardeners but flower arrangers as well, the author has gone a step further in including a whole chapter – illustrations and all – on using the leaves and blooms to create very artistic designs. However, if getting involved in this art does not appeal to you, just grab an ordinary vase, throw in a handful of leaves and there you have it: a simple but elegant arrangement everyone will rave about!

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