The opinions, remembrances, reflections, and wisdom of the mother of five homeschooled children as the last one leaves the nest and the ranks of the grandchildren begin to grow.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Hostas, Hostas, and Hostas
I think I have to admit that I have an obsession with hostas. Until I moved to Palos Heights and experienced shade from real trees, I never knew what a hosta was. My obsession with these plants began slowly. My yard was surrounded by trees and we could barely get anything to grow. My children’s piano teacher, Carol Miller, had a beautiful garden that she and her husband tended to religiously. It was in that garden, while waiting for the lessons to be over, that I became acquainted with hostas. Just like most folks in Palos, the Millers had quite a few trees and had to cultivate their garden with that in mind. Carol had some monster hostas under her trees and when they had reached the size of small bushes, she and her husband dug them up and split them in thirds. The extras were sitting in her yard in plastic bags. She practically begged me to take them if I could find a place for them. And thus it began.
I lined the back of my lot with these beauties, the proper names of which, I do not know. They quickly doubled in size and I was proud that I could finally grow something in the shade. Little did I know that my hostas represented just one cultivar of maybe hundreds.
As time went by, the trees that lined the back of my property were cut down (scrub trees – nothing worth saving) to make way for new houses. This left me with something entirely unfamiliar – sunshine. I spent that summer digging out my hostas and moving them to the still shady corners of my lot. I replaced them with coneflowers, wild phlox, gloriosa daisy, and lilies from a catalog. What fun. I also ordered some fancy-looking hostas from Spring Hill for those still grassless places under the oaks
As my penchant for gardening increased, I was no longer satisfied with grooming – in a wild sort of way – my own property and then began expanding out into the adjacent, city-owned lot which was a tangle of every invasive European plant known to frustrated forest-preservers in the area. My neighbor on the other side of this lot, which was intended to be a side-street way back in 1954, was also grooming this thicket now that our children were growing and not interested in building “forts” and exploring. Slowly, fern by fern, hosta by hosta, lily by lily, we pushed back against the invasive buckthorn and mustard garlic. We had almost met in the middle when our city offered the lot for sale to each of us for $1 per square foot. Louise and I were so excited. Our husbands – not so much. This meant we were now the proud owners of 12 oak, 1 ash, and 3 mulberry/cherry trees between us.
Undaunted, Louise and I plowed full steam ahead. We have since eliminated the weeds and undergrowth. We spend an ungodly amount of time moving plants around in order to get just the right plant in the right spot to take advantage of what little sun gets through the canopy. Which brings me back to hostas. After a visit to my sister-in- law’s heavenly garden in Rockford, I discovered that there is a whole world of hosta varieties out there that I had never imagined. I had never seen such odd and beautiful types of plaintains before and since I could not be traveling up to the Rockford area nurseries to buy these, I started looking online and guess what I found? I found http://www.bridgewoodgardens.com/.
This website is for me what seed catalogs are for gardeners who have sunlight.
Their Home Page carries a warning which I think was written with me in mind:
A warning to casual Hosta users:
Many of us, when we first started using Hostas, thought we could stop whenever we wanted. What begins as casual experimentation can quickly develop into a serious addiction. If you find that you actually want to know the differences between ‘Inniswood’ and ‘Paul’s Glory’, if you tell your spouse that you paid less than you really did for a new introduction, but brag to other gardeners that you paid more, or if you no longer care what your spouse thinks, you need help.
Help is available from Bridgewood Gardens, a nursery that specializes in caring for gardeners afflicted with Hostas.
In 2007 I ordered my first batch of different varieties which means those 24 plants are now almost fully mature. All survived and I have just received my second shipment. It is the middle of May, it's still cold and rainy, and just as soon as the warmth returns, I will lose myself in my garden, arranging and rearranging my hostas.