Hosta Catalogs

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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If you're looking for a hardy, easy-to-grow, low maintenance, adaptable perennial with texture and character, flip through a hosta catalog. Native to China, Korea, and Japan, hosta thrive in a maritime climate. You'll find 40 species of this member of the lily family and hundreds upon hundreds of varieties. By and large, most cultivars bask in dappled sunlight, need cooler rather than warmer temperatures, and thrive in moist organic soil.

A Hosta Sampler

While hosta do of course flower--usually in bottlebrush or trumpet-like blooms, in colors from white to lavender--they are grown (and prized) more often than not for their foliage. Among the convenient (but not altogether technically accurate) categories are the blues, the golds, the greens, and the white and gold variegateds. The edging varieties are those growing to less than 12 inches, just as the background cultivars are those that reach in the 24-inch range. A third category includes the fragrant hosta, which bloom later than their many cousins.

Among the blues is the colorfully named Abiqua Drinking Gourd, which tops out about 18 to 20 inches and spreads about four feet. Its deeply cupped leaves are nearly round, and its near-white flowers bloom just after the summer solstice. Another popular blue is the tiny edging plant Bluebeard, which reaches only six inches and blooms in late summer. The Brigadier is an ideal background plant, reaching 28 inches high and as many as five feet in diameter, with very broad and smoothly surfaced leaves.

Emily Dickinson, Aphrodite, and Mistress Mabel figure among the fragrant cultivars. The Emily Dickinson is one of the few hosta that are both variegated and fragrant. The Aphrodite tolerates full sun better than many varieties, grows to two feet in height, and features double pure white blooms in August. About the same time, Mistress Mabel, which grows to 17 inches, features its creamy white flowers.

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