one hosta per customer, but which one?

hosta-sagaeI GOT TO PAGE 67 IN THE PLANT DELIGHTS CATALOG last night, the first of eight pages of Hosta entries from Tony Avent, Chief Hosta Officer of contemporary horticulture. I was going to allow myself one new hosta this year, but which one? There are now almost 6,000 cultivars in commerce, hosta honcho Tony says, but, “of these, probably 500 actually are distinct and garden-worthy.” Which one can’t you live without, or wish you lived with (perhaps fluctuans ‘Variegated,’ aka ‘Sagae,’  above)?

My clump of ‘Sagae,’ whose highly textural, blue-green foliage is suffused with a warm cream from the edges splashing inward, is probably 3 or 4 feet across now, heading for a maximum of about 6. This is a statement plant: big, bold, beautiful, about 30 inches tall. I treasure it, and was glad to be affirmed in my judgment by the CHO, Tony, who calls ‘Sagae’, the “finest and most dramatic variegated hosta ever introduced.”

Another personal must-have would be ‘June’ (above), the month of my birth and also one beautiful hosta. I have to describe it as not just blue but nearly turquoise in spring, the creamy yellow centers heating up to chartreuse against a vivid blue. I’ve found ‘June’ to be a strong grower, clumping up to about 3 feet across, and have made numerous divisions from my original plants.  As summer heats up, the ‘June’ foliage darkens to deep blue with medium green here, but it’s good-looking in that combination, too.

hosta-june.jpg‘June’ is a key element for me in underplanting under deciduous trees and shrubs in my garden, a good partner at perhaps 15 inches tall with Hakonechloa ‘All Gold,’ among many other things.

And then of course I need an all-gold hosta as a filler in such mosaics…and the old-but-good, vase-shaped big blue hosta ‘Krossa Regal’ for my big pots (yes, Hosta pot, why not?), and…you can see where this is going.

So tell me: Which hosta would it be, if it were only one per customer?

Hosta Sources:

  1. Judy says:

    I just finished a Master Gardner program and the lecturer for herbaceous plants recommends hosta sieboldiana elegans, because it is one that slugs don’t find so delicious. Glad to hear Margaret that it grows fast and divides well. I have many hostas from friends, but don’t know what they are called. It will be nice to get one that I can share with them.

  2. Alan Casteel says:

    I am wanting a empress wu but i would like to have one with 10 or 15 eyes instead of just 1 or 2 eyes could you email me back to see how much it would cost I’m the type who likes to have a large clump so it will be bigger I have about 300 hostas and 76 japanese maples I like to buy with a lot of eyes I’m the type who can’t wait 5 or 10 years to wait instead of a small 1 to 3 eyes I would like a large clump. thanks

  3. margaret says:

    Welcome, Alan. Apparently ‘Empress Wu’ gets to 4-6 feet across in 5 years from a nursery plant, I have read, so maybe you won’t have to wait that long…or you could buy 3 to start, plant them as if one big clump and get there faster. :)

  4. Pixie says:

    We’re in USDA Hardiness Zone 8B -coast of southernmost SC. I’ve been told that hostas don’t “do well” here, but would really like to add some to some shady areas of our garden – under the liveoaks. Any suggestions for varieties that might perform better here? I enjoy all the information you share with us!

  5. fallsvillagegardener says:

    Aren’t hostas also know as “deer candy”? I’d love to plant them, but everyone in my neck of the woods says i’ll be heart broken because the deer eat them.

  6. Brenda says:

    June is my favorite – looks good all season, slugs leave it along, the flower stalks age gracefully, etc.

    Blue Mouse Ears is a nice small blue gray for close-up viewing.

    Striptease is always so clean looking and distinctive from so many variegated ones.

    I could go on, but you said just one. . . .

  7. Jules says:

    Kind friends gave me hostas this year. They are safe from deer, but were hammered by hail in June, and munched on by slugs later….now they look a bit “lacey”. They’re alive, but not spreading. I know they’re tough customers, but will they come back next year?

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Jules. Don’t worry one bit. The roots are probably busy digging in despite the havoc up top and all will be just fine. I have had them gnawed to the ground by deer (in the early years, pre-fence here) and they just came back anyhow. I forecast a happy hosta year next year for you. :)

    1. Margaret says:

      @BRenda: I have no idea. I say say-gay, but I don’t think that’s correct. The only site I know for pronounciation of Japanese hosta names is this one, where they say it’s sah – gah – eh. Have a read at that link.

  8. Hubert says:

    My favorite hosta is Blue Mouse Ears (Deckert) – a nice blue one – and so nice and neat, described as: Very thick small round blue leaves, a Hosta with a different appearance.
    But let’s face the facts: There are so many really different, beautiful Hostas, that it’s fun to have a well chosen collection of hostas. So Blue Mouse Ears biggest advantage is: it’s so small that there is enough place left to put there some other small ones.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Hubert, and yes, small is better when one has a large appetite. :) ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ is a sweet thing; glad you mentioned it. Hope to see you soon again.

  9. Patricia says:

    This is a subject near and dear to my heart since I ran a hosta tissue culture lab for 20 years and introduced a number myself. My last introduction was ‘First Frost’ which is actually named Hosta of the Year for 2010 I’m so pleased to say! It is a beauty from the hosta ‘Halycon’ – the reverse of ‘June’ – yellow edge and blue-green center – a real stunner if I do say so myself!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Patricia. ‘June’ is definitely my favorite…or maybe… :) Congratulations on getting the big honor with your introduction…no small feat with so many hostas in commerce and new ones coming all the time. Must be a great plant…I am going looking. See you soon!

  10. Patricia says:

    Thanks Margaret! Wanted to add my favorites to the list. There is going to be a new and improved (sigh!) version of ‘First Frost’ out very soon called ‘Blue Ivory’ that has a wider edge. Walter’s Gardens is actually introducing this one and I have a small plant of it. I do think it’s going to be lovely. I love the whole “mouse” series but I’m excited about a brand new one called ‘Blueberry Waffle’ that should be out very soon because I do love the big, crinkly, VERY blue ones. By the way, I love your website. I only found it recently and have already tracked down several plants that I wasn’t aware of that you’ve recommended and look forward to your e-mails with great anticipation! I live down here in North Carolina, very close to Plant Delights, so our plant choices vary some from yours but many do just fine down here in the south. I’m also a huge hellebore fan and never fail to add hellebores each spring from Tony and the Tyler’s at Pine Knot Nursery.

  11. Rosie says:

    It’s a beautiful day to be outside gardening in the spring sunshine but I’m inside with a bad cold – what’s a gardener to do? Surf the ‘net’ for gardening topics of course!

    While Googling for ‘Blueberry Waffles’ I came across this page and the question intrigued me. I’ve read all the postings and have all the hostas mentioned plus hundreds more.

    My question is – could I keep my ‘Empress Wu’, ‘Amos’, ‘Dorothy Benedict’, ‘Gunther’s Prize’, the whole Mouse Ears Family, my Olga hostas, my Indiana Bob hostas, my Bev and Dave hostas, my Brian and Virginia hostas, my Hosta College gift hostas, my convention gift hostas, the ‘Blueberry Waffles’ that I already have on order for first thing next spring from the TC lab, and the hosta I hybridized myself and named for my grandmother and go on from there – or – would I have to give them all back and only have one hosta in my garden?

    I wouldn’t even have to think about it, if I could only have one plant I would keep my ‘Anna Blanton Goff’ – the plant I named for the lady who gave me my first piece of hosta 59 years ago when I was 5 years old.

    I could only have one hosta what would I do to occupy my time? How would I spend my $$$?

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Rosie. I think at this stage we have to give you a special exemption from the “choose 1 only” thing — you are already too far around the bend for that! :) I like that even your cold cannot keep you away from plants, if only virtually. Nice to meet you.

  12. ginabuffum says:

    June, First Frost, Undulata, all my favorites. Also, Bob Solberg comes to Knoxville to our Hosta Society sale, and talks about hybridizing. He publishes The Green Hill Gossip, a newspaper and catalog. He is located in Franklinton, NC. Interesting man…American Hosta Society is in Nashville next month……June 13th-16th…..

  13. Linda says:

    I just planted my first little garden of 8 hostas in zone 3, so these comments were so fun to read. I love all the plants I chose, but my favorite one so far is the Sum and Substance. It looks like such a strong, proud plant. Has anyone ever heard of the “Humpback Whale” ?

    1. margaret says:

      I have not, Linda, but looking it up now I see it’s blue and giant and sold widely…so I bet you could adopt one. :)

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