Hosta 'Lakeside Dragonfly'
Hostas are the grandes dames of the garden, but even these stately ladies occasionally need to be organized. Now is the perfect time to take control of the shade-loving divas and make them a bit neater with more room to breathe.
Mature plants, five years or older, are hellish to split up, but take heart. As soon as you see their little snouts coming out of the soil, find the help you will need and do the following.
Transplant shovels with long dishes will help make things a bit easier, but the longer you leave hostas alone, the heavier they become. Even though it's possible to divide them up almost any time during the growing season, spring is the easiest period for this chore.
Approach the plant from two sides (this is where the need for help comes in): Plunge the shovels into the ground so that you get below the root systems and lift the complete plant out of the hole. Count three to five eyes – the little snouty points – for a division. Make sure you have a prepared hole for the new plants with lots of compost added for a good new start.
If this is too cumbersome, leave half the plant in situ, and whack the other half into two to three pieces. Once out of the ground, I use a big bread knife to cut them but anything sharp will do; try not to be anthropomorphic. Add the new plants to a border or give them away.
The latter is my preference because I
like to acquire new hostas. But watch it, collecting them can become an obsession.
Hosta ('Lakeside Dragonfly') is a gorgeous new cultivar with an unusual painterly streaked leaf. In some plants this can mean the form is unstable, but it doesn't seem true in this case. It would be a great addition to a container or in a border. It grows 45 centimetres high (with another 30 cm taking in the stalk – or scape – plus the bloom) to 60 to 75 cm wide. Take width seriously with hostas. All the little nubs you see coming out of the soil are called eyes. Each eye supports several leaves so give them the right amount of space.
Hostas are incredibly forgiving plants. They will grow in shade and do best in high-filtered light but, in many cases, will stand intense blasts of sun. They grow from Zone 3 to Zone 8 (but only in shade). Ideal soil has lots of organic matter but they will grow in the worst crap we can dish out – not happily or with great beauty – but they will survive.
If you mulch them, dreaded slugs will come. Little nibbles in the bottom of a hosta leaf are a giveaway. Scratch mulch away and kill slugs one at a time with foot stomping. (Using commercial slug bait may add poison to a passing bird's diet, therefore scatter crushed eggshells or Bacillus thuringiensis around a plant in early spring to keep the slugs at bay). Alternatively look for hostas with rugose or deeply textured foliage which these animals don't like.
Hostas look marvelous alongside other shade plants such as Ligularia ('Britt Marie Crawford'), almost any fern and Hakonochloa macra ('Aureola'), Japanese Hedge grass. In a container just leave them on their own but keep them out of hot sun. With regular watering, hostas will reward you with blooms that attract hummingbirds and other lovely animals and help create a healthy garden.
Find Hosta 'Lakeside Dragonfly' at John's Garden in Uxbridge, Ont. (www.facebook.com/johnsgardeninuxbridge), where it retails for $17 (two gallon). For more plant information, go to marjorieharris.com.