Mike Shadrack calls this (and below) his “Octopus’s Garden in the
Shade,” but he also refers to it as using hostas as alpines. Neither of these playful descriptions is quite correct—there’s no octopus and Shadrack lives perched above a
creek, not on a mountaintop.
All the same, I am intrigued by his treatment of miniature
hostas. Mini hostas are all the rage now, in case you hadn’t heard. It’s the
opposite of how we grow them on my street—which is thick, gigantic, and tightly
planted. Shadrack, however, is a hosta specialist who has written several authoritative books on the topic. We visited his creekside garden south
of Buffalo last weekend—a first for everyone, including me.
Now, I do like hostas. I have to; I have dry shade and heavy
clay soil. But it’s hard to get really excited about them the way I would about
hellebores, erythronium, actaea, or other plants that might take the same
conditions, not to mention plants I can’t grow at all like delphinium, poppies,
and lupines. So far, I have been using hostas in thick profusion of much the
same varieties—usually sieboldiana and its hybrids. But what if I created a
rock garden in the shade like Mike? (What if, indeed. This is what the phrase
“Don’t try this at home” was created for.)
All I need is for someone to get me excited about
impatiens and I’ll never say an unkind word about my maple trees again.