Here's last week's Kirkus post, and I've added a giveaway to it. Check here for Susan's take on Felder Rushing's Slow Gardening.
Hostas—not the most exciting plant, but gardeners who have to deal with heavy soil, part-to-full shade, and aggressive tree roots know their value. They easily thrive under these difficult conditions to form a lush green carpet, punctuated in mid-summer by more or less attractive flowering spears. In my area of the world, I would say with confidence that hostas, daylilies, and rudbeckias are among our top 5 go-to plants.
And I imagine most gardeners know how many hostas are available. Hundreds. Maybe thousands. The temptation is to buy one of each—green with white stripes, blue with yellow blotches, thick-leaved, thin-leaved, scented or non—and mix them all together. Such mixing works pretty well with daylilies, but with most hostas, it’s just a big hot mess (I know because I’ve tried it). The plants are different heights with different leaf-spans, and it just doesn’t work.
This is where the new small hostas come in. Small, very small, and miniature varieties of hostas are easily collectable, and collectability is important for the obsessive gardener. Breeders have been creating small hostas since the 70s, but according to Kathy Guest Shadrack and Michael Shadrack, authors of The Book of Little Hostas (Timber, 2010), interest became strong in 1996, with the introduction of ‘Pandora’s Box,’ a white variety with a feathered blue-green margin. Now, dozens of tiny hostas are introduced every year.
Little hostas are perfect to group together in containers, or for a small alpine bed—a rock garden for shade. They look great all mixed up, as long as they are well-spaced, perhaps interplanted with some interesting ground covers and mulches. Another affinity is with hypertufa containers—bowls and troughs you can create yourself out of peat, cement, and perlite. The Shadracks own a creekside property south of Buffalo that has several acres of perennial gardens, including one devoted to small hostas. It also has, closer to the house, some groupings of hypertufa containers filled with shade plants—ferns and begonias as well as hostas.
The Book of Little Hostas includes a listing of 200 plants, as well as information on how to choose, grow, place, and get them through the winter. It’s useful and beautifully illustrated, but the book is only part of the story. Kathy and Michael Shadrack are among America’s most amusing and informative gardening personalities. Mike, a former London Bobby and longtime hosta expert, met Kathy on a visit to Western New York and found that in order for the relationship to work, he’d have to move to the U.S. So he did, and the two united their plant obsessions to continue writing and create one of the area’s most visited private gardens. The Shadracks frequently lecture, both separately and apart. Catch them if you can—find out how at www.smugcreekgardens.com.
I'll give a copy of this book away to a random commenter, so let's hear how you feel about hostas, small or otherwise! The drawing wil take place tomorrow (Friday) at 5 EST.