Collecting hostas

Collecting Hostas


A plant genus with several thousands of cultivars, most of them pretty and easy to care for, is a genus that simply begs to collect it.

More and more people, everywhere around the globe in the moderate climate zones get under the hosta spell.

In this topic, I'll share some of my thoughts on collecting hostas with you.  I hope you can put them to good use.

Elements to take into account when collecting hostas

You can't have them all

With thousands of registered en unregistered cultivars, and a couple of hundreds of new ones to add every year, it is simply impossible to bring them all together in one vast collection.

I time, money and space isn't an object, you could try to collect as many as possible.  personally I have a problem in all three areas, bur it seems like a lot (a whole lot) of fun.

The time factor

Taking good care of your hostas is easy, but it takes a lot of time anyway.

That's why I think it's a sound idea not to let your collection grow too big too fast.  If you do anyway, there probably will come a time you'll neglect part or the whole of your collection for some time.  The plants won't thrive the way they used to and you will be less motivated to keep occupied with hostas and put the situation right again.

Therefore, IMHO it is much wiser to give a smaller collection the best care possible.

The space factor

Hostas grow, and given appropriate care, they will do so very fast.  From starters, a plant should be given the space it will require as a mature specimen, not the just the room it takes up when you buy it.  In a small city garden you can of course collect giant hostas, but your "collection" will be limited to about 4 plants or so.  More and more hosta addicts specialize in small and mini hostas nowadays.

The money factor

The majority of hostas in general have become more affordable over the past years.  Still a lot of exclusive cultivars carry a stiff price tag.

When dealing with a brand new TC introduction, you can bet on it the price will drop sharply the following years.  In this case, if you're on a limited budget, it good practice to postpone your purchase for some time.

Other hostas are and will forever stay exclusive and expensive.  Some collectors specialize in those rarities.  If you want to take this road, you'll have to find a sound balance between the number of plants you acquire and the budget you're willing to spend.

What else do you want to do besides simply collecting hostas ?

Integrate hostas in your garden - landscaping

If, like I, you want to make your hosta collection part of your landscaping plans, it's necessary to take this into account from day 1, something I didn't do I'm ashamed to confess.

My wife and I prefer a peaceful, shady garden, without too many bright and flashy colors.  During the first years of hosta collecting, I bought them in all shapes, sizes and colors, simple everything that was pleasing to me at the time, one of each cultivar.  Over the last year I've tried to give all of them a good place in my garden plan, without success.  It just doesn't work.

Trying to figure out what I could do to end this landscapers nightmare, I decided to go for a collection of single colored plants from now on.  These will be used in the landscaping plan.  The variegated bunch will gets it's own space, where they will be displayed as a collection.  A few of them - the superb ones - will end op in the landscape as focal points and showstoppers.

Breeding your very own cultivars

If the hybridizing thing is your cup of tea, you'll have to make some crucial decisions in advance: will your cultivar(s) be large,  medium, mini, variegated, single colored, with nice red stems (or even red leaves ?).

Whatever you decide, you'll need to get the right base material to achieve your objectives.  First you need to figure out (through the internet and other means) what the stuff is the specialists use, which plants have already been used as a parent very (too) often.  There is no point in creating H. 'Neat Splash' offspring # 100, nor yet another H. 'Elegans' look-alike.

If you go the variegated way, the price for great base material will be quite high.

Taking into account the facts that I'm going for single colored hostas and that I very keen on hybridizing, I decided to go for the great single colored, perfect shaped hosta.  There is still some major progress possible in this area I  believe.  I don't have a clear picture yet where to start and what exactly I'd like to achieve (and even if I did - this isn't the time nor the place to tell the world.

Don't underestimate the space required for your sowing experiments: it can take a couple of years to evaluate a new plant. Even the ones that will have to go eventually need their space during a couple of years. Try to do some major culling as soon as possible: everything that doesn't meet your standard should go.

E.g.: your aim is to get plants with an extremely white backed leaf.  This is a characteristic that shows fairly early.  Everything not white enough from the start will never get any whiter: rip it out.

Be creative

A collection with its own character or theme, unique in its composition, has a greater presence than the average collection.  Take a decision - rather sooner than later - which way you want to go with your collection, find your own original approach.  As the years go by you will gather a valuable collection with an exclusive aura.

Do not follow trends or fashions, because in a couple of years this will result in you having the same collection as the guy next door.  Follow your own mind, even if it doesn't seem to be the most attractive choice to others at the present time.