A Masterclass in Growing Hostas

When Robert Barlow came to talk to Ticknall Garden Club in May he told a familiar story of an enthusiastic gardener’s interest in a particular plant developing into an all-consuming passion that has taken over his life. That plant was the popular perennial the hosta. Within twenty years he has amassed a collection of over 4,000 plants of 350 varieties. He was therefore well qualified to give an interested audience a masterclass in their cultivation.

Hostas grow well in Britain as they originate from the same latitude in Asia. Grown mainly for their foliage as flowers are fairly insignificant they can find a place in any garden. They will grow in most soils expect chalky or sandy. They are frost hardy and need little attention apart from a little feeding and mulching. They will grow well in pots or the open garden and appreciate some shade. The wide variety of leaf colour and size means there are plants to suit everyone. The recent surge in miniature varieties has endeared the plant to a new generation of hosta lovers.

Propagation is done by splitting the roots in Spring or Autumn. Seed is hard to germinate and does not replicate but some interesting results can come from it.

They are not prone to disease or pests except for the dreaded scourge of slugs and snails which give rise to the only too familiar sight of shredded leaf skeletons in Autumn.

Robert ran through the now all too familiar suggestions for limiting slug damage. Removing dead leaves and encouraging natural predators is essential. Traps with beer or sugar solution; barriers of coffee grounds, wet newspaper, garlic water and cat litter can be effective. Nematodes are also worthwhile trying. He uses organic slug pellets regularly from February 14th onwards and ensures safety by putting 20 in a jam jar on its side near the plants.

Robert Barlow’s final surprise in his informative talk was the news that the young leaves of the hosta can be eaten and in Japan are a delicacy coming under the name of urui.

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