A cool, wet start to May has been just what the hostas ordered. Plants in our London garden are emerging lush and leafy, so far untroubled by slugs and snails. The latter are notable by their absence, but I refrain from commenting too loudly lest they hear me and come slithering back. I believe it may be thanks to the increasing number of garden birds which we are attracting, including wrens, tits, robins, blackbirds, starlings, jays, magpies and wood pigeons.
After a minor spending spree with Bowdens Hostas at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show, we now have a total of fourteen different cultivars in our small garden. They are mostly planted in clumps of three in the ground or in large pots; go for larger drifts of five or seven if you have the space. Hostas are perfectly suited to the limited conditions we can offer: lightly shaded, sheltered and with permanently damp, fertile soil. Add lots of organic matter if you have dry or light soil conditions.
Here are some of my favourites:
Number one is Hosta ‘Patriot’ (above), a strong growing, white-margined variety which is hard to beat and good enough to eat (and the Japanese do, referring to it as Urui). New shoots emerge violet purple and are impressive in themselves. Planting in a pot top-dressed with grit helps to really show the young growth off and the leaves are relatively tough and nibble resistant.
In complete contrast, Hosta fortunei “Aurea” throws up its loosely ribbed, paper-thin leaves, which on more than one occasion have been torn irreparably by spring hail storms. The neon-yellow leaves are at their most vivid if kept out of direct sunlight. In my experience they hold onto their incredible inner light very well and I would not be without this hosta on a dull, rainy day.
Sturdy and compact, Hosta ‘Halcyon’ is a garden stalwart with gloriously glaucous leaves, exquisitely rolled at the base and elegantly ogee-curved at the tip. Raindrops bead like mercury on the surface after a shower and slowly roll down to quench the plant’s thirst. A superb hosta for the front of a border or a pot.
In its second year after planting, Hosta ‘June’ is settling in well, forming neat clumps of heart-shaped foliage. I am already impressed. The variegation is subtle and pretty but bright enough to light up a dark corner of the garden. Not too tall and so far quite similar in stature to H. ‘Halcyon’.
Last but not least, a variety which is going to require a little patience. Three plants of Hosta ‘Guardian Angel’ were planted out last June but have barely increased in size this year. The large leaves are every shade between mist and sage; long, ridged and lightly ruffled. ‘Guardian Angel’ may be a slow burner, but what a beauty she is. The best things come to those who wait.