Hosta By Kelley

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The Growing season begins!

What follows are reflections from between January to March 2018.  The growing season begins at the end of March.  The appearance of this post looks more like one of the first blog posts I did years ago where date referances feel mixed up.  This is because I write over a span of time; rather than just on one day.


What about First half of this last winter!?

This last winter was really odd.  Not much snow, and the garden was frequently uncovered by solar warming!  To add insult to injury ... the tarp that was purchased last fall seem to have been a little too effective in holding the fall rains out of the garden before they turned to ice to destroy plants that were settling in for winter.  The end effects of both tarp and absence of winter snow will be seen this spring.  Beyond that there has not even been enough snow to really shovel at any given point!  The raised bed generally has 1 foot of snow on top of it by the time spring comes.

Last fall I speculated that Faithful Heart, and Kifukurin Ko Mama were probably at the greatest risk not to surviving this last winter.  Not because they are small hostas but simply because they had been planted into the garden last year for their first season in being in the growing space.  Hosta Popcorn is also in the same category, but what makes that different is that the rhizome systems on those divided plants looked pretty extensive; I'm putting my confidence behind those three plants.  Every other hosta in that garden has been there for at last two years ... which means they ought to survive the winter of 2017/2018.  That includes Itsy Bitsy Spider which was planted back in 2016.  So the prediction of survival this year is somewhere between: 17 : 20 [85%] to 20 : 20 [100%].   The later has never been achieved in my garden.  Maybe I'm getting close!


What about The last half of this winter!

It's January ... and as I come into the apartment from errands I've started saying "it's 'x' months 'til spiking".  I don't think I have done that this early in the year.  It feels a little strange.  We still have less than 2 inches of snow out there.   Later this next week (January 7th to 9th; a three day 'warm spell' ...) we have the January Thaw arriving where the temperatures rise just momentary above freezing  and to give the plants below a few drops of water.  That's not an unusual thing for Minnesota gardens.  I do not panic at this time because the plants ought to be dry enough to take the water in and hopefully not burst or start crown rot.  That tarp I put out last fall should have dried out the ground enough to let this moisture happen!

February 16th.  Over the course of the winter we have seen 10 in. to 12 in. / 25.40 cm. to 30.48 cm. of snow which has assurd a firm freeze of the hosta this year.  This is also the date on which the thawing of the winter begins with temperatures swinging above amd below freezing.  That too has begun!  So in the end everything seems to be in place for the next stage ... The Spiking.

Hosta normally spike between March 31st to May 30th; at least at this St. Paul, Minnesota location.  As you might imagine that's when I hold my breath the most.  I am hopeful to reaching that 100% survival this year!  They're coming ... They're Coming ... They're coming!

Well maybe ... they're coming!?  Here is it April 13 and were about to be hit yet again with EVEN MORE snow, and even some ice (.10 to .20 in./.25 to .51 cm. thick) to go with it this time!  The winter has been crazy enough as it is!  The long range forecast keeps saying that were going to get a very strong warming trend, and yet the grasp of winter keeps coming back to refute that prediction.  The storm coming in has enough attention that I have pulled tarps out for the raised bed, and the loose containers.

I had help from an unexpected friend, B.?. [Minneapolis, MN USA] and he was saying that Surprised By Joy had spiked.  Not having the time to actually look it before it was bundled into a tarp I'll take his word (for now).  As the evening wore on I wondered if what he saw as a spike that was actually the Growth Gland which hosta produce the year before.  When it gets warm enough once again it triggers the rest of the plant to "GROW"!  This gland can look like a spike if it becomes over active during its inital growth - if the conditions are 'right'.  The growth gland generally stay below the surface of the ground to protect themselves.  It would seem that this one is emerging above the surface; and, again, it could easily be mistaken as a spike.  I will look a second time at it after the tarp is removed later.  May be my friend will be here so we can look together, and more carefully at what he saw.



Frustration over this website

Since about December 1st 2017 i've not been able to upload pages to his site.  This is slowly becoming an ongoing frustration.  Hoping that this weekend (January 13th and 14th) will shed some light on the problem as a discussion with The host site

During Mid-January I was finally able to restore the ability to up load page information to this website.  Through a a moment of serendipity my roommate and I found a way to have it load in about 1/3 the time.  What was an hour's wait is now down to about 20 minutes.  Things seem to be better now.


'Tis the season to guess the temperatures

The thawing and freezing of the snow and ice has been on for most of January this year, which in some ways is very unusual in MN.  MN generally has frozen weather in January.  February and March brings the REAL thawing and freezing which also makes it very hard to walk on some sidewalks and driveways.  In about 2 months (April) spring returns to MN!  My hosta have been known to spike even before the snow has melted from the raised bed.  I can remember at least one year digging snow away from spikes to pamper their growth.

If the temperature cycles continue, the way they have been in January, my guess is that by March 20th we might have that chance to see those early spikes in the raised bed.  That definately would be a bit early.  I've also consulted the weather forecast, as any good gardener might also do, and the long range prediction from that suggests that by April 6th we will be flirting above the freezing range.  Even by April 10 our above freezing spring teperaturss still have not come with even MORE snow predicted this week.  Spring is certianly later than the past two years.  The longer range forecasts for April say the momth is to have 60ºF/16ºC temperatures.

In addition, a few of you might also remember that I seem to live for those spring spikes as they signal the start of a 'New Year'.  Yes, most of you look for December 31/January 1 for your New Year.  I instead wait for the first of the spring spikes!  As the season changes continue as I look for those spikes to rise!


Every Gardener has their check list of dates

If your a novice Hosta grower what I am about to write about is on the basis of my own garden.  As you grow hosta your own calender of key dates will emerge as you grow your own plants.  This may take a year or two to recognize for your own garden.  Other people keep annual, written journals about their gardens.  I keep a website about my plants!

I wonder sometimes if my written ramblings feel ... redundant.  On the calendar basis you can almost guess what your about read about in my postings on this blog (website).  That's because plants have their cycles: Spring, Summer, Fall, and yes even Winter.  Has this cycle gotten to be to redundant for the reader?  Is it a dis-service to the writer?  Don't believe me?  Below is the list of dates that I keep with my garden:

•  February 15th to April 15th:  MN Thawing and Freezing period.  This is the period when Hosta plants are truely tested.  The later half of this plants might be protected.

•  March 31st to May 31st: Spiking Season.

•  June 1st:  Death's Door.  If the plant is NOT up; it probably will NOT come up at this point.  Do I replace, or let go of the plant?

•  June 1st to July 1st:  The first scapes and flowers are seen.

•  June 1st to October 15th:  The so called 'growing season'.  Yes, this can go back to as far as March 31st.

October 15th to First Frost:  Cut back; Generally done on a 50°F day.

•  Just prior to First Frost to Full Freeze: Plant protecting until the full freeze is in sight.

•  Full Freeze to February 15th: Winter dormancy.  Hosta prefer 60 days of temperatures BELOW zero to produce blooms during the coming season.

If you go to any my other journal pages you'll see the pattern is pretty constant - if you know my key dates above.  Keeping records about your gardening helps you keep track what has happened in the past so that you can intelligently respond in the future.  Yes, it sounds dumb and boring at first.  The moment you say, "That sounds ... familiar."  The work of the journalizing you've done will pay off.


Two, two inch thick, three ring binders. and some three ring, punched, writing paper.  The first binder is for your day to day garden notes.  The second will be for your annual plant variety records.   Remember to keep one page (front and back) per variety.  These records might include for each variety:

You might also want to create a diagram of your garden space.  It does not have to be pretty; just readable to yourself.  Keep in mind you might need to re-diagram annually as plants come and go, and get moved back and forth, or even get rearranged by the neighbors dog, or local deer!  As Hosta are also rhizomatious they can also read on their own.

IF all of this looks confusing ... take a very close look at how I've organized this website.  I have separated the journal entries from the plant records.  I've included (with mixed results) my diagrams for my garden zones.  What I've given you is the bare-bones, low cost version of a journal system for your garden; as websites can be very costly (see Cost of a Hobby).

IF all of this feels 'insufficient' when you first do it, keep in mind that it takes time to build a record base.  After about the fourth (4) year it might begin to feel you have records to look back on.  The more you do it, the more you'll get it the way YOU want.

In the end don't worry about what others might think, your doing this for you and your garden.





Submitted: March 3, 2018                       Responded on: April 3, 2018                      Last Edited On: April 10, 2018

Name: carolm

Question: What is the correct way to label hostas in the garden?

Proofread by: Thom Langley (WA)        Layout by: Author


Carol -  While the question sounds so easy, at some levels, it is not.  There is no one way to answer this question, but let me try to address it in some of the more "common" ways.

First, take a step back and ask yourself: What is the garden for?  Are you maintaining a professional botanical garden where you might have several hundred, or even thousands, of hosta on display; or is your garden the basic backyard garden where friends come by from time to time?  Once you clarify the objective of the garden, then you can decide what might be important on the display label.

While it sounds so irrelevant I need to take you back to your first introduction to wildlife classification studies in school.  In a moment this will make sense, but for the time being, bear with me.  In that class you were taught that there were two classes of life: Plants and Animals.  You were likely taught that there was a taxonomic system that categorized what living things were what.  That system had seven (7) 'basic' subcategories.  According to Wikipedia (as posted on 3/12/18) Hosta are classified as indicated:

    ▪  Kingdom: Plantae

       ▪  Clade: Angiosperms

       ▪  Clade: Monocots

       ▪  Phylum

          ▪  Class

             ▪  Order: Asparagales

                ▪  Family: Asparagaceae

                ▪  SubFamily: Agavoideae

                   ▪  Genus: Hosta

                      ▪  Species

A clade as a more broad classification than the general taxonomic grouping.  As of 2014 there were at the very least 16 accepted species for the Genus Hosta.  Wikipedia is unclear as to if the Clades listed above temporarily stand for the Phylum and Class of these plants.

The name that everyone knows the plant as is an eighth step in the classification process.  For hosta and probably other plant varieties this has more recently (post 2000) been accepted as part of the taxonomic labeling.

                         ▪  (Common) Plant Name

In more older taxonomic systems ALL Plants had Latin names for their fInal labeling,  In more recent years this has changed to Genus, Species (tends to be Latin), to Common Name (given name by the country it was found in, but also many times in English as well).  There's an issue with the Hosta Species will come back and haunt us in a moment!

The most basic label ought to have the full Plant's Common Name.  Sounds pretty obvious, right?  Consider then the difference between: Dixie Chick and Dixie Chickadee; or Emerald City and Emerald City Chick; or Blue Cadet and Blue Cadet Edina.  In each of these cases, if you leave one segment of the name off you, or your guests, might confuse it with another hosta.  Abbreviating hosta names might also cause confusion at some point.  Being clear and concise about the plant's name is important to begin with.

IF you have a multisection garden where you might have 20 different genera of plants, then labeling your plants [Genus] ['Plant Name'] would be the more correct way of doing it.  Hosta 'Dixie Chickadee' or Hosta 'Zodiac'.  In this labeling the proper name is placed between single quotes.  These single quotes I believe are the international botanical standard for labeling a plant (any plant).  If you're going for accuracy ... the common name is ALWAYS lower case: Hosta 'dixie chickadee'.  Note that hosta tend to have common names for their Plant Common Names … there are exceptions!

As if that is not confusing enough, there are purists who might say that proper labeling ought to read: [Genus] [Species] ['plant name'].  With Hosta there's a pesky problem with that.  As far as this author knows there is NO empirical listing of Hosta with their associated species name.  YES, there are between 16 to 21 species (last time I noted) names between hosta; but there is no clean table showing the genus to the species to the plant's common name.  In the hosta world there over 11,000 varieties.

It is at this point where you have other options to add to the label.

    ▪   Size Range: Plant Diameter, Plant Height, Scape Height.  If you're in the US, indicate this in inches; not feet and inches.  If you're in another part of the world, indicate this in centimeters; not meters and centimeters.  Scape heights are less seen on planting stakes, but it is a distinguishing factor for the plant.

    ▪   Originator's Name

    ▪   Year of Introduction

    ▪   Registration Type: Unregistered, Registered, Plant Patent with its number, Trademarked.

    ▪   Acquired From

    ▪   Acquired When (Year)

There are other types of information you can add, but I will leave that to your discretion, your decision-making process, and to what you can afford.  I would encourage labels that are high contrast in color and proper text height (16 point) for sight-impaired persons.  If you go for top-of-the-line labeling, you can get brailled labels as well; some additional legal creativity will be needed for those because of laws and ADA regulations.



Common Plant Name     PP nnnnn

Height: xx in.   Diameter:  xx in.


Plant Name Menu Codes:

In Gardner's collection:  green.

In Collection but is an unregistered sport: BLUE.

Past Plants that are no longer in the collection: Brown.

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