I’ve been a Hosta fan since the early 90’s, when I first discovered the miniature varieties which I planted around our first pond.
Upon moving to Marlborough House, I planted 2 varieties in my front garden – all around my new pond. Nowadays, however, they are swamped by a mass of Knautia and Linaria. Torchlight and Siashu Yahne Sito had proudly survived slug & snailess in my pond patch for many years with only the addition of Tête-à-tête daffodils in the Spring. My ex-husband wasn’t one for flowers on a big scale, preferring symmetry and order to the romantic wilderness of my imagination.
The Hostas came from Mickfield in Suffolk – home to Mickfield Hostas ( who own the National Collection) and another grower whose name I have long-since forgotten after she retired from her business.
I’ve added to my collection since those early days – mostly buying from Mickfield Hostas at shows and by visiting their amazing nursery. I defy anyone with a love for plants to leave that place without at least half a dozen fledgling varieties …
My visit last year coincided with a couple who were definitely more ‘Hosta Mad’ than me. The floors of the various greenhouses were littered with their newly chosen additions to bump up a collection which already numbered over 300 varieties !
My purchase was more modest, although once home and repotting into my terracotta pots, I realised that I was running out of space for them. I vowed to stick there and resist future additions, although I was guilty of buying a few new ones at a Helmingham Hall Plant Fair last autumn, where Mickfield Hostas had a stall which held me under a similar spell to that of my childhood sweet shop.
I now have 27 different varieties – small, medium and large, which sit in the shade nearest my house on the north-facing patio.
The pots have customarily been topped with pea shingle, which I gauged to be a perfect deterrent to leaf-munching pests and also set off the foliage well. At the end of last Hosta season, however, I bought some organic wool slug pellets to try. I’ve never had a major issue with pests, however this year I’ve noticed an increase in nibbling on a couple of varieties – so I think I will return to the shingle pretty quick. In fact, I’ve just found a baby snail on the underside of one of the leaves. Definitely a thumbs down for the organic wool pellets!
My major task for this season is one I needn’t have had. All plants had new labels written out last year and marked with a so-called permanent ink marker. Unfortunately, the labels have faded and my task today is to rediscover which variety is which and take photographs of them all. Establish a proper catalogue. There are one or two that haven’t opened their leaves yet – so I will have to add them later on.
Luckily, the Mickfield Hosta website is an excellent one – with detailed descriptions and photographs of all their varieties. That coupled with the labels, my list of names and the existing photographs should mean that I can be 100% successful. Only one of my Hostas lacks a name – I never knew it, as I picked it up for a snip at the end of a Suffolk Show when a fancy display was being dismantled. I could probably give a good guess – although I will never be entirely sure.
Time to set to work … First job is to look at my existing images and match up the most obvious ones. I have 10 photographs. Then I will see if I can read any of the invisible ink labels at all. I’m so glad that I wrote down all the names last year and I now know why so many gardeners at the village ‘Open Garden’ events cannot tell you the name of that wonderful variety you’ve just spotted for the first time in their garden.
2 hours later …
I’ve taken all my photos and I’m left with 3 mystery Hostas. One hasn’t come into leaf yet – and could be either Stiletto or Whirlwind. I’m thinking it’s the latter, as I seem to recall losing the Stiletto early last season.
That leaves 2 plants where it’s impossible to read the labels and I have stupidly forgotten to record them anywhere. My plan is to see whether Mickfield Hostas can identify them for me, so I have sent them an email with the photographs attached. Fingers crossed.
Tomorrow’s job is to give them all a thorough soak, remove the wool pellets, replace the shingle and set them out nicely on their display table to be admired.
Mission Complete !