There is a special value in having plants which have beauty in bothand foliage. In this respect, the Hostas of ‘Plantain Lilies’ are well nigh supreme and it is small wonder that in recent years when foliage effect has become more fully appreciated that they have come in for unprecendented popularity. But for the partiality of some kinds for shade, with soil not lacking in moisture, Hostas have all the qualities one looks for—hardiness and longevity with freedom from trouble as well as beauty and charm. Like several other subjects, the better the treatment given to Hostas—so far as food and drink are concerned, the better the results will be, but many will give a good value even if this aspect is somewhat neglected. They have that go a long way down in search of moisture and nutriment, and most of them can stand competition without themselves being aggressive. Some have a wide spread and often I have planted a group a several plants 1 ½ to 2 feet apart only to have to thin them out after 3-4 years growth. As with large clumps of Hemero-callis it is possible to divide them with a sharp spade, but the back to back method with forks will force it asunder with less damage to the fleshy crowns from which growth comes. All die back completely in winter, and unfurl and enlarge in perfect formation ready for the flower spikes which appear from June onwards.
Those with variegated leaves are best in shade and placed away from strong winds as well as strong sun. H. ‘Thomas Hogg’, is one of the best, and it has lavender mauve flowers on 2½ feet, not very different from the wavy edged H. crispula, which is rather scarce. H. sieboldiana elegans has huge leaves, and of glaucous blue-green and a spread of about 3 feet where well established, with 3 feet spikes of pale white.
HOSTA ‘Thomas Hogg’
H. glauca is similar but smaller and H. glauca coerula has rounded, ribbed leaves that come closest to blue of any. H. fortunei itself is glaucous leaved and has mauve-flowers in June-July. Its form H. fortunei picta, comes with vernal leaves showing a bright yellowish flush, from April to June, when on flowering the leaves turn green. There is a golden variegated edged form H. fortunei aurea marginata and also a golden foliage form H. fortunei aurea, although the leaves turn a light green as spring turns to summer. H. ventricosa flowers very freely, lavender coloured on 3 feet spikes above handsome foliage, and H. ventricosa variegata has similar flowers but rich green leaves that are so decked with yellow variegation as to make it one of the finest of all variegated Hostas. H. rectifolia, is green leaved with a profusion of upstanding purple flower spikes to 4 feet to make an imposing sight in July and August.
The variety H. ‘Honeybells’ has lavender mauve flowers above green leaves and these have the added attraction of being perfumed. H. undulata erromena is one of the most adaptable, the leaves being green with a wavy edge. This wave is more pronounced in H. undulata medio variegata, which is much smaller inand only 18 inches in flower, but the foliage remains bright throughout the summer. H. lancifolia is neat growing, and its green spear shaped leaves overlap in perfect mounded formation, with deep mauve flowers coming on 2 feet stems in August and September. H. plantaginea is late flowering, but some find it shy in this respect, having planted in a shady place along with other Hostas. This is a mistake for although it grows best in shade and moisture, it needs sun and warmth to induce the charming scented white flowers to appear on their 2^ feet spikes. H. plantaginea grandiflora is the best one to go for. Another white is the midget H. minor alba which barely reaches 12 inches high and has green leaves. It flowers in July-August, but another dwarf, the choice H. tardiflora has mauve purple flowers in early autumn.
H. japonicum (syn. vernalis), is a delightful member of the Poppy family for spring flowering, best in light or humus soil and a little shade for preference. It spreads with slow growing mattedand shoots below ground, and has light green foliage appearing in March, to form good ground cover and in this, the yellow cups flower in April and May. This is a plant that responds either to division and replanting every 3-4 years, or to an mulch of peat or in autumn, since it has a tendency to become too congested and has no deep penetration of roots, division is a very simple matter, but best done in autumn.