Hosta sieboldiana

Hostas, or plantain lilies, which come to us from Japan, are among the most beautiful of shade-loving plants, clothing the garden with shapely foliage throughout the summer. Hosta sieboldiana is the largest member of this fine family, forming mounds of large, ribbed, glaucous leaves. Spires of white flowers spring from the clumps in late summer, or pale mauve flowers (rather washy) if you choose the variety ‘Elegans’. The smaller hostas are just as beautiful, and often have bi-coloured leaves, like H. cnspula, with wavy dark green leaves edged with white, or H. fortunei ‘Albo Picta’, with yellow leaves.

Hostas are paragons of virtue. They are hardy. They will grow in any soil, though they prefer it rich and moist. (On chalk they should be mulched with leaf-mould). They are total weed suppressors, and in my view, not held by all, they die neatly, turning a golden yellow for about a week in autumn, and then disappearing underground.

They look their best close-planted in drifts, perhaps in front of a shady border, or at the edge of a pool, or in pockets of soil in a town garden, with their leaves spreading over paving. I have seen them associating happily with all manner of taller plants. Their firm leaves contrast well with feathery astilbes. They are splendid in front of lilies and shrub roses in a cool border. Or you could have a little specialized hosta garden, with drifts of three or four different varieties.

Hostas are caviare to slugs, and slug pellets can be put down in early spring before the leaves push out of the ground. But personally, since I learned that chemical slug baits can actually attract slugs from a hundred yards away, I have stopped using them. Some gravel at strategic places, which slugs cannot cross, is perhaps a better idea.

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