NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

A Gardening Journal

Patriot hosta: Nosy in Spring

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What are these?  Tiny turnips backing out of their garden bed?

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What are these?  Confused tiny turnips with their leaves pointing further underground and their butts backing out of the garden bed?  Young cabbages sprouting from...bulbs?  A new species of hyper-colorful cycada?  (Despite the purple of the picture, the little nubbins are actually a deep and vivid blue, an even curiouser look.)

 

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Or maybe these aren't plants at all.  Shards of old crockery heaved up out of the soil by the Winter freezes?  Buried-treasure jewelry of one of this property's 18th century owners?

 

If only.  A few days later the mystery unfolds, literally.  These are noses for a clump of hostas—the advance-men that check out the above-ground world before the tender leaves they're protecting risk unfurling.

 

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And these particular noses are of 'Patriot' hosta.  When it first came on the market some years ago, the intensity of the variegation—a broad irregular white border to the mid-green leaves—was the be-all and end-all of hosta display.

 

There's a new new hosta every hour, though.  But 'Patriot' was too good to forget; instead it's now more of a classic.  I'm glad to have it in my garden.

 

But why doesn't the wild coloring of hostas' early-Spring noses ever get a mention?  (Or was it only me who has been in the dark since letting my subscription lapse to Hostas: The News of the Minute?)

 

Here's another pretty nose, of 'Dawn's Early Light.'  Pink-red noses, with acid-yellow foliage just testing the weather.

 

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As the foliage unfurls, the juxtaposition with darker sheath of the pips remains cool.

 

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But hosta's steadily-enlarging foliage hides all of these nosy-shows in only days; then anyone can see what great hostas these are just by standing around, by walking by.  (Plant three variegated hostas together and the display is blatant enough for drive-by effect.)  The show is so big and so bright it almost accosts you whether or not you're paying attention.  There's no effort needed to appreciate the performance, and certainly none of the kneeling down and nudging with a finger, all in wonder at these wierd and colorful little What-is-it's? atop the soil.

 

Hosta foliage at full mast is indeed still a pleasure, but it's a passive one.  How can you not notice?  Hosta noses are the pleasure of people who know how more satisfying and exciting things are when you make a little effort.

 

 

 

Here's how to grow this superior groundcover:

Latin Name

Hosta 'Patriot'

Common Name

Patriot hosta

Family

Agavaceae, the agave family.

What kind of plant is it?

Shade-loving (but sun-tolerating) herbaceous perennial.

Hardiness

Zones 3 - 8

Habit

Clumping and dense-foliaged enough to work as a groundcover. 

Rate of Growth

Fast when happy.

Size in ten years

A clump to 1.5 feet high and 2 to 3 feet across.

Texture

Thick and dense, as is normal for a hosta, but also strikingly lively because of the intense variegation.

Grown for

The foliage!  Early-Spring noses are a surprising deep blue, looking neither animal nor vegetable nor mineral.  The unfurled foliage is too interesting (too bright, frankly) to grow as a massed groundcover, so grow 'Patriot' hosta as an exciting solo act in the shady or part-sun garden.  The irregular white border of the (for a hosta) mid-sized leaves is exciting, and at an entirely higher level than the variegated hostas of your (grand)mother's garden.

 

The spikes of lavender flowers in Summer are beside the point, and are best clipped off.

Flowering season

Summer.

Culture

A plant for good soil, plenty of water all season long, and not too much sun, lest the foliage scorch.  Shade (or at least afternoon shade) is usually the safer choice.  

How to handle it

As long as the soil is good and you've ensured that your hostas won't get munched by the local wildlife (see Downsides below), they are about as low-maintenance and immortal as a perennial can be.  Clip off the flower spikes if you can, but don't sweat it if not: Summer is sweaty enough already.

Downsides

The foliage is delicious to deer, rabbits, snails, and slugs.  The latter, argh, thrive in just the shady moist conditions the hosta itself does.  I hear that gardeners in such slug-heaven locales like the Northwest sometimes resort to growing hostas in pots, with repellent and barriers aplenty.  Well good:  So many other amazing plants grow like weeds there. 

Variants

Hostas mutate and hybridize with diligence and delight.  And there are over twenty species to begin with.  No wonder that many hundreds of varieties are now available.

Availability

On-line and in local retailers

Propagation

Division at almost any time that's convenient for you and the soil is diggable.  Hostas will recover from division on August 1, but also don't care if you divide them in December instead.

Native habitat

Northeast Asia






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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