The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, January 26th at Marilyn Austin Carter’s home in Woodland. She and Lynda Woodall hosted the January meeting that began with a delicious soup and sandwich luncheon. The group of ladies welcomed new members Joan Allen of Manchester and Carla Snider of Woodbury. The congenial group gathered in the kitchen for lunch and was so comfortable they remained there for the program in order to view the speaker’s pictures and gardening tools close up.
Georgia and Alabama Master Gardener Ellen Averill from Cataula presented a program on hostas, formerly called Plantain Lilies and named after Austrian botanist Nicholas Host. The herbaceous perennials include over 3,000 cultivar varieties varying in colors of green, blue, yellow, chartreuse, and gold. It is really a wax on the leaves that make them blue, and Averill pointed out that darker leaves mean a hosta needs more shade. The plants are shade tolerant, she said, but not necessarily shade lovers, but hostas never need hot afternoon sun. Most members’ successful hosta beds receive morning sun as they are planted on the east side of their homes, and the plants are in shade during the afternoon.
Averill explained the size designation of the many varieties: dwarf-less than 4 inches tall, miniature-4 to 6 inches, small-6 to 10 inches, medium-10 to 18 inches, large 18 to 28 inches, and giant over 28 inches tall. There are waist high specimens that are truly impressive. The club members quickly learned that it takes four to eight years to reach maturity with members admitting to having given up on their hostas or dividing them too early.
Hostas bloom from spring to fall but many gardeners cut off the bloom to encourage plant growth and cause less pull on the roots. Hostas cannot be propagated from their seeds. Fertilizers may be granular, Osmocote, or liquid but Averill recommends fertilizing when the hosta first appears in the spring, six weeks later, and then in midsummer. Like peaches, the plants need thirty days of forty degree and below temperatures.
Moisture is critical to good hosta growth. An inch to 1 ½ inches per week is needed. Averill offered a master gardener tip to ensure you know how much your sprinkler system is watering an area: use a tuna can under the irrigated area and when it is full, the area is getting an inch of water. Averill explained what the hosta drip tip is and should it turn brown, there is a moisture problem.
Hostas are edible but unfortunately deer, slugs, and snails really love hosta. Other than recommending electric fences and having dogs to keep away the deer, Averill did have suggestions for snails and slugs. She takes a plastic water bottle, cuts off the drinking end and inserts it into the bottle, stapling it firm. Snail and slug bait is put in the bottle and she places the plastic bottle under the hosta leaves. The slugs enter the trap and die and the pest poison is not leached into the soil.
Disease common to hosta shows up as yellow spots on the leaves. There is no remedy and she suggests digging up the plant and throwing it away. Never compost it as the disease stays in the composted soil. When dividing plants in early spring, she sterilizes her knife and lifting fork with a bleach solution to make sure fungus and disease are not passed along.
Averill gave the members handouts that listed hostas for beginning gardeners (August Moon, Golden Tiara, Guacamole),and hostas best for our Georgia area ( Illicit Affairs, Pandora’s Box, Shiny Penny, Night before Christmas). Some of the most popular varieties are Sum and Substance, Saga, Great Expectations, and Patriot. Close to us are Southern Growers in Columbus and Pine Forest Gardens in Tyrone that have hosta displays or nurseries.
Club members ended the meeting by touring Marilyn’s home and admiring her art and unique sculptures. She always has interesting artwork scattered throughout her garden that supports or juxtaposes nicely with her plants; however in January, few plants were up and so the members clearly could see the “bones” of the garden. Our warmer than usual winter did have hellebores and jonquils in full bloom. The pond with its ducks, the chickens, and bottle trees and artwork made for a colorful walk in January.