Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What to do with hosta at end of season part 3

Hosta 'Metallica' after being divided this fall
Fall is one of the times of the year when hostas can be divided. If you are going to divide hostas, it should be done in spring or in fall. During the summer hostas are busy growing their roots, and if you divide them they will not be happy. Who wants sad hosta? Not me! Can you tell sometimes that I teach in an elementary school? When dividing hosta in fall make sure to do it 4-6 weeks before hard frost.
How should you divide a hosta? Well if you want to be careful about it, and divide off certain eyes you can follow this link. Otherwise you can just place a shovel (I prefer a transplant shovel for the job) somewhere in the middle of the hosta and step down. You now have two hosta. Use a garden fork or a shovel to dig up the hosta you want to move. Depending on the size you can divide a hosta multiple times.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What to do with hosta at end of season part 2

Another late blooming hosta 'rupifraga'
I decided to do a series of posts about what to do with your hostas at the end of the season, since it seems to be a very popular question, especially this time of year. Many people ask me if they can bring their hosta inside during the year. Some think their foliage resembles a philodendron, so how wonderful it would be to have them in the house. Others mistake their normal fall downturn (yes, they start to brown, and leaves will die off) for them dying, and think bringing them in the house will bring them back to life. The truth is that hostas need a period of dormancy. Just think of hostas, as the bears of the plant world. Just like bears, hosta need to hibernate during the winter. Some people have done experiments bringing hostas in the house, and putting them in the freezer for a couple of weeks. I have never tried it myself, though I am tempted to do it this year. Maybe if I put one in the freezer now, and then planted it again later in the winter it would help chase away the winter blues!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What to do with hosta at end of season

Red October is a late blooming hosta
The biggest question I am asked this time of year is "What should I do with my hostas now that it's fall?" Many people think they should cut all of the foliage off of them. I've even heard of people running them over with their lawn mower. The truth is that you don't have to do anything with your hostas in fall. By cutting the foliage off of your hostas, you may actually be spreading disease. Imagine if your doctor never cleaned his instruments, well that is what it's like if you cut your hostas. If one hosta has a disease, you could be spreading it to all your other hosta. So if you want to cut down your hostas in fall (or even the scapes) it's very important to sanitize your equipment when going from plant to plant with a 10% bleach solution. There is no way I am going to bleach my tools after cutting the foliage off of my 400 some hosta, so I find it's much easier to just rake up the dead leaves from my hosta in spring.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall Blooming Crocus

Imagine my surprise today when I pulled into the driveway at lunch time to see a new bloom in the garden. But there it was, my fall blooming crocus, which is hard to miss because unlike it's spring cousin the fall blooming crocus has really large blooms. Colchicum autumnale is also known as the naked lady flower, because it's foliage comes up in spring (foliage resembles orchid leaves) and dies back in early summer. Which leads one to believe it died off without ever blooming. However in fall the bloom emerges without any foliage. I love that it blooms right about the time that everything else in the garden is dying away. Just when I've just about given up on my gardens, here is a reminder that things are still alive and beautiful.

Monday, September 21, 2009

School Atrium Needs Some Help

View from hallway window
View from inside atrium
View from inside atrium
View from 5th grade hallway
View from my library
Our school atrium is in need of some serious help. It's overgrown with weeds and is severely neglected. I have tried applying for a grant to help redo the area, but my effort was turned down. I've even thought about doing a little renegade gardening, coming in at night with plants from my own garden (but I think they would know who did it). Our maintenance department is planning on cutting down the big trees in the atrium, because they are growing into the foundation of the school building. I would love for this area to be a quiet reading area for students in the spring and fall. It can't really be a outdoor classroom, because there are indoor classrooms surrounding the atrium and the noise echoes loudly inside the atrium. Since the atrium would only be seen in spring and again in late summer/fall I would love it to be full of spring blooming bulbs and fall blooming plants. They would have to be easy to take care of and a little drought tolerant, since we can't always guarantee things would get watered in the summer while students and teachers are away. I, of course, would love to put hostas and hardy geraniums in the area. If we can find a way to use this area for a green project (such as teaching students to compost) there is a great chance we could receive a grant from the SCA company across the street from our school.

I know there are a ton of great garden designers and gardeners out there, especially in the Twitter world, and I would love to get your opinions of what we can do with this space. It breaks my heart to see it in such disarray, when I know it could be such a beautiful space.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Painter's Palette - Persicaria virginiana

Painter's Palette is a great plant to add a pop of color to your shade garden. It will grow in shade and in dry locations. Painter's Palette has leaves with a great marbling color to them. In fall it blooms with the tiny red flowers seen in the photos. Painter's Palette grows under my maples, which is a hard place for any plant to grow. It does spread, very slowly here in Wisconsin. I have had the plant in the picture for 4 years, and so you can see it does not spread out of control like other persicarias can.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Plant Co-ops

I am a member of a plant co-op that buys a lot of hosta and other perennials. What are the benefits of being a member of a plant co-op? As a member of a plant co-op you can buy plants at a wholesale price, since you are buying in large quatities as a group. Often one person buys a wholesale license, lists what is available for purchase and at what price, and then places the order based on the number of order received. Often I can buy hostas at $2-3 a piece, most of which are "hosta liners" (see picture above). In the co-op I belong to you have to make a purchase twice a year to stay a member, but there is no cost to belong. Disadvantages to being in a plant co-op you ask? Sometimes it's hard to resist the cheap prices, and you will buy more than you need.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tomato thief in my garden

In spring I planted two different kinds of tomatoes in my garden, Cherokee Purple and Chocolate Cherry. The weather has not been kind to my tomatoes this year. It has been a very cool summer, and then on top of that we had a drought. I started to get tomatoes on my Chocolate Cherry plant and then my husband ran them over with the lawn mower (yes, earlier in the summer he ran over one of my hostas too). Then I finally had six tomatoes on my Cherokee Purple plant that were just started to turn purple/red, and what do I find? Something (squirrels, chipmunks, opossums???) stole my tomatoes off the vine and started eating them, leaving them for dead in the lawn. I am now down to two tomatoes, which I have brought in the house to ripen. The good news is that as I was pulling the remaining tomatoes off the vine, I found a whole chocolate cherry plant that wasn't touched and had tomatoes on it! Even better it's in a spot where my husband can't reach with the lawn mower. Now I just have to keep the critters away.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Squash Casserole Rescue

Sqaush Casserole last year (after hail damage)
After moving hostas
Squash Casserole this year before moving hostas

Earlier this summer, in it's summer color
Today I was busy moving and dividing hosta in my yard. One of the hosta that needed to be rescued was my Squash Casserole. It has grown leaps and bounds since last year, along with the hostas around it. So I had to move and divide the hostas around it, as it was hidden among them. I love this hosta, as it has pie crusts edges and a beautiful gold/green color. Last year my hostas were severely damaged by hail in early July, but obviously that didn't effect them negatively since most of them are double their size from last year.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Farmer's Market Find

This morning I visited the Appleton farmer's market with my mom. It was a beautiful day here in Wisconsin, with weather in the low 80's. The farmer's market is held on downtown college avenue during the summer months, and inside the Avenue during the winter months. There is tons of produce, along with plants, art, jewelry, etc. Today I went down with the intention of buy some fresh produce, but instead came home with a new item of garden decor and a Ikebana. There is a local man who creates garden decor out of scrap metal, and I was excited to see him at the market today. I just had to have this piece when I saw it, and even better my mom bought it for since my birthday is a few weeks away! The metal will rust as it sits outside, and I am hoping by spring it will be completely rusted.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hardy Hibiscus

I love hardy hibiscus. I wish I had more room and more sun in my garden so I could grow all the different varieties of them. This one here is Hibiscus Kopper King. When planing hibiscus put them in a very sunny location. They will come up very late in spring, but are fast to grow once they actually start growing. So if you think it's not coming back in spring wait a month and you will probably be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Any garden art suggestions?

I had to make room for some of my new hosta purchases, since I love hosta more than I actually have room for. In the back I used to have a gigantic Joe Pye Weed. So I wrestled it out of there along with some daylilies. Once I had them out I then had room for some of my new purchases. In the place of Joe Pye are the hosta Moon Waves and Babbling Brook. I think it will look very nice next year, but now I am looking for some kind of garden art that will block the neighbors ugly yard and be a focal point behind the hosta. I just stuck an old dragonfly sprinkler in there now. I think it would be really cool to find some stained glass piece to put back there, but there is not a lot of light. I also have an old Lincoln rocker in the basement that I could spray paint a bright blue and use as a planter. Any suggestions, ideas, etc for me?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Green Bay Botanical Garden

This Saturday the Green Bay Botanical Garden will be hosting an art fair, B.A.D. Buds Daylily Sale, and Green & Gold Hosta Society Sale. Admission into the botanical garden will be free, so it's a great opportunity to pick up some great art, daylilies, hosta, or to just view the gardens. They have a great children's garden so don't be afraid to bring the kids along.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Natural Shorelines

My family has a vacation place in Northern Wisconsin. It's a great place to get away and relax around the campfire or on the lake. The "lake" is actually a flowage that was created when they built a damn on the Peshtigo river. So all of the land surrounding the flowage was owned by the power company, so no one was allowed to build on the land. The land has since been sold to the state, but the rule still applies about building on the land. I think it's great to boat around on the flowage and see natural shoreline. There are wild roses, blackberries, blueberries, gentian, and all kinds of water and bog plants along the shoreline. There is also a lot of wildlife on the flowage including eagles, herons, loons, otters, turtles, beavers, etc. Obviously, the flowage is not totally undisturbed since there are speedboats, waterskiers, etc zooming across it, but it's certainly a breath of fresh air to be out water and see a shoreline instead of a series of cottages and boat docks.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Safe and Reliable Sources for Hostas Online

These are not in any particular order, just how I remember them off the top of my head.

Naylor Creek - sends nice, mature plants
White Oak Nursery -has a great refrigerator sale in spring
Hallsons -again nice, mature plants
In the country garden and gifts - Josh is very active in American Hosta Society and knows his stuff
Made in the Shade Gardens - met him at a hosta convention, very nice people to work with
Jim's Hosta - usually more expensive than the rest, but has some rare ones you won't find anywhere else.
Kuk's Forest Nursery - have never ordered online, but pick up a few from him at a convention

I am sure I have forgotten a few, but these are online sources I know to sell safe and reliable hostas.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How to grow big, beautiful hostas

"I want my Hosta garden to look like yours! What are the best Hostas for cali, I want big bushy ones!," Jenn from Jenn's Cooking Garden.

Well I can't say for sure how to grow 'em big in California. I would start out by checking the Sun Tolerant hosta list on this page. Hostas are really more heat intolerant than sun intolerant, but heat and sun usually go hand and hand. The hostas on this list will be more apt to survive in higher temperatures. Hostas are happiest in cool, moist areas.

I can tell you what I do in my own hosta garden to get hosta leaves bigger than my head. Here are my ten steps:
1. Water
2. Water
3. Water
4. I usually do not fertilize my hostas, if I do I use a worm poop fertilizer, such as Terracycle (can be found in stores), once a year in spring.
5. Get rid of the slugs and other pests. I use sluggo, but there are organic ways to get rid of them (one involving going out at night, picking them off hosta, and putting them in ammonia ). For deer and rabbits, I use Liquid Fence. We don't have a huge deer problem, they usually just get into the garden in winter and early spring.
6. Water some more
7. If they are not happy where they are (give them at least a year somewhere) don't be afraid to dig them up and move them to a spot where they will be happy.
8. Water some more
9. I don't divide unless they have grown too big for the spot I have them in. Despite the myth, hostas do not require dividing.
10. Buy hosta from reputable people or nurseries. There is a hosta virus out there, and I have seen it at many nurseries (especially the big box stores). Be aware of the hosta virus (HVX), the symptoms and signs, and avoid nurseries where you see it. Another threat to hostas are nematodes, which usually will not show until mid-summer to fall (depending on where you live, the warmer the earlier signs will show). Maybe tomorrow I will list mail order/internet sources for hostas which I know to be safe.

Hope this helps, as I love to spread the hosta love!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hosta Questions

If anyone has a question about hostas or shade gardening post your comment on this blog. I will answer your questions here.