29: Spring 2012

Author: Dot Patterson

Living with a Hostaholic

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Living with a Hostaholic
Dot Patterson

For many years I have been the chief gardener in our relationship, with my husband David happy to be given the heavy physical tasks. He has always enjoyed the garden, and has even followed resignedly on the frequent plant hunting trips either locally or when on holiday further afield. In the last three years however, a big change has happened, the tables have been turned and I now find myself in the ‘following’ position.

It started after visits to gardens such as Inverewe (NW Scotland) and Nunwick (near Simonburn, Hexham), both of which have fantastic collections of hostas in superb settings. Our favourite garden, Holehird near Windermere has also provided inspiration.
David starting ‘having ideas’ and buying hostas wherever the price seemed reasonable or an unusual one was found. Finding somewhere to put them was more problematical as I have our garden stuffed to overflowing already. Yet more lawn has been dug up and we now have a hosta bed. This sounds very grand but in reality is quite small so we have to leave the collecting of the giant leaved varieties to Prince Charles and others with more space.

David is very good at keeping a record of each specimen, and even has a map of the beds so each one can be found easily. I am allowed to put the occasional perennial in with the hostas and we have found hellebores work quite well, as do spring bulbs. The secret is to put in plants which ‘do their thing’ before the hostas reach full summer maturity. The bed is still not mature and inevitably changes will have to be made … all part of the fun of gardening.

Favourite nurseries have been found. A couple to recommend are The Garden House Nursery at Dalston near Carlisle and Hutton Hostas near Driffield in East Yorkshire. Larch Cottage Nursery at Melkinthorpe near Penrith is good, and Hartside Nursery near Alston has been good for finding miniatures.

Obviously we have found favourite varieties. ‘Praying Hands’ has an unusual upright form, ‘El Niño’ has exquisite colouring, as does ‘June’. In the miniatures ‘Pandora’s Box’ is absolutely tiny and ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ is good.

“What about slugs and snails?” I hear you cry?

We believe that the secret is to have so many that damage to individual plants is lessened. We use crushed eggshells around the ones in pots and confess to using slug pellets on the choice tiny specimens. Barbecue ash mounded around the growing crowns gets them off to a good start in Spring but after last summer we have none left! Having badgers in the garden also reduces the slug burden but this is not without its own problems.

The collection now stands at over 66 different varieties with about one hundred plants around the garden. It is strange to hear myself saying “Are you sure you have room for this?” or “Where are you going to put it?” I am certain there are far worse addictions for a husband to develop! We both look forward to seeing how they all fare this next season.

First published in the North East Group Newsletter, March 2010
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 29.
© Copyright for this article: Dot Patterson

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2012. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.

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