It Hosta Be You

I haven’t done a post in my own garden since April 19, when the hosta spikes appear above ground. Why? Too busy gardening. The day in mid-April when the hostas poke through is a day I look forward to every year, but the day in early June when they’re all done spreading out is a day to celebrate. And it’s a day by which most of the work in the garden is done. The rains this year made everyone’s gardens more lush and luxuriant. Things got big, fast, and there was less planting to do, but more weeding. Now it’s time to relax a bit and enjoy the results:

I think this hosta is called "Lakeside Jazzy Jane" ...with Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’

In a garden like ours, shady and rocky (and with deer fencing), various cultivars of Hosta plantaginea (sometimes labled in nurseries as Plantain Lily or Funkia) are the stars of the show. Several years ago, a (former) friend came by and sniffed, “Your garden isn’t very colorful, is it?” That’s when I started paying more attention to leaf sizes and shapes and shades of green. You can find them all in the hosta universe.

So happy together: hostas, ferns, astilbes

"Band of Gold," dark green with gold borders

I didn't start keeping the tags until last year, but this could be "Earth Angel," hosta of the year in 2009

"Blue Diamond"

Massed green-and-white cultivars like "Decorata" with white astilbes, just starting to come into their own

“Perfect for brightening up dark corners,” advise the catalogs. All I’ve got (except the deck) are dark corners, so there are hostas in the borders, under trees, under the deck, grouped around rocks. They’ve been divided over and over and have spread into masses of ground cover. The oldest ones, Decorata—green with white edges—now surround single specimens of specimens like Band of Gold, dark green with gold bolders, and Fragrant Queen, with big white streaks. The really cool new ones aren’t green and white, but dark teal with chartreuse. Here and there, I’ve planted Blue Diamond, small, non-variegated and almost turquoise; and Faith, with light green crinkly leaves.

"Sieboldiana Elegans" — big blue leaves the size of dinner plates

Quilting party, anyone?

“Big blue,” our enormous Sieboldiana Elegans, with huge, quilted leaves, remains my favorite. And his offspring are all over the place.

You can check out 7,000 species and cultivars on, which has a database for comparisons by size, leaf length and width, color, margin size and width, streaks, mottles, type of furrows, corrugation, etc.

My newest baby, "Great Expectations," getting started in a pot. Chartreuse with blue-green borders.

Only one hosta left out front, surrounded by stuff deer supposedly don't like. By August, they'll like all of it.

About writedesigner

Graphic designer, writer, and gardener Ellen Shapiro is based in Irvington, New York. A frequent contributor to design blogs and magazines including Print, Imprint,, Communication Arts, and Etapes, she writes about trends, issues and personalities in design, illustration, photography, and visual culture around the world.
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