Gotta Garden

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Tony Avent on Hostas

Last Wednesday on my way to parts further south, I attended a lecture by Tony Avent of the famous Plant Delights Nursery on Hostas. Wow! Usually, I attend a lecture and just sit there, listening and taking it all in. They are often quite good and I learn things. Well, let's just magnify that by a power of 15! I couldn't take notes fast enough. Thank goodness there were handouts that I scribbled all over the back of, trying to capture what was, to me, amazing information.

Let me just say that Mr. Avent turned what I thought I knew about hostas on its ear. Shade plants? Think again. Dividing your hostas? Think again.

I learned that hostas are not woodland plants but rather prairie plants or meadow plants. In both cases, they do get some shade from the hotter sun by grasses and other taller plants. They usually prefer a cooler sun (morning) and the larger the leaf, the more water they'll require. The more white in a leaf, the more sun they need to produce chlorophyll (since they have so little green area). And, hear this: Hostas don't like dense shade.

As you might expect, he had fabulous slides. We were told that the best new plants come from mutations; very few are from genetic outcrossing. Hostas mutate very readily.

And, for me, information that was particularly noteworthy: tissue culture is very good. Originally, some of it was done poorly, resulting in plants that had mututated being released as a particular named variety (which they weren't...due to the mutuation). But, done well and culled properly, tissue culture is a good thing. This was rather startling as in the daylily world, it is greeted with great disdane and any inferior plant is thought to be tissue cultured. On another tact, having attended a lecture last year from a USDA scientist, I learned about tissue culturing from that perspective and Tony's lecture reinforced that knowledge. Things to think about.

So, those Patriot hostas (name comes from the Patriot Missle...did you know that?!) that you've grown in dense shade that whithered away...guess why. Too much shade and probably not enough water.

As to dividing, there really is no reason to, unless your clump is quite old (10-15 years, maybe) and has gotten woody in the center. I've never seen that, so that answers that question. But, be careful dividing. One attendee asked why her beautiful clump of Striptease seemed to have lost its nice white stripe. She divided it into several clumps (to have more) and none appear to be as nice as the original. Did it just need time? Was it just recovering from being divided? The answer both shocked and amused me. Just as something stunning can occur from a mututation, something nonstunning can also occur. And, sometimes that $35 plant can mutate into a $5 dollar plant...and according to Tony, that sounds like what happened to her plant. Yikes. By the way, Striptease was spotted in a group that came into Merrified Garden Center and was grabbed by someone knowledgeable there who took it home (I didn't get his name...) who introduced it to the rest of us. I love Merrifield Garden Center, so that was a piece of trivia that I enjoyed. I'm also going out to look at my Striptease to see how it looks!

Sigh. My Striptease must be a Striptease Isn't...very narrow white stripe. Okay, chin up...that just means another reason to stay on the hosta hunt!

2 comments:

Carol said...

Thanks for sharing, I would love to hear Tony Avent speak. There is nothing like a good, well-informed, articulate speaker to get you fired up about whatever their topic is!

Gotta Garden said...

So true! Although, I can take a so so speaker with great photos as well....lol! Fortunately, Tony Avent is the whole package...great speaker and awesome slides!

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