Diploid vs Tetraploid Hostas

The genetic information about all types of living organisms is multiplying exponentially today. It is growing in terms of our understanding of hostas too. As a Hosta Rookie, it is probably a little early to clog your mind with too much of this stuff. So, here are a few of the basics that will get you off to a good start. How much deeper you want to go into the science of genetics is up to you.

Hostas have 30 chromosomes in each of the male i.e. pollen, and female i.e. egg, parts. During the normal fertilization process 30 chromosomes come from the mother and 30 from the father for a total of 60. This is called a diploid or 2n plant which represents 2 sets of chromosomes that make up the genetic information in the resulting seeds and seedlings. Continue reading

Spring Flowering Bulbs

Snowdrops – (Galianthus)

Now is the time to create those beautiful displays of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, crocus and other flowering bulbs for next spring. Bulbs planted in the fall must have time to establish roots yet this fall in order to get off to a good start next spring. Many types of bulbs must also be exposed to the chilling temperatures in order to form stems and flower buds.

When selecting bulbs, always avoid those which show any signs of disease, rot or are shriveled and dry. Buy the largest bulbs you can find for best results. Smaller bulbs are often cheaper in price but may not produce good flowers the first year.

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Tissue Culture and Hostas

Care-2010-00050-EditThe big question that has circulated around the hosta world since the beginning of tissue culture (TC) is, “Are tissue cultured hostas as good as those divided from a plant growing in the ground?” The answer is a resounding, YES! Just like taking a knife and cutting a part of a hosta crown off to make a division, TC plants are exactly the same as the mother plant.

I think some of the confusion comes from a couple of factors. First, in their effort to make a quicker return on their investment, some nurseries sell tiny, little TC plants in two inch pots. Of course, it may take a year or two for these to grow to the size of a single division taken directly from a mature mother plant. But, they will eventually catch up.

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Did You Know?

PGC-T-Sorbus-aucuparia-aka-European-Mountainash-3The mountain ash (Sorbus species) may come from the mountain but it is not really an ash tree (Fraxinus species). It is actually a close relative the apples (Malus), pears (Pyrus) and roses (Rosa) since it is a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae). Therefore, it is susceptible to many of the same diseases of its relatives including the fungal leaf disease, apple scab and the more serious bacterial disease, fireblight. The better news is, that since it is not a true ash, it does not get attacked by the  Emerald ash borer which is in the process of killing millions and millions of ash trees throughout the Midwest.

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Long Tall Perennials

Design criteria such as plant form, texture and height are important considerations for any landscape. The ideal situation is to have a nice balance of such traits so the garden does not become monotonous. Too often, perennial gardens are dominated by rounded or mounded forms and daisy-like flowers. Here are a few tall, upright perennials that will provide contrast and variation in form, texture and height to the other plants in a bed or border.


Delphinium – This majestic beauty is most associated with the magnificent gardens of England or the Pacific Northwest. They will grow in more temperate areas too but they may require a little extra care. Plant them in a site protected from the wind for best results. They emerge early in the spring, so be prepared to cover them if frost threatens. During the growing season, the very tall types such as the Pacific Giant hybrids may need staking and a shot of extra fertilizer if their leaves begin to turn yellow during the growing season. Finally, individual plants tend to be short lived and may need to be replaced after four or five years. Continue reading

Vines are Fine

Black Eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia alata)

Vines are great additions to the home landscape. The majority of the ones we commonly use fall into the category of woody perennials. They form woody stems and persist from year to year. A handful of vines such as black eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) or hyacinth bean vine (Dolicus loblob) are annuals and give a good display in a single season of growth.

I love the way vines can raise the level of the garden up into the air. By growing up a trellis or fence, they stand above the typical perennials and some of the smaller shrubs. This helps to expand the area in which we can display beautiful flowers and foliage. They can fill that space between the top of the taller perennials and the lowest branches of the trees. Vines can also soften the visual impact of brick on a building.

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Origin of Hosta Species

So far, all 43 hosta species have been found to be native to parts of Asia only. The largest number come from the various islands of Japan while smaller numbers of species originated in Korea and China. Several European plant explorers “discovered” hostas and started to bring them back to be introduced into Europe.

Native Region for Hosta Species

Native Region for Hosta Species

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Garden Home Remedies

“Spread some lime to get rid of those grubs.” “Marigolds will keep those rabbits away.” “Plant winter squash on the third day after the full moon.” “Spray beer, molasses and ammonia on the lawn to make it healthy.”

Home remedies come in all shapes and forms. Some actually work. Others do no harm but do not work either. A few will do a lot more harm than good. After a couple of decades of answering homeowners’ phone calls, I sometimes think I have heard them all…then the phone rings again and it is something new.

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Daylily vs Hardy Lily

When a gardener says, “She has some very nice lilies in her yard!”, the message received may be quite different depending on who hears it. Members of the lily family are among the most prized flowering plants for the home garden. Their throated, often fragrant blooms can add a lot to any landscape. But, when talking about the general category of “lilies”, the backyard gardener is usually talking about either the daylily or the hardy lily. Though related, they are quite different plants.

Daylilies belong to the genus, Hemerocallis. The common name comes from the fact that individual flowers last just one day and then fade away. The good news is that a mature sized clump will develop dozens and dozens of buds and flower continuously with 5 or 6 blooms opening every day for a month or more. A few cultivars including the classic H. ‘Stella de Oro’ will have an initial flush of blooms and then follow with sporadic blooms throughout the rest of the season. Continue reading

General Garden Styles

In a broad sense, there are two types of gardens commonly found in home landscapes. One is called a “collection garden” which is the type grown by people who are dedicated to one genus or category of plant.

Hosta Collector’s Garden

For instance, there are said to be over 60,000 named cultivars of daylilies (Hemerocallis). There are over 8,000 named cultivars of Hosta. For each of these and other species such as iris (Iris), peonies (Paeonia) or roses (Rosa) with large numbers, there are gardeners whose primary goal is to accumulate as many specimens as they can. These gardens tend to prominently display all the most recent, “cutting edge” cultivars in addition to the old classics. Often there are few, if any, other species of plants included in collection gardens.

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