New to the Hosta Forum. Just an intro and looking for some advice

erinf83(6)February 20, 2013

Hi everyone....I stumbled in here after reading someones "My Page" in the shrub section.

I am now completely overwhelmed as I had no idea that such a variety of hostas existed.

I've posted several posts stating that I recently moved into my house and am extensively redoing and creating a massive garden. My other posts are specifically asking for help with shrubs and privacy screens trying to find the right ones for the job. I never did discuss my groundcover plans since I thought it was irrelevant but now after visiting this forum it seems I might have to get help on that as well.

My plans for the yard will include several large gardens. My whole yard gets very little sun due to several large and mature trees. My plans for the gardens apart from some small shrubs and conifers, is to fill them with ferns and hostas...with maybe a handful of other perennials for some variety.

Being a newbie at this, I thought the dozen or so varieties of Hostas I see repeatedly at the garden center was all that existed....but now this forum blew me way! I'm literally overwhelmed and don't really know where to begin.

So for all you Hosta there any advice you can give a new gardener who may or may not be interested in becoming a Hostas enthusiast and/or collector? It almost seems silly now to settle for just a few different varieties of Hostas now that I know so much more exist! More importantly...where are all these other species hiding and how do I go about finding them?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hi.. WELCOME!!!!

you said: My whole yard gets very little sun due to several large and mature trees.

and i say: what kind of trees???

and defining shade by words.. wont do .. NOTHING will thrive in a cave..

never forget.. hosta are shade TOLERANT .... they need light ... and the best .. is lots of light.. but for the very heat of the day ...

if your yard is really dark.. consider removing a tree or two.. BEFORE you build your garden ... if you want to talk about it.. let me know....


    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 5:32PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

Welcome Erin. You've got lots of space, so lots of room to grow Hosta. I'm glad you like the variety of Hostas that are available. Take a look at Top 5 Hosta nurseries if you are looking for varieties. My favorite is Hallson Nursery. Big plants and lots of variety for you. If you want some additional enablement here's a link to a little movie that I made.

This link will send you to You Tube Hosta: Simple Gifts.


Here is a link that might be useful: Top Hosta sites

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 5:38PM
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MadPlanter1 zone 5

Welcome to the forum!

I'd have two pieces of advice: Hostas need moisture, and they have a hard time competing with tree roots. Maples and many conifers will strangle your hostas with tiny feeder roots. I go around mine and dig the shovel in once a year to cut them off, but it's a losing battle. This year I'm starting to plant everything in root repelling spin out bags.

Two, decide if you want landscaping or specimens. Most of us on the forum want specimens, as many varieties as possible. However, you can have a lovely garden by planting in drifts, too. There's a fabulous local garden that might have 6-7 varieties, but hundreds of hostas. They're planted in great rows and drifts, and the whole effect is breathtaking.

Oh, yeah- check into the size the adult plant will be, too. Some of them can be several feet across, and some will always be tiny. The giants are really hard to move, so put them where they'll stay and give them room to grow.

Know what HVX and foliar nematodes looks like. HVX can take years to show, but even good nurseries sell obviously infected plants. If you do have a plant develop signs of HVX or FN, know the safe way to get rid of them.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 5:53PM
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Wellcome. Sounds like a great project. Like the others said, it does depend on the type of trees. Maples, expecially Norway Maple, have big thick surface roots. Some trees are more dense than others but can be thinned. As you can see, we love to give advise here, but could use more info.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 6:35PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

" there any advice you can give a new gardener who may or may not be interested in becoming a Hostas enthusiast and/or collector?..."

Go back!...Its a trap!

Failing that, in addition to all that's mentioned above, a pic or three of the area(s) would help.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 7:37PM
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Thanks for the warm, warm welcome. Ken, it was actually your follow up post in the shrub section that led me here!

Ok, I will clarify a few things. First being that the large shade trees I speak of not near the gardens with the exception of the oak trees. The neighbours also have lots of trees as well so when I say it gets very little sun, I mean direct full sun. Each garden will get dappled sun and I'm not sure about summer sun (since I haven't been here to witness it) but I imagine early morning sun and late afternoon sun are not out of the question either.

I'm going to link my landscaping post to this as it has several photos including a very very rough sketch (which I've also included in this post) as to what I'm after for a layout. This area is heavy in clay...and by heavy in clay I mean I could dig in the ground and within about 6 inches I would have enough dense, thick grey clay that I could probably sculp with. I know that the current gardens don't seem to have any chunks of it from the little gardening I was doing ( and I did rip out a ratty boxwood so I did go pretty deep!) but I'm not sure about the lawn which I will eventually have to dig up to create and extend the existing gardens. In my mind, I'm already setting myself up for a lot of work just preparing the area. I'll need to wait until Spring to determine that though. Also, I was thinking of raising the garden beds up just a bit as I am looking for a border made of stacked flagstone. I know this will only get me about 6 inches off the ground but hoping that it may save the worry of the clay and the roots. I hadn't thought about the roots of the conifers but was only planning a few against the back fence for some unity and privacy from the rear neighbours as I plan on filling the small garden by the small shed with a bunch of conifers as well as another area in the bottom right corner of the yard where my kitchen window stares into my neighbour's bedroom :O

Thank you also for the landscaping vs specimen thought. In my mind I guess I envisioned drifts but when I read about so many varieties, my mind got carried away as I tend to be easily sucked in to collecting things (I've collected everything from stickers as a child, to designer jeans as a younger women to diaper bags as a new mom etc...). I don't think I want to have one of each specimen but now knowing that there are more than just a few out there might change my plans slightly to include maybe 12-15 specimens rather than 5 or 6. I do have a large space to work with so I think I can have my cake and eat it too when it comes to hostas.

I have no idea what HVX is but will look into that. Steve, your video is breathtaking and the garden that is shown at about 1:30 is almost what I am after!! How about you split them off and just send me 1 of everything! :)

Thanks again for the advice and welcome and if I have any more questions once I get my hands into it I'll be sure to come here. Also, if anyone has anything further to add (advice and comments are always appreciated!!) please let me know!

Here is a link that might be useful: Landscaping Post

This post was edited by erinf83 on Wed, Feb 20, 13 at 20:57

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 8:56PM
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Welcome, Erin. Here is a little website you might enjoy browsing. I've been browsing it for 6 months and STILL haven't looked at everything!

Don B.
Westminster, CO.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Hosta Library

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 3:42AM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b


Thanks. Your or your neighbor's Oaks are perfect to plant under. However, raising beds won't help with root competition because the tree roots will go where the good soil is. If you only have a few to plant near the conifers, then you can use Spin out bags for those few.

Is this the garden you are talking about?

That garden is called Oak N Stone and it's in East Greenwich, RI. It belongs to Bob and Dian Adams. It's planted under many very tall Oak Trees in dappled shade, so your situation seems perfect to me.


Here is a link that might be useful: Root control spin out bags

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 7:20AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

how to build large beds at the link ...

adding 6 inches of new soil.. will NOT get you above tree roots.. it will encourage the tree to grow into the new soil ... its yummy ...

do NOT till or anything like that under large trees ... they will respond by growing new feeder roots ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 7:26AM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

Welcome Erin. After reading your bio in your page, you should really enjoy hostas. I am a sister Capricorn with a similar background.
Guys, she has a bit different condition than I know Ken has. That clay below the topsoil zero drainage. It is a green/grey that has hardly any organic matter. It will be caked like Portland Cement and has to be broken with a rock-bar. She is going to have to raise 3-4 above the surface by ammending existing top soil, or the terrible drainage will make the tree root problem less an issue.
This is my experience anyway and I have grown hostas in the Ozarks in 8" of topsoil (normal level) over that bone-dry clay by planting in soil raised about 3-4" above using ammendments (That soil simply does not percolate at all). The oaks should be no problem but Georgia has a lot of pine and eastern red cedar and particularly the cedar IS. I never did have a problem with feathery cedar roots growing UP into the raised area though.l
We have some forum members who live in the Ozarks and are quite successful. Melisa has beautiful gardens when a tornado doesn't tear them up.
I hope I am not misleading. All I can do is express my experience under similar conditions, Erin.

Your project excites me and I envy you. Don't ignore the advice from Steve about Hallson's, or Don B. regarding the Hosta Library. And ken you HAVE to listen to, though sometimes he is hard to read. Ken, I had to say that!
In fact, don't ignore anyone here at the Hosta Forum. There is no such thing here as frivolous advice.

Oh-one more thing. Don't forget a large composting operation for all the chopped oak leaves to help build up your soil. 'T' :)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:03AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Dark green and blue hosta need more shade, Large thin leafed hosta need more shade. Lighter green and highly variegated hosta need more sunlight and very light hosta can survive well in direct sun with adequate watering.

Hosta with light or white centers are challenging. Any fragrant hosta (plantaginia) is very sun tolerant. Variegated hosta hosta placed with not enough light will turn green (compensating with chlorophyll production) if placed in too shady a location. Placement in more sun will prolong the intensity and amount of variegation.

Also, your zone will be a big factor in siting as hosta in colder zones require more sun for optimum performance.

This all sounds very complicated, but hosta are very tough and will survive. Using guidelines like this might help in getting good results more quickly, but ignoring them is rarely fatal. If your plantings are not doing well it might be a good to review the siting and simply moving things around.

Welcome, and we all look forward to pictures of what I am sure will be some very nice gardens.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:15AM
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Welcome,Erin! Don't believe everything you hear about clay soil. I live in western NC,and all we have here is red clay soil. My garden is in the woods on the side of a mountain,and my hostas grow quite well,because the trees compost into the soil every year. Good luck with your garden! Phil

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 1:17PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i read your bio ...

that neighborhood.. indicates that $7000 flagstone walkways.. are not going to pop out of the checkbook freely ...

besides.. you also said you have the collectors bug ...

put those two together.. and paying for flagstone is insane.. pardon me...

besides.. in 5 years.. you will have so many plants.. you will wish you could tear out the path for more gardens .. lol ..

IMHO.. paths are the LAST THING YOU ADD ... because.. well.. you never will .. lol ...

review my link above about bed building.. and note.. i used the grass that is already there ...

ken .... apparently.. the path hater.. lol ... [crikey.. paying money for something you can ONLY walk on.. when grass is free ... who are you Rockefeller????]... thats a pun.. see what i did there??? ... lol ...

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 3:27PM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)


hostafreak-is there a differnce between red clay and the green-grey clay? Probably iron?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 3:55PM
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bernd ny zone5

A very good summary of all aspects of hostas is the 32 page 'The Hosta Adventure" brochure of the American Hosta Society, costs only $8 including shipping, see the link, scroll down. I must have it read several times.

Here is a link that might be useful: 'The Hosta Adventure' from the AHS

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 5:02PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i am a hostaholic... [its an AA type of chant]

if you grow them to perfection on the driveway .. i wont even see the driveway ...

if you grow them to perfection on a garbage heap.. i will not even see nor register the smell of, the garbage ...

focus peeps.. this is the HOSTA FORUM ...

who cares about stone walkways.. crikey .. please.. prioritize.. she needs at least 753 hosta.. before she spends money on peripheral issues ...

whats next .... your going to tell me there are companion plants ???? what are those???

join the AHS.. and get the journals.. you will be hooked for life... best $35 you will ever spend ... [and cancel all those non-hosta garden magazines.... FOCUS!!!!!]

thats your enabling for the evening ...


    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 6:18PM
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LOL thanks for the tips! You're right..the walkway will come last due to money and because I'm not sure if I want to make the commitment.

My husband is pretty Dutch too...but he is handy so who knows how this will turn out. I just worry the grass will wear from me walking through there every hour of the day once all is said and done. I redid my sketch to scale (which I've attached to make up for my poor sketch from earlier), and you're right...I'm going to need A LOT of hostas and yes, probably some other companion plants as well. Each square represents 1 foot, so after spending all day measuring my backyard and sketching this, I realize this is going to be a pretty big adventure and I'm going to end up with a lot of garden!

I learned so much from all the posts and I appreciate all the tips and advice. I'm still a little overwhelmed but your positive posts are reassuring. I will take the photo of Oak N Stone and use it as my inspiration as it is exactly as I pictured my gardens. I will also busy myself with checking on the links you were all so kind to post. I spoke with my Dad this morning and he told me of a nursery by him that sells over 200 varieties starting in May so I have a pretty good idea where I will be on Mother's Day!

(for the record - since you can't see it the middle part of the garden along the fences is 10 feet and the other humps are 8 feet. The walkway is 5 feet. Given this information do you think I can plant a few shrubs/trees along the fence and not smoother/kill any hostas I plant there as well?)

This post was edited by erinf83 on Fri, Feb 22, 13 at 0:29

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 12:17AM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

Who is kenk?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 12:33AM
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"kenk" is ken's alter-ego...shhhh.....

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 2:53AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

did you see the link on bed design?? .... you should be able to tone the scale down to fit your project ...

the width of a walkway is HIGHLY dependent on the machine you use to maintain it.. whether it be a riders.. or a walk behind ...

do NOT start by defining the walkway.. start beds from the perimeter ... plant your backbones ... and work the beds toward the center ...

i have had a national hosta tour .. and regional conifer tours.. and my walkways on 5 acres are about 4.5 to 5 feet ... yours sound too wide for your smaller lot ... but i dont know.. its something you have to intuit over the years ...

and thats another thing ... on some level.. you are thinking this is like a kitchen redo .. that it can be all drawn out.. and slam dunked this spring .. good luck with that ... it never worked for me.. mine has 'evolved' over 10 years ...

gardening is an ART ... that comes together.. over the years.. as you add AND DELETE from the palette ...

it is not a science that can be type A'd into perfection on the drawing board ... for a gardener anyway ...

yeah.. there's those no holds barred budget productions ... i call it 'checkbook' gardening ... but when it all boils down.. those peeps are not gardeners ... they are .. well.. to come full circle.. room designers ...

so i guess you have to start.. by defining who you are .. to determine where you are going.. such is the story of life ...


ps: I DRIVE ON MY WALKWAYS ... if i cant wear out grass.. your walking on it is not going to wear it out ...

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 7:02AM
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HI Ken, you definitely gave me some food for thought! I think I am the catagory of both...gardener and room designer. LOL.

My plans this year is to do what you said...just plan the beds, starting with the fence ones...the backbone as you call them. The only thing I was planning on planting is in the little bed in the top right (my main privacy issue), the tiny patch in the bottom right - which is already prepared, and maybe a few trees/shrubs/conifers along the back fence for some privacy form the rear neighbours. I spent the month or so after I moved in ripping out the mess they had in the existing gardens, so I do have some canvas ready for paint...or ready for hostas, so I am hoping to grabs a few this year to get me started, since I do know this is no overnight job.

Your turtorial was very helpful but I'm wondering if your lasagna method will work my clay soil. I think before I start with your plan, I'd like to dig a hole after the grass is kill to evaluate the soil and see what I am dealing with. Also...since I do have clay which has zero drainage, I don't think the irrigation would be necessary for what I am doing, although, I do really like the idea!

I will keep the walkway grass for quite some time...flagstone was just an idea once all is said and done...but you're is permanent and not its something I will jump right into. I do like knowing that your grass path is surviving! It gives me some hope!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 8:12AM
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Welcome aboard.

Ken gives great advice and you can do worse than follow it.

Each of us goes at our gardening and hosta addiction in our own way. Your drawings made me think back to my own starting point in 2003. I had a piece of my property (roughly 150 feet long and about 100 feet wide) that was in full to dappled shade from surrounding trees. I roughly sketched what I wanted including flagstone walks, hostas and companion plants. Grass does not do well here in full shade so that was never a consideration.

In the years since, I have slowly worked at creating the dream. First couple of years were spent preparing the initial beds, installing a sprinkler system that pumped water from a nearby river, and acquiring the first plants. I resisted somehow the urge to collect and only bought what would fit in a mature state - the gardens looked very sparse those first years BUT I learned a lot, enjoyed what I had and didnt really overspend.

Well, I did build flagstone walks! and though I provided the labour, they do cost a bit when all is said and done. In general terms, the garden as it stands now required 12 tons of stone dust, 7 tons of flagstone (NFLD green slate), 35 yards of topsoil, 22 tons of field boulders (limestone with moss) ... plus plantings and that irrigation system. I enjoy the building of the garden and do my own work sometimes renting equipment for the heaviest jobs. Currently, with still space for many more hostas (I choose by colour and size as opposed to collecting one of every variety) I am looking forward to adding my usual dozen or so new plants this spring.

All of this to say that your ambitious plans are certainly possible. And if you can manage the heaviest work yourself, then affordable also. My advice would be to go slow and enjoy the journey. If you expect to "build" the garden this year and have it fully matured with large hostas next year, you will be disappointed. After almost 10 years, my garden is just now coming to show itself well but I have enjoyed every step of the way.

I can look out through the trees today across a garden buried in frozen white and dream about the day at the end of April when the first hostas peek through the soil and look forward to mid June when all is fully alive and lush. I would not trade any of it for an instant garden ready years ago that I had no hand in creating.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 8:32AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the garden as it stands now required 12 tons of stone dust, 7 tons of flagstone (NFLD green slate), 35 yards of topsoil, 22 tons of field boulders (limestone with moss)

==>>> doug.. please tell me you had a large machine to move all that.. most of us dont ...

==>> when we speak of backbones.. we are usually talking about trees ... the stuff that needs 10 years to get to some size ... or to get established .... stuff you just should NOT wait on .... there are even some hosta that take 10 years ... and once you plant them ... you NEVER move them ...

===>> if i had clay.. i would move.. lol.. actually.. when i was shopping this place.. soil was the first consideration.. then acreage.. then the house ... seriously ... lol ...

i cant help you with clay EXCEPT to say.. NEVER amend JUST the planting hole ... you will do more damage than good ... especially with trees ... we plant them in native soil ... there are tricks.. you can ask in the tree forum ... TIMING is also very important with trees... NEVER plant a leafed out tree ... never forget.. jsut because you buy it.. doenst mean its the right planting time ....

but with clay.. for other stuff.. you can amend WHOLE beds ...

but again.. i have no expertise in that ...

i am getting tired of this post... which simply means.. i might not be coming back too often... as your plan progresses.. start new posts .... with searchable titles.. and we can work thru anything you wish ... [and after typing that.. of course i will just have to come back.. lol....]

i am glad i got you into the gardeners time frame ...


    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 11:40AM
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Erin, welcome, and have fun with your garden.

My first bit of advice, because we are now coming upon the vernal equinox--the time when the days/nights are equal AND the SUN RISES DUE EAST, AND SETS DUE WEST, is to make a note of that and remember it well! It is probably the most important bit of knowledge you'll have about where to find the sun at any point in the year and at any time of the day.

You can figure from the vernal equinox that the sun will travel toward the north and the shadows on the north side of your house will decrease, more sun will come to play in your garden. Likewise, as the autumnal equinox arrives and things are once again equal day and night, then the sun travels to the south (just like good SnowBirds do) and you have more sun against the southern side of your home. And, the north side of your house will have the longest shadows until spring arrives again. This basic bit of information will help with all your plantings, not just hosta.

Everybody else knows more about hosta than I do, but I can say that it is a great plant to watch come forth and cover your garden. They go dormant, so the rest of your garden will have to have "good bones" to cover the space beautifully during the down time of winter and early spring.

One thing for sure, you are going to have a BLAST with your big gardening space.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 11:47AM
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I moved the vast majority of that by hand. I did rent a trencher to bury the irrigation hose (600 ft of it) and I borrowed a farm tractor to move 25 yards of topsoil in obe day and I rented a small forklift for moving limestone field boulders ... but all the rest was moved by hand a bit at a time. Looking back I dont feel I ever slogged long days doing it.

My point was simply enjoy the creative process and the building of your garden as much as you enjoy the garden when mature. Take your time and learn as you go ... you will find your reward.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 1:11PM
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I've posted this post several times but its not showing lets try again!:

Doug, Thanks so much for your post! I would love to see a photo of your garden! You're right in that Ken does give great advice, like many of the posters on here. I have learned so much in the past few days and am very thankful for having found this forum.

I know this is not an overnight job and will take time. Part of me wants the instant gratification but a bigger part of me wants to learn about gardening and I know that comes with time and doing things myself. I do look forward to the time is will take as it will mean spending more time with my Dad who has graciously offered his help. Gardening has been his passion for the last 25 years so I am sure he will teach me a thing or two. I also am excited to get my boys involved (as much as a 8, 6 and 3 year old can be!!). My eldest has already expressed a lot of interested and last year for his birthday asked for a kids gardening kit he saw at the store. This is especially important to me with all the technology they have keeping kids indoors. I'm really happy that they want to pitch in, even if it means more work in the end.

I've checked out the Hosta library and can say I am very happy it will take me a year to develop the beds as I imagine that is how long it will take me to figure out with varieties I want to start out with!

This leads me to one more question on Hostas before I give this a particular forum a break and move onto the tree/shrub/conifers section so I can gather some more information there!

When choosing Hostas, should I "wing it" and buy what I like colour and size wise at the nurseries or should I do some homework online and settle on some species before heading the nursery?

I am not PLANNING on becoming a collector but would like a few unusual species...with that being said, I don't really want an PITA plants either...and from the little homework I did, White Feather is OUT! I do love the look of Fire and Ice but also doing a search on that I read a post that had a link to Difficult to Grow Hostas and to my dismay, Fire and Ice made the list...but also in the same post someone posted about there success with it. I don't want to have to go through all the different species this way hence why I wonder if I should just wing it at the nursery.

I just want to thank you all again for the advice, comments, suggestions and helpful links. I have saved this post into my clippings and will revisit it often when I feel like I am rushing

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 1:13PM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

Erin-I think moc passed on good advice, since you are in the bed planning stage, to keep records of how the seasonal moving of the sun impacts your planned beds. I have used those little flags on wire that are sold to mark underground stuff. You can buy them cheap in packages of something like 10, or bulk for pennies each. Maybe buy red ones and other colors. Then code the shade areas in spring when hostas will be breaking dormancy, mid-summer when the sun is at its apex, and then fall as dormancy is approaching. Then transpose the sun/shade lines onto one of your drawings for future reference.

That way, when you are picking out hostas you will know where to put the more sun tolerant and the more shade tolerant. Of course if you have a better way of marking your plans by all means use it.

Also, what ken says about not ammending a potting hole is, as usual, right on, with something unsaid. Digging a hole in the clay you have would be about the same as planting in a concrete tub from a drainage standpoint. I'd developed my beds by using landscape timber (4x4) secured 2 high and mixed the ammendments to raise the ammended topsoil even with the timber. A layer of coarse sand on top of the clay helps break down the clay somewhat. I've mulched beds, topping with a thin layer of black newsprint on top of which I'd placed straw. At the end of the season it all got turned into the soil, adding to the raised bed. But you will not want to bury the crowns so plan on avoiding that.
I would consider, for at least some hostas, potting them and then burying the pots during the heat of summer, and treating them like normal pots during winter by lifting them out of the ground, considering your environment. It is really not as much work as it might seem as long as the pots are large enough to not have to constantly repot and small enough to not need a bucket dogewopper to lift it out of the dirt. Moc, bkay, babka and others are far more qualified to give potting advice than I. I am still at the little girl stage when it comes to hosta potting knowledge and I read every thing they post.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 2:08PM
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Theresa always has a good idea!
When I lived at MoccasinLanding and spent only 63 days at home each year (3 weeks x 3) and the rest of the time I was away on a boat somewhere in south Texas or south Louisiana, I took a lot of pictures about where the shade was, where the sun was always present, and such like that.

I also stood in the house right in front of all my windows, and took pictures of the view from them. If it was a nice view, like looking down the bayou, I wanted to enhance it so I could enjoy that view more. If it was awful and I could do nothing to change the far perspective, I did what a parent does with a baby, distract it with a closer focus to draw attention away from that troublesome or distressing object. Like the big BUS parked in my neighbor's yard!

In those days I worked a lot (302 days a year) and came home with a plan for the house and garden too. If a plant did not survive being "killed" two or three times, I stopped planting it. If it survived, I got more of it. Benevolent neglect is what I called it.

Also, I would set up nice views that gave me a lot of pleasure. I seldom used it, but I hung a Pawley's Island hammock between my two pear trees, the sloping ground covered with wall-to-wall deep dark green monkey grass (orphiopigon) to hide the fallen rotten pears. I looked out my bedroom window to see the hammock and the bend in the bayou visible between the two pear trees, and it automatically relaxed me. I think I lay in the hammock maybe twice, but when it finally rotted and I tossed it away, I got another one for this house, which I call White Dove.

Incidentally, if you haven't yet done so, think about naming your new house and garden. We name the things we love, and they seem to respond to it. I figure that is also a reason why we love hosta so much.....they are not simply a "hosta"....they are each known by a special name, which we recognize.

Enjoy your new home, and especially that big garden space.
Incidentally, I thought I wanted a lot of the white centered hosta too, in the beginning. I quickly learned that they can have their place, but they are not the work-horses of the hosta garden. I do love white flowering plants in the shade, but I usually get the white vinca for the twilight a border of white blooming flowers defines the path without any artificial light. Down here, I could also get the white leafed caladiums as a companion plant in deep shade.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 4:05PM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

Hi Erin, welcome.

I have heavy clay soil. Ours is called "black gumbo". It's so dense, we don't have any voles, etc. Unlike Phil, my clay is not on a mountain and yours in not either. I live in the prairie. Here, you have to raise most beds to do any serious gardening for three reasons. One is drainage, two is breaking the soil up enough to grow something/adding amendments and the other is alkaline soil. You're going to need drainage for hosta. Just plopping a raised bed on top of the clay will not work well. Your plants will grow down those few inches and hit the clay and stall out. Your watering will do the same.

The best option I have found is "double digging". (Just google it.) I've use landscapers mix, compost and peat moss as my amendments. Other people use rock powders. sugars, other amdnedments in addition to the organic matter. Over time, the organic matter breaks down, so you need to continually add it to keep your soil friable.

If you find that amending the soil is too much work, Consider the idea of using plants that will grow in what you have. Talk to your county agent or look at your landgrant college for direction in your area. Here, we have Texas A&M, which maintains all kinds of gardening information for all areas of Texas. They also test plants to see what does well here. Our local arboretum also tests plants. If you choose what does well where you are, it reduces the work, the watering and replacing plants.

Here, at least, hollies grow well in the existing soil. There are tons of varieties and sizes. The large ones make good screening plants. There are several ground covers that do well in our existing soil. One of the things you can do for interest is pots of annuals in your beds (on a paver) or hanging baskets on poles add color and interest.

Hosta don't do well here without special and heroic soil preparation, so I grow them in pots. (Getting enough cold for hosta is always a concern here.) In my beds, I have things that do well without a lot of work. Think about that as you plan your garden.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 6:00PM
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hosta_freak(z6 NC)

For general info;,I once planted a Flowering Quince near my driveway in the same soil as my garden,but it is in full sun. Well,the soil there when I planted it was rock hard,and I had to use a pick and shovel to even plant it. It is still growing there,but the soil in my garden is so nice,I planted all my hostas there using nothing more than a hand trowel! It is that much different. I don't know what the difference in clay soils is,but I do know what kind I have. Anyone who has been to north Georgia,or Virginia knows that clay. Phil

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 9:21PM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

I don't fully understand your question Phil. I have been to Ga. and lived in Arkansas and lived with clay. And I have lived in Illinois and lived with clay-soil. Clay soil is not the same as clay. I don't know if that is technically correct but I don't care as long as I can explain it. Soil that has a lot of clay particles mixed in with it is clay soil. The clay Erin has spoken of is very pure clay, or I guess very finely pulverized limestone. IF is gets wet it stay wet. When it dries it is like cement. If it rains like crazy the water only permeates the top 1/2" of the clay and runs off. If you dig a potting hole it fills with water quickly and the soil you put in the hole waterlogs and rots the roots, like planting in a pot with no drain holes.
You CAN grow in raised beds if deep enough and by continual ammending slowly break down the top levels of clay. So the bed gets better and better with each passing year. My experience is that deep rooted plants try to penetrate the clay, where the roots die. Then they decay there while other new roots try to penetrate it. In a way plants are breaking down the clay and adding organic matter to it. This would seem to be another wonderful example of the will to survive
I have grown some very lovely hostas over a pure clay base, so don't be discouraged Erin..
I know this happens because I have pulled out tomato plants, and others, at the end of the season and all have dried balls of clay clinging to the deepest roots. These are the ones that have penetrated the clay base. Try to remove a yucca, which has strong deep roots and the best you can do is break off the roots. What is left imbedded in the clay will grow into a new yucca the next year. If you have clay, don't plant a yucca unless you want it to always be there.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 8:18AM
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bernd ny zone5

I have some patches with clay soil, never planted directly in it without some amendments. We had a rabbit for 10 years, and I dug in the newspaper, hay and droppings into the clay areas every week, that helped the hostas. I think what is important here is to have the crowns above the clay in a few inches of amended berm, so the crown will not rot because of sitting in water. Hostas like to have lower roots in water, so having lower roots sitting in a wet 'bathtub' should not be a problem. The roots of my hosta seedlings are in 1/2 inch of water and are growing fine. Some people have grown hostas with roots in a little creek.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 8:18AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

should I do some homework online and settle on some species before heading the nursery?

==>>> i think you mean CULTIVARS .... as you mention such ... anything with names in quotes is such ...

ANYTHING with a giant white center is a problem hosta ...

mail order hosta is the way to go.. unless you happen to get lucky and have a hosta nursery near you ...

buy anything that flickers your hearts desire ... but ask first.. there are quite a few very neat looking DUDs out there ...

you said: I also am excited to get my boys involved (as much as a 8, 6 and 3 year old can be!!).

==>> ALL time spent outdoors with the kids is precious ... teach them to eat dirt.. it will make them healthy ... lol ... but also teach them they eat NOTHING unless you give it to them ...


    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 8:41AM
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Why head to a nursery when you can find hosta friends nearby ( your definition of nearby may be 1 -10 -100 mile radius) who will share life and limb to help give you a garden IF you will be patient?

Most of the people on this forum met as a result of the hosta plant being a friendship plant.

Let's hear it for hosta friends!

Bruce Banyai

PS: yes, over the many years of gardening around the world I have met a few hosta people who I may not have felt friendly to or with - but that was always my problem, as I have found out!

PSS: Yesterday was the 9th Friday since New Years Day we have had either snow, sleet, freezing rain, or rain here in the Virginia mountains. Great for the gardens, drought now gone!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:34AM
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Jon 6a SE MA


12 tons of stone dust, 7 tons of flagstone, 35 yards of topsoil, 22 tons of field boulders gives a good description of the size of the project and the work you have put into it.......but........a picture is worth a thousand words. How about showing us the final result....please.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:50AM
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As I speak (so to speak), I am looking out the window to the garden beyond, and I see my DH walking around with a probe. He walks a few feet and thrusts it into the ground, then reads the meter. Hmmmmm. He already has prepared 4 raised beds for the arrival of his veggie seeds, and another long bed for the strawberries.

Our house is located on "high ground" here south of I-10, with an elevation of 22 feet above sea level. Our house destroyed by Katrina had an elevation between 3 and 13 feet above sea level. Disaster waiting to happen! Well, the 22 feet has not eroded because beneath it is a mound of good ole clay. Not a rock or a pebble or a gravel anywhere. I had no idea there was anything in this area besides sandy loam, which is what all my other gardens consisted of. But there it is.

My first discovery of the clay was in the half moon bed inside our circular driveway. I piled it high with leaves half rotted from years inside the roofless cement block garage, and never dug the bed. Less than a year later, it was turned and plantable because of the worms. Awesome job they did for me before, and they did not fail me this time either. So that ground with bags of cow manure and leaves amending the soil became home for the day lilies and the salvia and the Tropicana style canna. Those plants can take the heat of our climate, with shade arriving when the sun hides behind the tall pines across the street.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 1:23PM
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As soon as the ground thaws I will see what I'm dealing with and go from there. My last house had a bunch of thick clay but maybe this area was developed a little better and I won't have such massive chunks.

Bruce, I agree that it would be great to share with Hosta friends, unfortunately I don't know anyone else besides my Dad that has hostas and are willing to share and I have nothing to trade with anyone in this community....but since you brought it up I am heading to Massanutten for a week in March! :)

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 1:38PM
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Two hours past Massanutten straight down I-81 exit 118, all the hosta you can eat!

Just showing garden videos and photos now, have a few in pots.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 7:37PM
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hosta_freak(z6 NC)

OK,one more time about clay. All the soil(clay soil),if you will around this part of North Carolina is red clay! If it is in the woods,as mine is,it gets amended by falling leaves and changes to very nice soil. If it is out in the open under hot sun,it will be hard as concrete,but it is still just red clay. I don't know any other way to explain it! If you look at any bare ground where construction is going on around here,you will see the bright red/orange color of the dirt. It is pure red clay,period. It gets on your car,and especially tires,it won't ever come off tires if left on without washing it off. You will have orangish-colored tires forever. Is that clear as mud? Phil

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 7:39PM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

I have just searched 'Clay' and read what Wikipedia has to say, and it was clear as mud.. :o)

I did learn something that would be helpful to gardeners though.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 7:56AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

did you just get an invite from bruce????? ... you know.. his mom was one of the founders of the American Hosta society ... and he only has a couple million of her plants.. and get this.. he has moved them repeatedly .. lol ...

and his aunt daisy .. is the peep who made me join the AHS ... and really.. she was the one that made me 'discover' that there were more than the three undulata ... she basically caused me to spend thousands of dollars 'collecting' .. hmmm ...

below is a link as to how to accomplish a hosta road trip .. lol ..


ps: bruce.. did any of those variegated oak root????

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 8:27AM
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We take credit and blame for introducing hosta to people, some more happy and others like you, well absolutely hooked!!

Worse than alcohol and drugs, I once heard the wife of a man who visited my mother's garden weekly to "just stop by and see the hostas".

Spent an hour in the garden this morning, 39 degrees but clear skies and bright sun, low north wind, so enjoyable.

Corydalis and helleborus in bloom, red witch hazel, coral bark and beni kana Japanese maples very colorful.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 8:55AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

so thats a NO on the oak survival???


    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:57AM
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Well heck, Bruce, there you are about 800 miles or so further north than we are, and our Japanese maple are up to no good so far. Not a single pretty little bud showing on them. And it is a cool sunny day with 53*, a short break in a week of rain to be followed by t-storms and winds with possible tornadic weather tomorrow.

You mentioned I-81 and exit 118, so I know about where you are. When we come south from MA, our route takes us along I-81, and we always stop at the Red Roof Inn Wytheville which is exit 63 or 69, never can remember. (Red Roof allows us to have the 2 dogs and 3 birds). Too bad I discover your location after our annual treks are ended, because I would have loved to see your hosta garden. I've only seen one, Bob Seawright's garden in Carlisle MA, the same garden that Steve_Mass mentioned before.

Erin, the invite you received is worth a road trip such as Ken suggests, but yours would be short enough you could leave after daylight, no midnight rambles a la Blues Brothers. Although, I must admit, my ideal time to begin a long road trip is always near midnight, drive all night.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 12:45PM
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Well, you already received enough advice on hosta gardening. Perhaps I can just give you a shopping tip or two. Shopping being one of my specialties.

1. Ignore the "HOTYs" (Hosta of the year) list. It is propaganda, most are good hosta, a couple of great hosta and a few I wouldn't reccomend. In stead look at other awards like Benedict Medal for Garden Performance. These plants have been judged on their garden merits.

2. Avoid "new", unless you plan on collecting. These plants are smaller and sometimes of unknown size and vigor. You can add these to your garden later if you want more variety.

3. Check for substance, thicker leaves hold more water, deter pests from snacking, and withstand the elements better. If the leaves look and feel like lettuce they are lettuce.

4. Research, mature plants rarely look like the young ones in the nursery pot. Make a list and then go shopping. Even if you don't buy on line, you can look at some nice sources like Hallson's, In the Country and Naylor Creek to get ideas.

5. Have fun; I do.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 1:45PM
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Thanks for the great shopping advice! Much appreciated and I definitely learned some more valuable hosts advice from it!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 8:20PM
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Welcome Erin!

However it goes, I believe you'll be glad you discovered hostadom. By-and-large, most cultivars of Hosta are pretty forgiving, so don't sweat the occasional oops. Besides, 'someone' is having success, even with the notorious ones ;-)

I just absolutely cannot stop myself from adding one piece of 'my 2c worth', in this case a prior statement that dark green and blue Hosta "need" more shade. I strongly disagree, and have both science and experience behind that feeling.

Yes, before the flamers torch me, the blues do lose their blue as the season progresses if they are getting a lot of light, especially direct sunlight, but wow do they grow bigger better meaner faster. Besides, there are so many Hosta that are celebrated for changing color through a growing season, so I just add many of the blue ones to that list ;-!

The advise about the difficulty of ones with a LOT of pure white is one of the best 'generalities' regarding Hostas. I also got a giggle about the 'lettuce' hosta advice, cute and good, even though I dearly love Hosta 'Geisha'.

I am sure that most all of us are looking forward to pictures (hint, hint) from the beginning, middle, and (almost) end of this project(s).

The 'almost' is understood, right ;-?

All the best wishes, and happy trails (as long as they're not too-awful big, teehee),


    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 8:55PM
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A few oaks survived the summer with buds, then one bud lasted into Sept but finally I couldn't keep it growing any more. Drought took its toll.

I planted about 2-300 Jap maple cuttings last Spring summer (excess pruning, bad habit to try and prune then root them). Only a few took but they survived the drought and the winter, with little buds now showing.

Ken did have a thread a while back on visiting gardens - it reads somewhat tongue-in cheek, but worth mentioning.

This garden is not even close to what my mother had in MIchigan or I had back in Delaware; been here 10 years so finally starting to shape up but still needs a lot of care.

Planning to move a lot of manure this Spring to rebuild the beds and move some plants around. That magic cheap (free) mushroom soil of Delaware made everything grow well!

What I did better on this move was integrate the Jap maples, conifers and shrubs to the property's solar exposure. Biggest problem is the steep 80 ft dropoff only about 20 ft from the back of my home. Nine terraces solved the problem but need a lot of attention for plantings and spacings.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 9:13PM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

This could go on forever and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Bruce just tinkled my bell when he mentioned manure. If you are within striking distance of chicken, turkey or fish farms you might want to inquire about waste you can add to your compost production. I've hauled a lot of chicken litter for my Arkansas compost bins.
A hint: if they ask whether you want the wet or dry, take the wet-but make sure you bring tissues. :o)

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 8:13AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i said.. way above ... that i was bored ... it has bothered me ... and i have been trying to figure out why i was such ...

and i am dealing with figuring it out.. with a new post in the conifer forum ...

and all i get to.. is your need for a PLAN ... its so foreign to me.. i just dont know what to tell you about it ... its not that i am bored [poor word choice] ... its that i am flabbergasted i guess .. my PLAN.. usually involves collecting 20 plants in pots.. and figuring out where to squeeze them in ... lol ... now that is a plan.. lol ...

i can NOT contemplate.. drawing a garden out ..

please come over and joint the conversation at the link.. IF you have anything to say about it ... [other than to mock me for my poor word choice .. but if that makes you happy.. do so.. lol] ....

continued luck


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:01AM
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MadPlanter1 zone 5

Ugh, clay. We have a combination of clay and loess soil, horrible stuff. The clay doesn't drain, and the loess erodes like crazy. I dig in coarse organic stuff as deeply as possible when starting a new bed. Mini bark is wonderful, but has gotten very expensive the last few years. I also use the sunflower seed hulls the birds leave under the feeders. I do get the odd sunflower, but they're easy to pull. I've had cotton boll husks recommended, but can't find a source. The coarse stuff really breaks up the clay and improves drainage. Once the soil is broken up, I add leaves, coarse sand, and compost. Our county makes compost out of trees and brush, and sells it for $5.00 per Bobcat scoop. It's black and sort of gritty, but works wonders. If you have something similar in your area, it's a cheap way to get good soil. They also sell shredded mulch. Not as good looking as mini nuggets, but very cheap. We go through 4-6 truckloads a year, and the soil under the paths has gotten so rich and black - it just crumbles.

BTW, I think flagstone paths are a great idea, but I'd start with mulch and live with the paths for a few years. You'll probably decide to make changes. Once you're happy with the way everything is laid out, then install stone.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:16AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

wanted to reply to your reply in the other post.. to insure you get this ...

you do whatever makes you happy .... you were sounding a bit defensive over there ...

all i was discussing.. is how i can NOT help you 'plan' ... because I DONT DO IT THAT WAY ...

in the garden.. whatever works.. works ... and who cares how you get were you are going.. because surely.. you are NOT doing it for others.. you are doing it for yourself..

so you knock yourself out and have a great time doing it..

i look forward to more specific posts.. about specific issues.... where i can help you ....

i wasnt aware that your path has a function relating to the boys and getting to school.. if it will need to be shoveled.. consider that many surfaces can NOT be shoveled .... easily ... stone flagstone ... or small surface pavers.. may not take the abuse... [perhaps more along the lines of the boys ruining it by how THEY shovel it ...]

take care.. come back often.. and good luck


    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 6:59PM
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I too never really had a plan and some of my additions were from where the garden hose happened to land and an idea hit. Also my husband shovelled a spot in the snow for our three weiner dogs with 3 inch legs and looking out the window longingly for spring thought YES!... good spot for a path and more hosta beds on either side . Sometimes it works sometimes maybe needs a tweet but have fun while doing it. Looking forward to seeing it as it gets happening. Enjoy the venture

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 11:02PM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

I have used layers of newspapers covered with straw to keep them from blowing away for walkways. I think walking on straw and clay dirt makes adobe mud, and I don't want that. The paper kept me from sinking into the soil.
It's advantage is that in spring you can turn it into the garden soil as it will be mostly composted. It doesn't take long to lay down new newsprint and straw each spring.
Strangly, after a couple of years the soil in the walkways becomes better than that in the garden from the black tea washing into it when it rains plus the underside of wet newspring is a worm magnet. Time to reverse roles?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 9:07AM
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irawon(5a Ottawa)

Hi Erin,

I really like the PLAN you've drawn up for the bones of your hosta gardens. Even Ken has to admit that he had a PLAN as evidenced by his use of a garden hose to outline the edges of his garden beds. The only difference between your PLAN and his, is that yours is on paper.

You've gotten great advice from members of the hosta forum re selectiing your hostas. I'm hoping that your hostas have an east orientation (sun from the east) as that would be ideal. If I were you I would select your largest specimens first and place them in a permanent spot. You should research hostas regarding mature size and growth rate and shade requirements. Anything with Tokudama ancestry will be slower growing.

In respect to amending clay soil, you should inform yourself as to what type of clay you are dealing with. When I started gardening I amended my clay soil with sand, peat moss and compost. I was later informed by a local garden center that I should have used gypsum instead of sand because the sand turns our clay to cement. The soil forum on GardenWeb has debated the pros and cons of using gypsum (see link below). One of your local garden centers should be able to tell you what kind of clay you are dealing with if you don't know.

Google sent me to the soil forum on GardenWeb. I'm heading there again myself for more info.

Here is a link that might be useful: gypsum and clay/soil forum

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 7:24PM
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Hey, Erin, are you still with us? I'll look for a new thread as you begin laying out your new garden.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 1:30PM
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I'm still here!! Just waiting for my ground to thaw so I can get started! So far, the only planting I did was a few seeds I'm starting indoors....all vegetable!

We just left for massanutten today and will be here all week but hoping the weather gets warmer for us soon up in my neck of the woods!!

I will definitely start a new thread once the shovel goes in the ground ;)

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 11:02PM
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ofionnachta(z6 WNJ)

HI Erin! Welcome to the wonderful fun of gardening and also, bless you in your new home! Where are you located?

Are you thinking of only planting hostas or are you thinking of having a few other plants in there with them? Some contrast and especially color when the hostas are not blooming makes everything look really nice. Hostas are quite happy to have friends among them.

My lot is .1 acre and that includes the house. So I do not not get hundreds of hostas or anything else (except slugs). It is pretty shady from my neighbors' trees though the bed in front of the house is in full sun. That is where daylilies and irises go.

But I do have at least 25 cultivars of hostas and am planning some more. The advantage to a small garden is you have to plan what you put in it -- or else be prepared to pull out things to give away so you can make room for new acquisitions. And divisions from your older plants!

The fun is, you don't get everything at once that you will ever have. Wait a while and put things in a few at a time (annuals will do to fill in places) and then you can have the pleasure of learning about new species and cultivars and acquiring them as the years go by.

You will get different plants, hostas or otherwise, from various sources and they will always remind you of the person who gave it to you, swapped with you, or the trip you took when you bought one or another plant(s).

I like to have some color spotted here & there so I use impatiens (I can hear the perennial people groaning) and I also have some Heron's Pirouette perennial begonias---these get about 2.5-3" tall when they bloom and have long lasting scapes ( flower stalks), arching gracefully --- here, from Aug till frost. In May, there is old fashioned bleeding heart -- both white and pink/white. These die back in the heat of summer so the hostas, which are getting big, fill in the bare spots the bleeding hearts left. I have a few liriope here & there because they are OK with dry shade & tree roots, and they are not boring if you only use a couple. You can get them with several shades of variegated foliage, and white or medium or dark blue flowers. And they bloom in very late summer/fall when not much else does, in the shady garden.

I live in NJ overlooking the Delaware R just north of Trenton.

I use astilbe, too--from white to pink to deep red frothy flowers in late spring and early summer. They are also beautiful with the hostas.

Right now there are crocuses that have just opened yesterday (when it was sunny) and there will be squills and grape hyacinths, and daffodils are in the sunnier spots. I don't bother with tulips---though I love them, they are an expensive way to feed deer.

I have lily of valley under the Norway spruce tree (which has had its lower branches removed to give sun to the bed under it) this is a rather dry shade bed---however the trunk of the spruce is ringed with Gold Standard hostas that are quite happy. The bed gets compost thrown over it every spring and it has sweet woodruff in there along with the hostas, and little spring bulbs such as crocuses & squills, and bigger ones ie English bluebells. Lily of the valley would like to take over the world, but there is easy way to stop it---dig some out. After it blooms, so you can have the wonderful flowers!

I try to always have something blooming somewhere in the yard. It does not have to be a lot, just a bit--some white or pink flowered thing next to a dark leaved hosta brightens the corner. I have scilla Hispanica which is "wood hyacinths" -- you can get them in pink, white or blue, and they are very shade tolerant. They will bloom in May (here) and do very well next to hostas too. When the hosta leaves get bigger, the scilla is dying back for the summer.

In our yard we have red shale which breaks down to clay in some parts, and what the locals call "the brown sand" in the other areas. In one little lot! Some kind of interesting geology was going on here a long time ago! We now have dark black soil over both, after years of digging in manure, leaves, & compost.

You can ameliorate clay quite a lot with gypsum.

We dig our yard's leaves right into our beds, around the plants, in fall. When we make a new bed, which we did a lot of after we got the new septic system, we take three years to do this digging, instead of planting things right away. The soil in those beds is wonderful.

We also have a compost bin in the back corner---this is not rocket science and do not let compost hobbyists scare you! All you have to do is make a circle a yard or more across with sturdy wire, and throw in the leaves, weeds, and the non-meat kitchen scraps. Also grass clippings if you do not put weed killer and poisons on the lawn. Kitchen stuff meaning plant material such as peels, rinds, stems, leftover salad or other veggies that waited too long in the fridge to be eaten, and cut up toilet paper rollers. Turn it twice a year and when you turn it, take the well-composted stuff out & use it in your garden.

When the ground is warm in summer, we just take the kitchen compost bowl out & dig the stuff right into the garden next to the plants. It breaks down very quickly in summer and the nutrition goes right into the plants.

You said you have children---by all means, set aside a place for their own garden! Especially if you can make it in a sunny area. Let them plant veggies (then they will eat them) and make it easy ones such as lettuce and beans. You can grow beans as a little tent to save space. Or you can make a taller "tepee" with poles and leave an opening for the kids to crawl in under the beans. You can take a potato from the farmer's market (the organic stand; it won't have been sprayed with anti-sprouting stuff) and cut it up so the pieces have eyes. Just stick them in the ground a few feet apart. Then the kids can have their own potato plants.

Well, you have heard enough from me! Once again, welcome to years & years of great fun!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 4:57PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

Lot's of good advice, Oficionatcha. However, the oft repeated "gypsum breaks up clay soils" claim, simply isn't true. Check the link below.


Here is a link that might be useful: Colorado State U Extention Service

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 5:45PM
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Tri State Hosta Sale
Tri State Hosta Society had a wonderful Sale today...
What have we ordered?
So far I have gotten a few new ones. What have you...
ilovetogrow z9 Jax Florida
When could I remove the covers from the 2 ceramic pots of mini hostas?
The in-ground hostas are still very much in dormancy....
Esther-B, Zone 7b
Private email to a poster
Now you CAN privately e-mail a I just now...
Babka NorCal 9b
Got pips?
I have been telling my hostas that there is no hurry...
ilovetogrow z9 Jax Florida
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