Hosta "Strategies"

leafwatcher(zone 5)March 27, 2013

Hopefully this will be a fun topic, not one that crawls to the back of the forum..

We all have dreams of acres of perfect property to show off our plants. But most of us also live in the reality of a normal yard with fair to middling spots to grow Hosta. What is your STRATEGY?

I like to give the best shaded spots to monster BLUEs, and the brighter spots to the obvious big yellow sun loving plants. Tall vase like blues go behind groups of different types or against fences. In the bigger areas as much plant to plant clashing as possible !
Avoiding anything similar in color or pattern preferably !
Obviously, that its short ones in front, and tall in back.
There is also a bit of a strategy to EVENTUALLY make them big and showy along the front of the house so people rubberneck when they drive by. hahahhahhaha

I have been scattering good ground covering Tiaras in the zones my GIANTS will soon conquer! The tiaras will get a new assignment at that point !

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This will be only my second season as a Hosta-Hoarder, the only thing close to what you could call a 'strategy' for me personally is...

I planted most of my fragrants grouped in the same area of my yard to hopefully maximize their stinky goodness. This part of my (back) yard also happens to get a good amount of direct sun. I intend to extend the 'Fragrant Forest' up the hill on the north side of my home, where with any luck the scent will ride the summer breezes into the master bathroom window with enough intensity to be able to actually detect their smell inside at least to the master bedroom. I am prepared to plant a lot of fragrant Hosta to make this work. I have a half dozen 'Royal Standard' on order just for the fenceline directly under the window, plus some more 'Guacamole' and 'Fried Bananas' are on the way. OK well I guess since my post has gotten so 'wordy', I suppose I've put enough thought into it to call it a legitimate strategy.

The only other thing is, early on last year I heard Hosta 'Blues' scorched really easily, so I planted a bunch of blues in bright shade only. I have 'Blue Hawaii', 'Queen of the Seas', 'Deep Blue Sea' 'Blue Mouse Ears' and 'Guardian Angel' sited basically as their own garden area. Now that I know they CAN take some direct sun, do I regret planting them as neighbors to each other? Nope, I think they'll look great together, plus I have several hardy ferns as companions. 'Ghost' ferns, Japanese Tassel Ferns and Cinnamon ferns with some lamium as ground cover. Could be worse! If they all come up OK, I'll be super-happy. Sorry I rambled so much but, Leafwatcher, you DID ask. :)
Cheers, Everyone...
Don B.
Westminster, CO.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 2:28AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Just starting out my 'plans' continue to evolve but I hope to utilize some basics that make sense to me-

'Stadium' planting high in the back, low in front is a given.

Personally I like big hosta and have no interest in smaller ones as they simply get lost in an area and a collection of small hosta simply has no appeal to me...too fussy with minimal effect. This will undoubtedly be contested by some, but this is simply my taste and others have different taste which I accept but cannot understand. ;->

I also like to give each hosta room to grow and have room for its full shape. Crowding them in does minimize weeding and some like the wave look accomplished with closer planting. I just don't prefer it.

I gleaned a bit of advice from 'Carolyn's Shade Gardens' which is if you want your garden to look great you should plant at least 6 of anything. 3 is a bare minimum and never plant anything in twos or fours as odd numbers in small lots are unnatural looking (basic stuff again)

Keeping the same color scheme makes sense to me from the aesthetic standpoint and also from the fact that similar hosta like similar sun conditions.

I subscribe to the viewpoint that there should be a specimen or specimens within the planting of similar color plants. The eye will be drawn to the specimen and it will get the attention it deserves rather than being melded into plants of similar colors. Placing a mixture of colors keeps the eye bouncing around. A distinct specimen stands out when it contrasts with the background. Its the same theory as the good looking girl hanging around with her plain girlfriend which makes her even better looking in comparison, or the guy with a plain looking wing man. Place a good looking guy or girl with a bunch of other good lookers and they don't seem so special.

I like variety but I am not a collector so having a lot of different hosta is not important to me. Luckily I have lots of room and can have swaths of the same plants, which I prefer. Avoid straight lines as much as possible (Duh).

All this is a lot of 'like' and 'would'; we will see how all this theory is started to be put into practice if Spring ever reaches SE Mass.


Here is a link that might be useful: Carolyn's Shade Gardens

This post was edited by jonnyb023 on Thu, Mar 28, 13 at 7:56

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 7:36AM
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Jon, Thanks for the link to Carolyn's Shade Gardens. Some good reading.

Don B.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 3:46AM
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My "strategy" this year, if it could be said I have one, is to carpet my woods garden (where I have yanked out honeysuckle) with hostas, ferns, and wildflowers. I am not really interested in growing collector or specimen plants in this area, especialy as deer and critter-infested as it is, so I am planting mainly seedlings that I started a couple of years ago. Who knows what I'll get?!

I have planted several Japanese maples, lots of azaleas, and a few divisions of mature hostas (Blue Angel, Sagae, Francee, Francis Williams) that I had to remove from other spots for one reason or another.

There will be lots of ground covers, golden moneywort, sedums, creeping veronica, violets, wild ginger, anything I can get to grow and cover territory, (as long as it isn't honeysuckle!) so I don't have to pull any more weeds than necessary. There are already plenty of wildflowers: woodland phlox, celandine poppies, trilliums, Jacob's ladder, virginia bluebells, carpets of dogtooth violets in the spring, mayapples, native ferns, bloodroot, Dutchman's breeches, and lots more that I just let spread unchecked. I'm adding tiarellas, gentians, and a few other more rare plants this spring. The hostas that are already there will get companion plants of bleeding hearts, heucheras and more ferns.

I did start a bed of little hostas last fall, and I'll add to it. It started out to be a "mouse" garden but I'm afraid other minis and dwarfs have crept in there. It is backed by a group of really big hostas (if they survived the winter and the voles), an evergreen dogwood and a new Onandaga viburnum.

Then I saw a rock garden of little hostas on the Carolyns's shade garden link (thanks for an enjoyable morning!) and now I want to add more rocks to my other bed of dwarf hostas.

You can see the bare areas past the wildflowers in the woods, that is where I'll be working on my "strategy". There is more that you can't see, past the trees on the right. There are already some hostas there that I have put in the last two years.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 12:53PM
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A big Blue Angel has already been planted on the left right behind the wildflowers. There are also red-twig dogwoods there. This woods has thousands of daffodils also that were already gone when this picture was taken last spring.
Two years ago we set out a dozen or so small dogwoods through the woods, they are still too small to amount to much and a half-dozen white pines.


This post was edited by mosswitch on Fri, Mar 29, 13 at 13:03

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 1:02PM
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I really like those blue (Phlox?) in the woods. I've tried to naturalize them here but I think it must be too cold because I've had no luck.

This is a good topic. Planting in groups based on fragrant flowers, themes of any kind, the 'mice' together, it is fun. I like putting family groups together like Piedmont Gold, Satisfaction and Summer Serenade. The plant shape and size is the same but the colors are in different places on the leaf and it all blends.

I find that what is visually pleasing is in the eye of the beholder. I agree with the idea of a specimen in an area with contrasting or complimentary plants around it. I find that my center of interest Hosta is very often a large green one.

My personal preferece is not to plant hostas in drifts of the same plant. To my eye you loose the shape and interest of the plant. I did this years ago with daylilies on the opposite side of my driveway. I moved them because they were in the way of my expanding hostas. I realized when I bothered to look at them that the graceful, flowing, round shape was lost in what was a jumble of grass like foiligage. I removed every other one and put something else there. Now that whole garden is mainly hostas with day lilies inbetween. They both have round shapes and look nice together.

leafwacher said at the begining

"But most of us also live in the reality of a normal yard with fair to middling spots to grow Hosta."

My contributation to this thread is a way to find more space. I hope it will be of interest to someone. Although I am on acerage my actual garden would probably fit into a larger sized suburban yard. I've found the prime spots (no tree roots and enough sun) is at a premium. In order to fit more in that prime space I have planted up. Raising plants to a height lets you have way more room than you otherwise would. I've used dead wood, rocks whatever I can find to create these spots. The casual, informal look suits me and bringing in other elements works well in my garden.

The first two pictures below are at the edge of my very small lawn. It is temporary but a stair step idea of a planter here is a dream for the future. In the meantime it works pretty well with one level of a rise and pots at the back.

The rest of the pictures are the inner wall with Niagara Falls. This changes at least a little every year. Over time the dirt compresses and I usually need to raise the plant higher at some point. Niagara Falls has been lifted and raised at least 3 times. I think it will be able to stay where it is now. This year I will raise Shade Fanfare at least 6 inches. It is below Niagara Falls and next to Cool Hand Luke in the pictures below.

The Niagara Falls garden is between two and three feet wide. If it was flat it could probably accomade 1/3 the number of plants.

My garden is a work in progress and always will be which suits me.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 2:04PM
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leafwatcher(zone 5)

McTavish, I love the look of your,
Exotic Living Sculpture approach ...

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 11:03PM
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Point well made, McTavish. And I agree.
Strategy? Hmmmm.
Well, I started last year putting hosta in groups by the nursery they came from. Then I moved the pots with the similar variegations together, so I could train my eye to recognize each one and how it was different from similar marked hosta. Then I started raising up on a pedestal the ones which were full and gorgeous, and clustering around the pedestal an inner ring of pots that were large, surrounded by a ring of pots that were small. I also allowed my walkway between each cluster so I could safely drag a water hose. During this mass moving of pots, I discovered my soil was getting mushy from the watering and the rain, so I had to kill all the grass, fill in low spots, put down landscape fabric and cover it with cypress mulch. Then I put the hosta back on top of it, pedestals and all. This year, I heisted some short tree trunk rounds to use for more pedestals. Late in the year when some were looking bad, I took the better lookers and created a focal point to undulate toward the back gate leading to our nice neighbor's garden. To be sure, many of those "lookers" were my biggest fragrant hosta. I expect that little army will include many of the late-season arrivals from Hallson and WadeGatton.

Today I found an assortment of small pots which can be hung on my privacy fence, maybe for small hosta, or maybe for some herbs. I prefer to keep small hosta in a communal pot where I water 4 or 5 at a time, and don't miss any that way.

I guess that is a strategy. But I left out that I'm supplementing the scanty shade of late summer by placing large patio umbrellas in strategic spots, with a chair for me, and big heavy pots of hosta to weight the base. If it looks like rain, I close the umbrellas. After we remodel the back of our house, I should have space on the deck for some choice fragrant hosta, where shade begins a little after the noon hour.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 12:23AM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

I've been thinking about what my strategy is since leafwatcher posted this thread. I would say that it is simply to buy hostas that I love. I am not concerned right now about what kind of hosta it is, or what size the hosta will become (except no giants) or what color. I am thinking about what hostas and other plants bring me joy. You see, I am slowly redoing my backyard. I had really hard times for a few years, but now I am ready to dig in and create some beauty. So the plan is that this year a section of the garden will be completed. I am hoping to make some plate flowers to individualize my garden.

I like McTavish's idea of planting up. I have a large wooden 6 foot fence that I am trying to do something with---like attach some shelves onto it for hosta pots. I am trying to figure out how to hang some hosta pots onto a pole to create more of a vertical garden.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 12:33AM
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MadPlanter1 zone 5

Such beautiful gardens, loved the woodland and the "planting up". I don't have a strategy at all and will probably be begging for design help. I just look for the spot where that particular hosta will thrive, add some compost and manure, and water like crazy. The blues end up in the shadiest spots, and the sun lovers in the morning sun. They all grow, but I'm sure they could be more attractively displayed.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 8:30AM
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This will be my 7th year as a hosta hoarder.

At first, I collected.... if I found a name I didn't have, I bought it. I tried to put them in as best I could... giving 18-24 inches of space between pots. Tried not to put same colored plants next to one another. Then, I had a big affinity for giants. Know what happens to giants when spaced only 2 feet apart?

Major overcrowding within a couple years.

So now, I try to shop mainly from my wishlist of about 30. But I do give into impulse sometimes if I love the coloring of something and need something that size and color for a spot.

My overriding theme is that I try not to put the same coloration next to a neighbor of the same coloration. So, Paradigm and Brother Stefan are many many feet apart.

And whenever possible, I try to group families together. Halcyon, June and their progeny are all together.

Smalls/minis in the front.... big 'uns in the back.

When I start a new garden, I now look for what big and mature specimens I can move in to anchor the newbies that might get added.

I do have to say that this late spring has curbed my desire to buy.... I really have no space. I could put in a few of the June progeny I've been eyeing, but nothing is exciting me so much that I need to pull the trigger that badly right now.

At this point in my gardening 'career', I'm more looking to create gardens that don't look so crammed.... so thinning out, while maintaining interest in each area.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 10:41AM
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This is a great thread. I'm bumping it up, so that our nice crop of new folks who have not contributed to it, can read it and tell us what they consider their strategy.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 6:24PM
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I've never thought about my hosta strategy until I saw this thread. I've been thinking about it off and on all day and I came up with:

1. Super shady spots are at a premium in my yard. The blues always get these spots.

2. Minis always go in pots and not in the ground. I've lost too many in the ground and I don't feel they're shown off properly unless in a pot.

3. Speaking of pots, I used to pot up my hostas in anything they fit into. Now I'm seeking out that "just right pot" that will accentuate the hosta's unique beauty. ( I find a can of primer and a $3.99 can of spray paint give my old pots a lift and give me a nice change of look if I want it.)

4. Seek and test out as many sun tolerant varieties as possible and use them where I can. (Nothing spoils my mood more than having to look at a crispy, burnt hosta all summer long.)

5. Use as many upright and vase shaped hostas as I can, because (especially if they're large) I can plant a small one right underneath. It's like getting a 2-fer-1 and helps satisfy my hosta lust...if only for a moment.

6. Don't grow what I don't like, even if someone else thinks its the prettiest hosta ever. Life's too short to look at ugly hostas! Lol. Same goes for only growing cultivars that do well for me. I get sick of babying them along...and they never look as good as I'd hoped anyway.

7. Last, but not least, stick to my hosta wish list when buying new plants. If I don't, what happens is I see something pretty on gardenweb and "plant lust" kicks in and I immediately buy it. Pretty soon, I don't have any room left in my garden for the ones I really wanted. I find if I just put the name of whatever new one I saw onto my list and look at it off and on for a while, time will tell me if I actually want it or not.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 8:49PM
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jadie88(7 MD)

Moc, I was just reading this thread yesterday and thought about bumping it, too! So glad you did.

Right now my strategy is to 1) continue long-term soil improvement and bed-building so I can eventually put these plants in the ground and 2) come up with a strategy for whenever that day comes!

I am learning so much from all of you, so thank you for sharing your wealth of know-how and experience!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 9:32PM
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Interesting to look back on this, written over 2 months ago.

My strategy hasn't changed much.... but I do wish that if I had had it to do all over again, I'd have followed a much different "strategy".

My garden was pretty for a couple years, but it seems like now it has become a big mess of overcrowding.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 11:23PM
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Melissa, I feel for you. How about taking a look at the "Hanging Gardens of Hampshire" on YouTube. They made a virtue out of the overcrowding. Their garden is so lush and full, it could be tropical. Of course, they have the perfect British climate while you have wintertime issues.

I'm thinking of a strategy for using vertical space. Myrle suggested raising things for accommodating more in a smaller area. You can think outside your present area if by raising things you create MOre SHADE. Think something like a pergola, covered walkways laid so the shade pattern serves the hosta needs.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 1:23AM
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Flower Frenzy, you are really soaking up the information and adjusting it to your garden needs.

Keeping a WISH list is a good idea when you use it as a step back moment from impulse buying.

I had Empress Wu in my head for a long time, but felt it should go in the ground. Not until my DH cleaned out the driveway bed did I have a spot for it. I could not believe what the clean bed looked like, and I sat there studying the space for a long time. Yes, I got Wu and will give her a happy home. Also put my older Sum And Substance in that same bed. I've gotten deeper into hosta than I expected, and strategy is required.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 2:38AM
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Hm...My strategies....I guess it changes as the garden matures.

1. Stay in denial about how big some of them will get. ;). Like Melissa, I am concerned about overcrowding and expect that next year I will have to make some tough decisions. I can't just move them, because I don't have the room. So I'll have to decide which ones I love too much to let go, and the ones I run out of room for will go to my father in laws garden.

2. Remember voles. Lost several plants to them a few years back and now everything gets planted in a cage or with a lot of gravel around it. Some are left in nursery pots and sunken in the ground.

3. Remember slugs. I buy only thicker leaved hostas. During the growing season I try to go out once a day and hunt for them with diluted ammonia. I attract them with leaves of lettuce, so they are easy to find. Also using copper foil to make protective rings around certain hostas has been a great investment. I don't use slug bait because the pet safe one doesn't work for me.

4. Pots. Since I am limited on space I do have a lot in pots. I keep the hostas in black nursery pots and slip those into more decorative containers. I have a mix of glazed ceramic pots and hypertufa ones I have made. I like to change up the arrangement of the plants in them each year. I try to group the pots together based on similarity, as well. So all my blue ones are together, for example.

5. Come up with a plan for winter protection for the potted ones. Last year I was so, so lazy in the fall that I did a lousy job with that. This year I will make sure all the potted ones are fully buried in a trench along the north side of my house. Not soil over the crowns, just buried so that the crowns are on the same level as the soil. I've found this gives them the best chance of getting through the winter.

6. Make sure I have enough solids (including green) mixed in with the flashy variegated ones.

7. Make sure I leave room for companion plants. I love hostas and they are the stars of my garden, but I think using companions accents them. I try to plant the companions in groups of at least three.

This post was edited by coll_123 on Tue, Jul 2, 13 at 11:45

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 11:44AM
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Coll, you have an amazing garden, and the hypertufa work is inspiring. You will find a way to keep most of the ones you love I bet.

I am thinking of a better winter dormancy strategy too. The squirrels dug up so many of my small hosta that losses were mostly in those little pots. I might as well start cutting hardware cloth now so I'll be ready with covers for the larger containers, and mass together the small things with one large piece of the hardware cloth.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 12:06PM
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I think a higher percentage of solid leaved hosta along with a few varigated hosta is more serene and pleasant to the eye. Since my community garden is an island, it can be viewed from all sides just by walking around it so - I wasn't too concerned with placement. I later thought that grouping three fried bananas together might be too much, but I like it, and when they bloom they will be eye popping. It's frustrating because we are only allowed two pots on our patio, and the "pot" police are always on the lookout.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 4:13PM
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My first hosta garden was thru the oak trees in front - I had to see the path first before I could plan. Make sure the path curves so that you can't see parts of it till you're there. Then I planned for my bright spots - those hosta that kept you looking ahead and guided you along the path. Hostas with white or yellow. If I had to do it over I would make the paths a bit wider because that 3' wide hosta never read its plant label and is now 4' wide. Also, I would probably add a few walk in spots where the garden gets deep. Plan a few resting spots to sit and enjoy - keep some of your favorites hosta to plant around these spots.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 8:50PM
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Paul, those are words of wisdom. Especially wise to reward yourself by having favorites planted where you like to sit.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 12:24AM
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jadie88(7 MD)

Bumping this up again since I have been gleaning lots of tips from it!

I have fear of committment...been moving potted hostas all over the place trying to figure out where to put them. Man, buying dozens of hostas is way easier than figuring out where to put them!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 10:02PM
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hehehehehe.....Jadie, I know what you mean, buying is easier than deciding where to put them.

My rule is, no place is off limits. It it fits, it can stay anywhere it feels happy. Mostly in a pot, of course. At this point, I have hosta in the Back40. Hosta in my DH's blueberry patch, hosta in a pink pirogue, hosta on the patio, hosta moving along the driveway, hosta under the three Japanese maples, under the bamboo, under the banana trees, peach tree, tangerines, figs, and definitely a LOT beneath the big umbrellas. :)

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 11:12PM
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LOL Strategies can change, I guess. I still have my fragrants planted together, but the blues are all over the property now. As I made more planting room, apparently my plans evolved. Nothing wrong with that. I guess hosta gardens are never really 'finished' are they? That's probably a good thing. : )

Don B.

P.S. Leafwatcher, your wish was granted; This is a very long-lived thread. A good one, too.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 3:43AM
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I guess I have changed some of my strategy as well, now that the garden is more full. Also with the changing weather patterns, I buy new hostas mostly in the fall when they can get fully established over the winter, so they can go into the summer heat more easily; and as large a plant as I can get.

I am not buying any more greenies. I have plenty of green seedlings, and they are all shapes and sizes, from tiny leaves to big round ones, long, narrow, wavy leaves; satiny, shiny, dull, and I want to see what they all grow up to be. I'm filling bare spaces in the woods garden with them.

And now, I'm going through my lists of wants before I order, and marking where each plant will go before I buy it so I don't over-order and go frantic trying to make sense of it all.

Not that I won't buy too many plants in the spring anyway. But I have to start somewhere!


    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 11:18AM
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A Thread worthy of bumping-up every so often.

My personal strategy is ensuring that it remains, as the currently hot buzz-word sez, 'sustainable'.

Here, the length of the single-source watering hose defines that, about 2 acres. Beyond that, a long drought makes it impossible to keep everything 'perky'.

Thereby, new cultivars must displace duplicates of oldies. After all, how many 'Gold Standards' does one need, despite what a good plant it is?



    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 10:33PM
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My strategy is to go broke buying Hosta and to drive my DW crazy with all the Hosta talk! I also love the fragrant family of Hosta and would like to own at least one of each, then move on to the June family. Other than that, I just like to shot from the hip!


    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 10:52PM
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Ha ha ha Devon, that's been my strategy the last couple months, too!

Don B.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 11:03PM
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