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Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

Posted by hostaLes 5 (My Page) on
Sat, May 26, 12 at 13:28

I have read a lot of posts here in Hosta Forum asking how much space to leave for planting a certain Hosta. I have had the same question myself, and my answer has always changed over my years. My answer now is, "whatever you want from your garden."

-Appearance: I have always liked natural looking gardens and in nature few things grow with large open spaces between them except in deserts, etc. So I prefer shoulder to shoulder spacing. Mulch is low priority.

-Spacing: I will plant to leave just enough room for optimum growth in the 3rd year to fill the gap. Often they won't need moving for many years. Other times they may remain in the spot for 3-4 more years before looking severely overcrowded. Sometimes my hosta doesn't meet expectations. I can always maintain the desired size of a fast growing hosta by taking divisions for potting as gifts, etc.
If you HAVE to move one, see ken's tape and move system.

-Weeding: The older I get the less time I have wanted to do weeding, and then I want to do it the simplest way possible. (Again, kudos to ken for his discarded mustard jar for use in dripping Round-up on tough to pull weeds, saplings, etc.) Mature hostas make better weed barriers than the best mulch, in my opinion.

-I wouldn't leave a 5 foot space for any hosta that I didn't DESIRE to fill in 3 years (the green banana factor applies). I have a spot in the front of my house that is perfect in my eyes for a huge Sagae. I have reserved a 6'x6' (36 sq. ft.) space for it. Around it are Poppies and Surprise Lilys whose foliage fades about the same rate as Sagae grows out each spring. In mid-summer when the Lilys bloom I hope they will poke through the hosta leavesin mid. Maybe I can post a Sagae which appears to have huge pink flowers. (lol)

I say all this because my age doesn't leave me with a lot of energy for higher maintenance gardening. So one of my beds is bordered with a wall of really low maintenance sedum which I can mow along on my rider. My gardens won't compete landscaping-wise with the best, but they suit me.

Everyone needs to find their own level. I have seen people give up on hobbies because they haven't found their personal level ground. No-one should have to do this. If you want a giant, fast growing hosta and only have 9 sq. ft. of open space available, get and plant it. If you have to change it out in 4-5 years, no big deal. You may have it worked out by then, like moving out neighboring plants to make room for it - if that is what you want.

Gardening is a self-perpetuating, gratifying hobby. Live it to your fullest.

Les


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

Speaking of spacing! I was just about to post this pic!
Photobucket
I took an out of the way drive to a nice garden center and purchased my self an early birthday present. I got 3 new Hosta(S). I got a 3 gallon Empress Wu with 4 eyes and a tight root ball, a 2 Gallon Sum and Substance that had 3 stronger eyes and 2 small ones. I planted them in the space where a rabbit hutch stood for about 5 years. The Soil under it is Rich and dark and loamy from years of rabbit manure and worms. It is in a corner of the yard and the oak leaves pile deep there. It gets about 2 hours of mid afternoon sun and dappled shade the rest of the day.
My question is SPACING! I left about a shovel distance between them (4.5 feet) and 3 feet off the fence. My thought was it would be near 5 years before the were touching and more then that until crowded. There is Room to move them now if I need to?


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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

Dray, I'm no expert, heaven knows, but I'd say you about have it right. However, with all that rabbit energy coursing through their leaves, I would not turn my back on them too long. IMHO, they will be some very happy hosta. And right now, they look great together.

How about throwing in a few annuals like coleus which can take shade or sun? I bet they would be great there and grow like weeks.


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I agree Les

The old saying, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," can be paraphrased to work with setting up your hosta beds. The whole purpose of gardening, in my life, is to please myself. My "style" has always been one of "reckless abandon." Or maybe exhuberant abandon.

In the past years when I overcrowded my garden (seldom bothered with formal beds), the plants sort of spaced themselves according to the nutrients available, the air circulation required to stay healthy, and such as that.

At my little MoccasinLanding cottage on the bayou, I transformed it into a private secret garden space even though it was a tract house in the city. I was happy there for over 17 years. It shocked me to see what the buyer did, in one day, bulldozing trees, shrubs, everything, turning it back to a pathetic exposed little track house baking in the August sunshine.

Presently our White Dove stucco cottage is on its way to being the same exhuberant excess of MoccasinLanding--how can I help but garden in that fashion!!

So yes, Les, I say do what makes you happy, and may the best plant win. Remember Rick Nelson's song "Garden Party"
where one line says, "....can't please every body, so....
gotta please yourself."

GO FOR IT.


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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

dray-I'm sure that in 3 years they will be close to being shoulder to shoulder. At least there won't be much soil showing. I agree with moccasinlanding. That is a big open piece of dirt for yrs. 1-3 and packing it with 2fer sale coleus the first couple of years would be kind to it. Nothing loosens packed barren soil like plant roots being there. The plant roots attract all sorts of underground perks that improve soil, like bugs which die, bugs which poop, yada yada yada. But your soil surely is pooped in, not pooped out.

If you plant nothing else, it will become populated by things not to your liking. So make it your choice, not chance.

Enjoy

Les


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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

Les I am right there with you. I like your style. Do it entirely for yourself. Don't overdue if you can't take care of it and set up everything for ease of care and you will be a happy gardener.
Cher


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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

I also agree. My style sounds alot like moccasin's. I bought my cottage just shy of 6 years a go. No grass, no perennials, trees in the backyard only, front yard surrounded by chain link. People would walk by and stare at me pulling weeds, making beds, etc. Yuck! Now, 5 years later the chainlink is no longer visible at all. My plants are thick and tall. You can not see into my front yard from the sidewalk at all unless you are over 8 feet tall. Total privacy. It's wild, it's exuberant and I love it.


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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

Les, thanks for posting this! As I'm kind of new with the hostas I have worried people here would think that I wasn't doing it "right". I haven't wanted to post any pictures cause I know I have planted my hosta's too close together - but they are so small right now! I figured I would just move them as they out-grow their spots untill everything is right.
Around here a lot of people plant one or two plants, leaving a big old pile of mulch with maybe a driftwood piece or a rock. Not me! I want plants everywhere. I don't want to see the mulch! I guess my style is like moccasin too. When I moved in here there were four big evergreen bushes out front and they used lava rocks for mulch. I had lava rocks piled up all around my house. No flowers or plants. What IS that? It took forever to get rid of them and I still find a lava rock once in a while. All my neighbors think I am the crazy garden lady haha!


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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

Dray.... I'm going to say that within a couple years, you're going to be touching. My Empress Wu went into the ground August 2010 and it's already 4-5 feet wide.
S&S is slower to get going.

Les.... I'm now facing a big big big decision.

I started my garden in 2007 and now, I'm seriously overcrowded. One section of my garden has absolutely no mulch showing. And that section was planted in 2008/2009.

So, yes, you're right that you probably can get away with making decisions that are good for the 3-4 year period, but after that, you've got to then plan for moving large hosta to more permanent homes. It wasn't until after I planted this area that I started taking a different approach to planting.

NOW, when planning a bed with newer hosta (ones that are 1 gallon or less), I'll plant a large hosta, with its immediate neighbors being medium or small.... the anticipation here being that the large one will stay (so as to not stunt growth of larger leaves), and the smaller ones will move. They can more easily handle the move.

I did, however, plant via this theory when I planted Empress Wu, but I can already see that the smalls/mediums that are her neighbors are either going to all have to move this year or the Empress herself will have to move as she's already engulfing a medium, reaching over it, and touching an Olive Bailey Langdon, who has had a huge growth in leaf-size this year.

I do like the look of hosta touching one another and vase shaped hosta towering above low-growers, but dang, now in year 7, I'm going to have to make some super tough decisions about what to move where.


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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

Les, I enjoyed this post a lot. Thank you for sharing your gardening philosophy, which I find is very much in sync with my own. Your comments on spacing caught my interst because I don't like lots of bare space between plants either.

I now have a very nice 4 year old Sagae that has become crowded. When I planted it I had no idea how big it would get! It's competing with hydrangea for elbow room, and I've been fretting over what to do since Steve recommends not moving Sagae. The solution occured to me a few days ago - I'm going to get rid of the hydrangea! It's my garden, I can do whatever I want.

Happy gardening to you, too.
Christine


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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

Sure Christine.

Melissa, that is why after living in my house for 8 years I only have 60 varieties. Yet if I weren't laid up, this spring B4 unfurling I would have moved S&S, Fried Green Tomatoes, and F. Aureomarginata due to overcrowding. Now next spring, "GLw" and the "crick don't rise" I will have about 7 to move because this year has been lost.

My philosophy definitely allows for conventional wisdom regarding expected plant size and growth rate. But with hostas, s--- happens! (psst...Please don't tell Pineapple Upside-Down Cake that PUDC are documented as spreading to 55 inches.)

My Theresa's Angel Garden under my black walnut is 3 years old this summer. I'll take some pics on its birthday and post them as a sequel. I hope by then I will have at least gotten or killed the bigger intruders I wasn't able to hoe this spring. When I last looked at my garden my PUDC was all but buried under a big weed which may require some surgical treatment with Round-Up.

BUT THIS POSTING IS NOT ABOUT MY CHOICES; YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU LIKE TO DO TO SEE WHATEVER YOU LIKE TO SEE. Hostas are fun!

Les


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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

Hi Les. This post got me thinking because I've had 2 gardens since I've been into hostas, and I have 2 different answers.

Garden 1 (first house)...That house was professionally landscaped and 10-yrs old when we bought the house. The sub-divsion was only 15. The landscaping drawing showed everything exactly in accordance with maintenance-free, cost-effective, popular choices, perfectly-spaced shrubs and trees.

Planting beds had mortared-in brick edging.

Tree rings of Undulatta's in that yard and clearly a shared and copied idea around the neighborhood because they were everywhere you looked.

The traditional red tulip bulbs were planted...spaced about a couple feet apart in straight lines.

God forbid you want to change anything up. Ever. If you aren't a gardener, this would have been perfect.

What did I NEED at that garden? I NEEDED to loosen it up and break everything that was ordinary about it...which was most of it. The ex-H wouldn't let me re-do anything ("somebody paid a lot of money for that design & install"), so I crammed in my own plants wherever I could & tried to give the garden a bit of personality.

I needed to have a hosta garden and do my own thing in a world of rules and conformity. I crammed those hostas in without regard for spacing. If I had to move something, it was fine and it was mine to care for and find new homes.

Garden #2 (current house)...this yard & 2nd lot were overgrown for 55 years. Cute homes & neighborhood right off the historical district. Aside from the lawn in front, the mature trees generally throughout, and 1 patch of ditchlilies, I've started over. I've chopped, cut, cleared, sculpted, and planted everything here.

What do I NEED at this garden? I need to collect hostas, same as before. I need to grow them big and admire their beauty like before.

I like specimens, and I also like nice vignettes.

At this garden, I measure & space twice, and plant once.

I NEED to be working on my garden whether it involves hostas or not. At this place, I have so many other things to do, that I can plant a hosta area, watch & admire it's growth, and know that I have so much space and other gardening to do...it doesn't bug me to have open gaps for a few years. Everything is a work on progress and it's okay.

I have to say, my first 2 garden beds I started 4 years ago here are just now filling in and I'm getting to stand back for the first time and consider tweaks.

Yes, I will run out of room eventually. Based on my production rate so far, I think it will be 11-12 years before I will have to consider cramming anything and re-think the process.

Gayle


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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

That was so inspiring, Les, and melancholy at the same time. I could have written it all, had I the inclination and ability to articulate the philosophy as well as you did. It's taken me 22 years to understand what I've done wrong (plant Maple trees), and what I should have done (amend, amend, amend - I live where the 'soil' is like cement), and oh how I wish I could go back and start over.

This was a new subdivision, a 'maintained' community of zero-lot-line homes, but I had to have my new house built on the corner lot because as the entrance to the subdivision, it had the most trees and was the biggest lot. Wrong choice. Being a corner lot, there are two berms so I've gardened on a slant. The trees on those berms are Scotch Pines which, after a few short years, started dropping pine cones and a good wind knocks off so many dead limbs that punch holes in the hosta that I cry. Scotch Pines have a lifespan of about 20 to 25 years. They're starting to die. Then there's the Emerald Ash Borer - those trees provided the dappled shade and are coming down - and oh, I almost forgot the sick ornamental fruit trees that drop yellow leaves starting in June because they were treated too late. Btw, no 'maintenance' people are allowed in here. I cut the grass, what little is left. And I no longer have to weed because as you describe, few weeds grow where there's no light.

I have over 400 hosta and fortunately, many which are not on the berms have been used as shrubs against patios and house and have reached over 6 feet in width. The tree roots have choked so many on the berms they will never reach that size and some don't exist any more. I planted Rhubarb and Goatsbeard in those spots. Everything you have pointed out is something I've learned the hard way - and at age 70, I no longer want to wait 20 years until I'm able to see these gorgeous adult plants - if I can still see, that is. I, too, hate mulch - but that's what was put down for many years in the (then) open areas. DH is a golfer, so this is my own agony and ecstasy. He's felt sorry for me recently and made some burlap shades to put up over the blues so they keep as much wax as possible in disgusting 98-degree heat like today. Looks like hell for a day or two - but I hang on as long as I can. And I've had to sneak away a lot of grass (he loves it) and rake away a lot of mulch, but I've finally got the 'look' you describe - most hostas either touch or hug each other.

We are now about to put this place on the market and move to Colorado where I will hopefully do it as right as possible even though I know it's not the climate I need (or want). I doubt I'll ever find another obsession I love so much as this. But I might have to.

Know anyone who wants to buy a pretty house with a hosta collection? It's close to being what you describe - just a few more adjustments ... and maybe one more hosta.

Westy


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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

That was SO inspiring, Les, and melancholy at the same time. I could have written it all, had I the inclination and patience to articulate the philosophy as well as you did. It's taken me 22 years to understand what I've done wrong (plant Maple trees), and what I should have done (amend, amend, amend - I live where the 'soil' is like cement), and oh how I wish I could go back and start over. This was a new subdivision, a 'maintained' community of zero-lot-line homes, but I had to have my new house built on the corner lot because as the entrance to the subdivision, it had the most trees. Wrong choice. The lot has two berms so I've gardened on a slant - the trees are Scotch Pines which, after a few short years, started dropping pine cones and a good wind knocks off so many dead limbs that punch holes in the hosta that I cry. Then there's the Emerald Ash Borer killing the Ash trees that provided the dappled shade and are coming down - and oh, I almost forgot the sick apple trees that drop yellow leaves starting in June. I have over 400 hosta and fortunately, a few are not on those berms and have reached over 6 feet in width. The tree roots have choked so many that they don't exist any more. I planted Rhubarb and Goatsbeard in those spots. Everything you have pointed out is something I've learned the hard way - and at age 70, I no longer want to wait 20 years until I'm able to see these gorgeous adult plants. I too hate mulch - but that's what was put down for many years in the (then) open areas. DH is a golfer, so this is my own agony and ecstasy. He's felt sorry for me recently and made some burlap shades to put up over the blues so they keep as much wax as possible in disgusting 98-degree heat like today. Looks like hell for a day or two - but I hang on as long as I can. And I've had to sneak away a lot of grass (he loves it) and rake away a lot of mulch (he loves that too). But I've finally got the 'look' of most hostas either touching each other or hugging each other. We are now about to put this place on the market and move to Colorado where I will hopefully do it as right as possible even though I know it's not the climate I need (or want). I doubt I'll ever find another obsession I love so much as these things. Know anyone who wants to buy a pretty house with a hosta collection? It's close to being what you describe - just a few more adjustments ... and maybe one more hosta.


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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

So sorry about the double posting. Please ignore the second. I forgot to insert paragraph spaces. I think I have heat stroke - forgive me!

Westy

PS How do you 'un-submit' ???


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RE: Designing/Planting a Hosta Garden According to Your Needs

Hah! Westy,like your garden it's your post: don't worry about it. You've earned, and deserve, all of our respect if for no more than your one sentence"... and maybe one more hosta." Love ya' homie!

Les


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