Success with Hostas
Hostas are perhaps the most popular foliage plants available to gardeners today.
I’ve heard garden visitors declare they won’t grow hostas because they’re own plants are so full of holes.
Then they saw these hostas, heard how I grow these plants and went home thinking they should give Hostas another go.
Watch the video below and see if you too are willing to give these wonderful plants a second chance in your garden…
Every hosta on this page grows at Winsford Walled Garden in Devon, UK. Look at these pictures carefully because I reckon you won’t find better examples growing outside of the artificial environment that is a garden show display! I’m justifiably proud of my plants and on this page you can discover how I achieve these fantastic results. What’s more there are no slug pellets beneath these plants.
How’s it done?
When I found my derelict garden in 1999, I hadn’t done any course in horticulture. All I had was the overgrown plot around my home and a deep desire to make the best of it.
Picture left: Hosta ‘Hadspen Blue’
These were a totally new plant to me at the time. Fortunately, the National Collection at Sticklepath was within easy reach, so in just one afternoon I was able to see the complete range and enormous potential of these amazing foliage plants.
They have amazing coloured foliage that really does not look at its best beneath harsh sunlight which can not only dry out these moisture-loving plants too quickly, but will also bleach their resplendent colours. That said, there are some amazing golden forms that do look fabulous in the morning sun.
Pictured above: Hosta ‘Carnival’.
Back in July, 1999 I planted about thirty specimens beneath my wall, along what was once a stone base for a Victorian garden path. It was hard work but the resulting foliage plants would be ample reward. Only then they got eaten. Their leaves were so badly damaged that they looked as if they had been beaten with barbed wire. The slimy shelled culprits were easy to spot and even when they weren’t actually present on my plants their distinctive ‘progress’ was clearly visible.
Hostas are reasonably priced plants, but buying 30 plants that first time and the financial cost is clear and my pocket was on a hiding to nothing if something wasn’t done right away. No gardener can keep buying plants every year just to feed the molluscs!
Picture left: Hosta albopicta.
Then I observed a couple of things about slugs and snails which, while quite straightforward, led me to discover their ultimate demise. Both types of mollusc leave eggs in the ground each summer and during any unusually cold winter the parent snails who don’t not find a sufficiently snug location will not make it through the winter. Either that, or they got snapped up by the gardener’s black-feathered friend.
Later, during the following spring these voracious molluscs are slow to start their worst because the new eggs have to develop and grow before they can do much damage. Conversely, after a warm winter, the greater numbers of surviving parents can inflict terrible damage very early on in the year.
Picture left: Hosta ‘Regal Splendour’
My second observation was to discover that no plant appears to get eaten below ground even though many molluscs ‘hibernated’ underground. Snails appear to love old-fashioned stone walls – and this new gardener had just planted them alongside a Victorian garden wall. I reckon legions of the buggers abseiled down the wall at night to reach my hosta plants!
Eliminating the first generation molluscs is key
I concluded therefore that the best time to ‘wage war’ against the molluscs was VERY EARLY in the year. The most convenient time for me is during the Christmas holiday week, between Christmas and New Year, when very little is going on and the television isn’t worth the floor space. Believe me, when I suggest a couple of hours spent mollusc hunting in the nooks and crannies of the old stone wall proved well worthwhile. In later years a long metal skewer did an efficient job on those skulkers that thought they were beyond human reach. No snails were removed, my thinking at the time was that the mortally wounded individual didn’t allow others to take his place.
Picture above: Hosta ‘Piedmont Gold’ – This one looks particularly good in morning sunlight!
As anyone can tell from my tone, their is no love lost between them and me. It was war out there and I was determined there would be only one winner.
The main thinking behind my very early start on the culprits was that if I could devastate the first generation of the year, there would be fewer successive generations later. Woe betide any hosta gardener who does nothing before his plants are in leaf and the first holes begin to appear. Because by then, anything they do is too little and too late.
Pictured left: Hosta Elegans
So far I’ve only told you about my ‘surface attack’ against slugs and snails. And it really works! But it’s no good doing it when you notice any holes appearing, it’s got to be done very early so that you ‘terminate’ the first generation.
As stated earlier, my first hosta bed was located in what could best be described as ‘stony’. But this ground is also highly nutritious clay, providing ample nourishment for these gorgeous hungry foliage plants. I also put several bird feeders above my plants so a whole winter’s worth of bird poop can further nourish the ground. Those tiny ’15g weight’ birds will also flatten the ground hard and devour any mollusc who pops his head above the parapet!
In late March, when the first hostas begin to surface, that hardened ground will crack. But I will wait about a week for the cracks to open up before dropping ‘pet-friendly’ slug pellets into the cracks. Any mollusc hibernating around my hosta roots is done for before he even reaches the surface! Check this video clip
My method did not work first time around. They were still abseiling from next door! But by year three of our ‘battle’ the molluscs raised the white flag and we really have not seen them since. Use my ‘unique’ method, call it what you will, and you should notice a difference in the first summer.
And finally, do whatever you can to encourage the blackbirds in your garden. As these birds remain through the winter and spend all year rooting around your garden, sifting through dead leaves and all sorts – snaffling up any tasty mollusc be it slimy or egg.