Sunday, March 16, 2014

St. Patrick's Day! Wearing of the "Green" - Hostas & Other Shade-loving Plants

Wood poppies (look like Shamrocks to me or oak leaves)
March 17th commemorates St. Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, as well as the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. The three-leafed clover is associated with St. Patrick and is also referred to when one hears the phrase "Wearing of the Green".

In this issue of my blog I'm going to share with you some of my "green" photos. So many beautiful ones that it was hard to decide which ones to include in here.

I think I'll start with some hostas, or plantain lilies. When I first purchased some hostas several years ago, I didn't realize that there were more than two or three varieties. So after I planted the first three I went back to get a few more to match the ones I planted. Well, the next year after they started growing and spreading out, I noticed that the last two I purchased were different from the first three. It was then that I realized that there were more than two or three varieties. Actually, there are about 50-70 species of hostas, and each species has several varieties and cultivators totaling in the thousands.

This is Patriot Hosta in my bed of sweet woodruff. This is one of my most favorite of the hostas.

Hostas range in size of clumps from miniatures of 1" to very large ones up to 4' high.  And the same is true for the widths of the clumps. They are shade tolerant foliage plants. I love the flowers on them, too, but many of them are not very fragrant. They are native to Northeast Asia.

They come in all shades of green, some with a bluish tint, and some with lime-colored leaves. There are also several varieties of variegation in the leaves with either cream or white edges on leaves or in the center. The flowers will either be white, lavender or violet, and a few have a nice scent. The flowers usually hang like a pendent from a tall stem above the clump.
2014 Hosta of the Year- Abiqua Drinking Gourd. I've had this hosta for a few years now,
but I transplanted it to this location about 3 years ago so it's a little slow getting re-established.

Hostas sometimes can be a challenge in your garden especially if you have deer, rabbits, slugs or snails. Unfortunately, I have problems with all four of the above 'pests'. Hostas are like candy to deer. They love them. To deter the deer we usually use one of the sprays that are available in your garden centers. We use the sprays more often than what is recommended on the bottle, which is about once a week. And because of all our shade trees we have a lot of slugs and snails.

I do think some of the gardens in the northern sections of the Country might experience more than usual damage from the deer this year. There has been a longer period of time for snow cover and the deer might be running out of food sources.
August Lily Hosta. This hosta blooms late in the season (August), is very fragrant,
and the flowers are huge. All the little holes on the leaves are from slugs.

Hostas have become a very popular perennial because of their easy care, and they can add a focal point to your garden. Depending on the variety (the smaller ones), some hostas can be used successfully in containers. If you want to overwinter your hostas in a container, just plant the pot in the ground with the rim of the container a little below the surface of the soil or you could try storing them in your basement or garage if it doesn't freeze. The roots should be protected from a heavy freeze. What I did at the end of the season was to take them out of the pot and plant them in the ground.

Be careful with other perennials that you combine with your hostas. Although ferns look beautiful with them, the ferns can creep out and end up towering over your hostas. And ferns are hard to get rid of once you have them. They send out runners and when you want to eliminate them you have to get all the roots. I like combining hostas with spring flowering bulbs and perennials like forget-me-nots, astilbes, daffodils, and especially sweet woodruff.

Paul's Glory Hosta-  used in containers
A few years ago, after visiting an area nursery that specializes in hostas, Rawlings Nursery, I decided that I wanted to try to make a small hosta bed. In our back yard we had an area of sweet woodruff growing and I thought it would be nice to plant some hostas in with them. Every year I add a few new varieties to it, and I'm hoping that this year they will start to fill in a little heavier. Hostas prefer moist, but well-drained soil with lots of organic matter. (Rawlings Nursery is also a vendor at the Central New York Regional Market in Syracuse on Saturdays during May and June.)

Sweet Woodruff (Galium Odoratum). Sweet woodruff grows in hardiness zone 4-8. They grow anywhere between 6" to 1' tall. A very delicate looking plant with small whorls of white, musk smelling flowers in the spring, and they add a fairy-like appearance to your garden when they are in bloom. They grow in the shade and do poorly in the sun. They like medium to wet soil, and are a very low maintenance plant. It is mostly used as a ground cover so it will spread out to a large area, but they are easy to pull out if you want to keep them contained to a certain area. They spread by creeping roots or self-seeding. I like to use them to naturalize around my yard because we have a lot of shade from our pine trees. They are tolerant of very heavy shade, and also do fine under black walnut trees where other perennials fail. If they are grown in dry, sunny areas they will go dormant in the summer. If grown in shade they will stay green all year until fall and then they will dry out. They have no serious pests or diseases.

Our hosta garden with perennial fillers of foxgloves and sweet woodruff  (lower left) which had finished flowering.

Hosta bed

Ivy, Chameleon Plant (Houttynia cordata), ferns, hostas

You can see how the hostas can add a lot of interest and highlight an all-green garden.

Additional information on hostas: Hostas

List of the Hostas of the Years: Hosta Growers Hosta of the Year

Here is a wonderful article on this past week's snowstorm written by Sean Kirst, from the Syracuse Post Standard:  Consolation Amid Our Big Storm in 2014. It explains why we need those March snow covers.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

A friend of mine emailed me information about an upcoming presentation in Syracuse, NY:
Learn about Gardening For Nature With Native Plants
Wednesday March 26th, 2014 at 7:30 pm
University United Methodist Church, 1085 E. Genesee St.  Syracuse.  
Park and enter on University Place.

Janet Allen, President of Habitat Gardening of Central New York will help us understand the wonderful positives of native plants in preserving the best world for us and all the pollinators and birds. Think of the bees, butterflies and birds that depend on us. Think of the plants that will have space to thrive in a natural setting. Time to get out of that seed catalogue and learn how, why and where to get the truly native plants (not cultivars) for your garden.
Free and open to the public. Contact: 315 492-4745

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

"Our prayers should be blessings in general, 
for God knows what is good for us."

Thanks for touring my "green" garden!
Feel free to leave a note below 
in the comment section.


  1. Great Blog, Sue! I love Hosta's....but they are sure a slug-magnet!

    1. Thanks, Ann. Yes, we have problems with slugs and in the last two years we now have a major snail problem as well. I've tried a few different things and what works for me is "Slug Bait". And I think the earlier in the season you apply it, the better.

  2. I am trying to reduce the hostas as the deer just wait for rain and munch away after the spray has finally washed off. Instead I hope to add more natives for shade and lose the exotics. Though I love hosta so I doubt I will take out many. More likely I will take out invasive groundcovers like vinca.

    1. I am lucky in that the deer don't seem to bother with the hostas that are planted in this little bed. Also, the deer don't seem to bother the bluish or thicker leaved hostas as much either. But if it is a very dry season that could all change and no telling what they will devour. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Kermit would be proud. LOL. I do like all the green plants and they can really liven up a woodland walk. That is a pretty entry into your woods.

    1. Thank you. When I checked the date I wanted to publish this post on I thought something all green would be a good idea. Glad you liked it. My husband made the little trellis a few years ago, but with not much sun back there I don't think I could get anything to grow up it.