Hosta, how do I love thee?

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Let me count the ways.

If hostas were dudes, they’d be burly manly men, guys who know how to reshingle the roof and put up drywall. These plants are garden workhorses, and this homely little photo illustrates why.

Last fall, I dug and divided one hosta after another, replanting them in bare spots, particularly those areas where I’d eliminated some useless and unidentifiable shrubs. I could not for the life of me figure out why the previous gardener who lived here had planted these bushes. I gave them a full two years to redeem themselves, but they were disappointments—no blossoms, no fruit, no pretty skeletons to provide winter interest. Even the foliage was uninspired. So, out they went. And in went the divided hostas.

About a month ago, I figured out the true purpose of those shrubs: erosion control. They were in a shady border that stays moist virtually all summer, on a slight grade that ends in a swale where our backyard abuts the neighbors’. Snowmelt and spring rain washed a considerable amount of topsoil down into the swale, leaving more than a dozen transplanted hostas sitting there helplessly with their roots hanging out. The soil was too wet for me to wade in and replant them. Reader, I was the very picture of despair. All that work, swept away. I figured my only recourse would be to plant them all over again and hope they survived.

Lo and behold, the garden is now about as dry as it ever gets—and check it out. The transplants are sprouting new leaves in spite of me. I’m reluctant to disturb them by digging in and replanting them more deeply now—what the heck, they seem to be doing fine. But I’ll give them a nice warm blanket of mulch, just in case.

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