Shade gardeners around the world readily succumb to an affliction known as hosta addiction. This enticing situation often occurs at first sight. The "hosta Cupid” with his uncanny ability unerringly sends a dart into the gardener's heart. There it implants a new love and festivity. Lives are changed. Acquiring hostas becomes and obsession to the extent that other needs may be deemed less pressing.

 For the hostaholic spring induces a fervor of excitement that is only comparable to that in the hearts and minds of children on Christmas Eve. Just as the hustle and bustle of unwrapping packages evokes excitement in children, anticipation of a new hosta season not only brightens each day but also precipitates similar behavior in the addict. The awaking garden continuously beckons. Footsteps become lighter, movements are more fluid; in fact hosta people could be said to be "walking on clouds".

 The side effects of this addiction are often varied; therefore the symptoms appear in different forms. For example, we have the collector that displays a burning need to have every hosta he has seen or of which he has heard a rumor. He scans catalogs, spends hours on the web and consults other hosta growers to locate hostas on the market or sometimes those that are yet in the making. This guy (the collector) buys hostas, trades hostas, and wheels and deals as he bargains with everyone having a hosta not yet in his own collection. Acquiring new or different varieties of hostas furnish stimulation for another high. His addiction grows with each new variety

 Less radical behavior comes form a group that just enjoys the growing of hostas. The garden may be small, the number of varieties may be few but the gardener's pleasure is great. In these gardens the emphasis is placed on growing hostas for flower arrangements or simply the pleasure of sharing plants with friends and society members. Plant exchanges and awards won in shows fill their need for achievement.

 The third group is the group to which FIRST LOOK pays tribute. Hybridizers live on a daily hosta high. They work toward individual goals the year around. From season to season, ideas are developed, plans are made, and theories are explored. While pursuing the projects of one season, exhilaration builds for the progressive developments expected as the next phase approaches. Throughout the celebration of spring's growth, pod and pollen parents are evaluated and selected. Adrenaline flows as the hybridizer is already visualizing the possibilities in the prospective crosses.


Various techniques are used to facilitate the sharing of genes between early and late flowering varieties. Probably one of the more popular and reliable methods is the collecting of various pollens to be frozen for future use. Once the selected pollen has ripened, the anthers should be removed from the flower and stored in a cool place to dry. Placing them on a paper towel or clean paper is desirable. In about twenty-four hours the pollen is ready for processing. Pollen grains can be collected by gently tapping the anthers against a clean sheet of aluminum foil. Once completed, one can fold the foil into a package, label and place in an airtight container, and finally freeze it at the lowest temperature available.

Another approach to spanning the time gap is to delay the early flowering time. This can be achieved by holding the selected plant in cold storage so that it breaks dormancy later than normal. It will then flower at a later date. The process of bringing the early and late flowers together can be further expedited by moving the late flowering variety under growing lights so that it will emerge several weeks ahead of it normal schedule. Another less reliable process is to remove the flower scapes from the early bloomer in hopes that it will put up new scapes later in the season. Much of the success or failure of this operation is influenced by the climatic conditions and the length of the growing season.

Much is happening in the realm of hostas. Each serious hybridizer has his or her own special goals. While some are striving for large fragrant flowers, others are fervently searching for genes that will bring more of the colors red and purple into hostas. Another group strives to produce only the smallest hosta, while its counterpart is focused on only the giant ones. Hybridizer's efforts are almost endless, as are their goals.

The gene-gun seems to offer untold advances to the field of science. Its use could offer the most exciting possibilities for our hostas. Here again, and rightly so, men would differ as to the more desirable traits to inject. Without a doubt my first effort would be to inject a smart gene into all of the dumb eager beavers that insist on coming up about six weeks before the season has settled into a stable pattern. The aching muscles and numerous hours of work that could be avoided would be astronomical. Imagine the absolute wonder of having the garden emerge without the fear of a late frost.

 Regardless of personal goals, it is vital that in the final selection much consideration be given to the strong, vigorous, and unique plants. All hybridizers must strive for health, beauty and longevity in each hosta.


Mary Chastain

Ooltewah, TN