My “FIRST LOOKS”...

 

I've always been a flower gardener. The large blooms of okra fascinated me as a child, and when I purchased my house, roses, phlox and parrot tulips soon found a new home. But, it was my "First Look" at H. plantaginea in a Wayside Catalog that "changed" me forever! So big, so beautiful, so fragrant! So what if I ordered every hosta on the page, and a book by a man named Aden, and joined the AHS? Little did I know where these steps were taking me.

 

My "First Look" at the AHS was the 1994 convention in Atlanta. I had been growing gesneriads under lights since the early 70s, and had frequented many conventions of that national society, but nothing I had seen prepared me for Atlanta.

 

In Nashville at that time, there were few hosta available for sale. One garden center had one or two offerings from Viette's, but otherwise the pickings were slim to none. Somewhere, I learned that a woman named Mary Chastain had a hosta nursery near Chattanooga, so, to break the drive to Atlanta, I stopped by "Lakeside Acres" on Roy Lane. My goodness! I had never seen so many hosta. Mary helped me with my selections, then said that I could leave them at the nursery and pick them up on my way home. Wasn't that sweet of her...... Little did I know that the next time I pulled the car into her drive, I would be engulfed with a fever. If you have an opportunity to visit Lakeside, never say, "I don't have room in my car" 'cause Roy can definitely pack in just one more hosta.

 

With gesneriads, I was accustomed to showing a complete plant, the concept of First Look. But I must say, when I saw Tony's H. 'White Wall Tires' and Bob Kuk's H. 'Photo Finish' I drooled. Gardens, gardens, and more gardens...... Each bulging with hosta, but reflecting so many interpretations by their caregivers. Toni Wright's Japanese maples and dwarf conifers, and H. 'Raleigh Remembrance' which I later purchased to honor my ancestors from that area. George Schmid's small planting of grass between the sidewalk and curb, a requirement of the city, announcing wonders to behold. Of course, I had to have an autographed copy of the book by this hosta guru........ In awe I waited...... "Where are you from Cornelia?" "Nashville, TN". "Oh, we use to live in Nashville and my daughters were born there....." When George spoke to our local society last year, he and Hildegarde shared that they were in fact married in Nashville.

I not only cherish that book, but all the "Gosan" hosta I have added to the garden, especially H. 'Gosan Leather Strap'.

 

One morning as the convention crowd swarmed around the buses, I asked about the man in the beret. "That's Paul Aden". My goodness, I had his book! I didn't get up the courage to speak - after all, I knew so little about hosta. But I still think about that "First Look" when reading 'The Hosta Book'.


After discovering fragrant hosta, and miniature hosta, I discovered species. I had always gravitated toward growing gesneriad species endangered by deforestation of the rain forest, so it seemed natural to "save" the hosta species. I also naively decided to have a Japanese hosta garden - not realizing that the plants were few and far between. But, with nurseries on the West Coast closer to Japan, it seemed logical to start ordering from Robyn's Nest and Tower Nursery.

 

Now, a lot of folks say I "talk funny", but Alan Tower went to school at Vanderbilt in Nashville, so he "understood" me when I called. He gently corrected my hosta pronunciation and suggested I send my plant list....... returning it with spelling and punctuation corrections. Recently, I found some original invoices and correspondence from Alan and realize today what wonderful gifts he bestowed with both his hostas and mentoring.

 

Atlanta was such a great experience, I HAD to try '95 in Fairfax, VA. A girl friend (who soon became hooked on hosta) joined me. As we rode the bus from garden to garden, two guys started to gab. Turned out, this was their first hosta convention...... Jack and Gary of Naylor Creek Nursery....... We eventually shared some plants from the AHS Auction - My first auction to buy - $150 for a two division H. 'Guacamole - now five feet in diameter.

 

Fairfax was my "First Look" at entering a hosta Cut Leaf Show. A host patiently instructed me on how to complete the three entry tags and place the leaves. And, I took home a RED ribbon!

 

This was also the convention where my table-mates one evening were Russ O'Harra and his wife. I had no idea who they were until after I returned home. H.'Yellow Submarine' my first O'Harra hybrid, from Robyn's Nest, and H.'PoPo, from Betty Comfrey, remain two of the favorite hosta in my garden, and H.'Rosanna' has recently been added.

 

One man seemed to be everywhere at that convention, pushing a computer cart for the auction, directing "traffic", stopping only to be a gracious host as we visited his garden. Where Schmid had planted grass, Kevin Walek had planted day lilies. And that was the year everyone had a "First Look" at Kevin in a tuxedo as he "washed up" for the Saturday night banquet.

 

On to Portland in '96..... The only attendee from Tennessee, but in no way did I feel like the Maytag Repairman. Diane Gray Dalton was a "seat-mate" on a bus trip and shared a magazine article featuring hosta in her garden. Hey, she's the lady the hosta is named for! H. 'Pixie Power' reminds me of our conversations.

 

My picture was taken with Alex and Gene Summers! We toured Walden West. Robyn's Nest. I purchased H. 'Breeder's Choice’ from Tower. And then, as I sat on a bench one afternoon, Paul Aden sat down beside me. Whereas two years prior, I did not speak, this time, we talked and talked........ Not about hosta, but about Schweitzer, Alzheimer patients, music, books, and the merchant marine corps.


That year, I was recovering from a broken foot and carried a cane. While touring a Japanese garden, I decided not to venture down a steep walk. As I admired the garden from an overlook, there at the bottom of the garden I spied a lady in white gloves with TWO canes. Later, on an elevator with Charlie and Mildred I was introduced to The Queen of Hosta.

 

Charlie visited relatives in Nashville and came to my garden, "Tranquility". As I asked questions, he graciously answered, and with H. 'Wiggle Worms' gave me my "First Look" as how to identify a division that may produce streaked seedlings. Other New Englander's visiting relatives in Nashville were Ernie and Christine Flippo. They arrived as I was in the middle of a construction walk-through with the architect and contractor and were a breath of fresh air. I still don't have all of the boxes unpacked from that event, but H. puchella and its gigantic flowers is a warm reminder of their visit.

 

I first heard of Diana Grenfell when Warren Pollock talked about the BHHS at Hosta in Focus and had an opportunity to meet her when she came to Nashville to speak to the Middle Tennessee Hosta Society about her "First Looks" at hosta and growers. Warren's donation that year to the Focus auction of H. laevigata triggers pleasant memories.

 

A Hosta in Focus banquet also afforded an opportunity to talk with Bob Solberg and to learn why "moss doesn't always grow on the shady side". The large clump of H. 'Savannah' on the front mound reminds me of his visit to Nashville. It provided MTHS members with a “First Look” at new and exciting hosta and me with a dilemma when he said "you're going to have to make some decisions in this garden soon." He thought I would be out of space in "no time flat!"

 

"Do you want to wager a bet on the Super Bowl?" Roy Dales asked. Of course! Word was he had fabulous hosta, and who could imagine the Titans loosing to the Rams? Needless to say, a ‘Yellow Submarine’ is now looking for targets in Vermont.

 

So many wonderful memories these seven years of hosta addiction have created. The above are only a few of the many wonderful people who have entered my life, sharing, mentoring, encouraging, providing examples of excellence. So many "First Looks" that have become second, third, and more. And, yet, so many more "First Looks" to anticipate.

 

 

Cornelia B. Holland 

Franklin, TN

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