"Hostas HAVE BEEN a Glorious Success"

by Glen Williams

It's hard to argue with this statement.  And it's hard to argue with success. However, it's a great American tradition that success is constantly being  imitated,  and often ends in wretched excess. I feel that we are rapidly approaching this point.

The fertile seeds of failure are  genetically present in any irrationally exuberant growth....ask Alan Greenspan...and look at the stock market. Belief  and faith are not enough, unless you are Tinkerbell in Peter Pan.

OK, I have all of that negativity out of my system, and now I can deal with the positive. I find the promise of FIRST LOOK positive. Very
positive.  It may take it a while to get there, but in its original inception, and its  virgin effort, it promises  a breath of fresh (if controversial) air to the hosta movement. In a way I am hoping that it will slow down the avalanche of success that we have known in the past few years.

Here is my  reasoning. There are too many hostas on the market. This is not exactly a surprise. In fact I heard Dan Rather mention this just the other night on the evening news.  Making choices, for both experienced gardeners and newbies can be a blur of medio-variegated seedlings, cleverly named nothings, hyped hybrids,  3-day wonders, and endless clones  of original plants which are actually much better than their derivative cousins.  Yes, yes, I know, there are some great new plants out there. But, how on earth does one get a feeling for what the good ones really are? For what is garden-worthy? Or where to look to gain a real perspective on what one should be paying attention to?

The Hosta Journal has done a wonderful job of promoting any number of great hostas and backing these choices with serious information. These are the tried and true hostas. Hostas that  were hybridized 30 years ago (yes, that is a small exaggeration, but I want your attention). The Top Ten list of Hostas is a big help too, just as (indirectly) the Hosta Cut Leaf Shows are helpful in making us all aware of quality plants, as well as some of the stinkers too.

One of the aims of the FIRST LOOK event is to acquaint us with the newer seedlings, not with a photograph  and a mindless positive blurb beneath it, but with  critical judgment and considered professional opinions. This of course is dangerous territory.  Judging plants that have not been in everybody's garden for 50 years is an invitation to a vast number of problems.  But it is also an invitation to  a "sea change" in  judging hostas. It is my sincere hope that the science of botany, profound professional experience, garden insight,  and even taste and aesthetics, will combine to make  the evaluation of young hostas  into a legitimate tool that we may all learn from.

For me this is the promise of FIRST LOOK.  There are other factors too which should be reiterated in any commentary on FIRST LOOK.  The program is geared to the East Coast. This is a nice change." We" of the East Coast (a truly wonderful people with superior gardens), while producing some first rate breeders*, have often felt that the mid-west has had a monopoly on hosta events and the attendant publicity that goes with them. This event helps to balance the geography.  In turn, new gardens  in areas where FIRST LOOKS  are held, will now enjoy more public exposure.  The event
also helps to celebrate hybridizers past and present (and by the judging..the future), offers vendors a whack at new clientele,  exposes the Who's Who of the hosta world to a new world of people and gardens. It's a WIN WIN event.

 * The use of the word" breeders"  has a  certain ambiguity to it which might lead one to speculate that...... after all I am talking hybridizing here.