Years ago, a very wonderful friend of mine was espousing the virtues of hostas. Conjuring up an image in my mind of the cemetery variety, I replied that they were nothing but slug bait.
Thankfully my friend did not slug me! As a former president of the New England Hosta Society, she must have looked at me as a challenge and over the years kept pointing out unusual varieties. Her persistence paid off, and now I’m hooked. Having already mentioned that my favorite color is green, hostas already have one thing going for them. And the more I use them the more I love them.
There are really only three problems when growing hostas:
Bambi. Thumper. Slugs.
If the deer and rabbits in your area treat your hosta like a salad bar, be vigilant.
You need to interrupt their dinner and train them to look elsewhere. As soon as the hostas start to emerge in spring, spray with a repellent. There are many on the market and your local garden center can suggest one. There are also numerous homemade remedies on the internet – everything from Irish Spring soap to red pepper spray. I have had tremendous success with Deer Defeat. I purchase it online and apply according to package directions…more often in the spring as plants are actively growing. It’s all natural, does not have to be re-applied after rain and only smells really bad for a few hours.
If slugs are more your problem taking action NOW will prevent the chewed leaves that show up in July.
As soon as the hostas start pushing up through the earth, sprinkle a little bit of slug bait around. (Iron phosphate is my preferred method as it does not rely on chemicals that can be hazardous to people and pets.) Not too much – no need to go crazy.
Since slugs can have many litters (is that what you call them?) it’s important to get them under control before they start producing.
You can choose to set beer traps – basically a small tin filled with beer will attract the slugs and they fall in and drown. To me, that just seems like a waste of good beer!
I also read that using leftover coffee, sprinkled around the plants, will deter the slimy creatures. Apparently the caffeine tastes bitter and the slugs don’t like it. I have not ever had a real problem with these shell-less terrestrial gastropods in my garden and now I wonder if it is because I sprinkle my used coffee grounds in the garden to improve the soil. Of course you can limit slug damage by growing your hostas in containers. Many of you know I am a huge fan of using unusual foliage plants in containers and hostas are one of my favorites.
So let me just apologize to Mary right now. I was wrong and you were right. Hostas are beautiful. And you have recommended some great ones. ‘Winter Snow’, ‘Fat Cat’, ‘Grand Marquis’, ‘Sharp Dressed Man’. These are no cemetery varieties. For more information, and some great pictures, visit the Hosta Library.
I have seen many gorgeous gardens fall off the radar at night. Beautiful and breathtaking by day once the sun sets they become black holes. Which is why, when I design gardens, I always recommend landscape lighting – it allows your garden to be a source of enjoyment even after the sun has gone down.
Imagine sitting in your living room looking out at a beautiful specimen tree which is uplit so the branches seem to shimmer. Now imagine looking out that same window and seeing only darkness. Picture a romantic dinner on the patio with soft mood lighting versus having to turn on the outdoor floodlights.Read More»
I was at a Speaker’s Bureau recently and was meeting with various garden clubs. I had created a container to have on the table that would showcase my work. A woman stopped and admired it, “Dear, that is just beautiful. But it doesn’t go outside?” I assured her that all my containers were meant to go outside. “But, that’s a houseplant” she gasped, pointing at the sansevaria. I thought for a bit and said, “It’s time for summer camp!”
Which leads me to an often overlooked component in great container gardens. Houseplants.
There is one very important thing you should do before starting any garden design project.
Stare out the windows. I mean it.
Really stare, or at least look very closely.
Too many designers start outside the home with no thought given to how the garden will look from inside. For many of us in colder climates a good deal of time is spent enjoying the gardens from inside so designing from the inside out just makes sense.Read More»
My winter pots remind me of Friday nights. Why Friday nights you may ask? One word…leftovers. Also known as GYO, as in Get-Your-Own. I tell my kids to open the fridge and see what’s left and make something good out of it. And that’s what ends up happening for me when I am designing my winter pots sometime towards the middle of December.
My clients’ homes are all decked out for the holidays so I take stock of what greens, twigs and ornaments I have left and try to determine a cohesive way of tying all the remaining material together. Anyone who has heard me lecture knows that I often come up with some kind of a theme before starting the winter pots. This helps me make sure all my clients’ pots (and sometimes there are upwards of 20) reflect a cohesive look regardless of whether they are by the garage, pool or front door.
This year after looking through the leftovers of Winter 2016 I realized two things:Read More»
As Fall approaches, we take a final look at some of our favorite summer projects.
Houseplant (sansevieria), perennial (heuchera) and million bells. Who says only annuals can go in containers? This mixed container is looking good 7 stories up!
This riot of colors on a South End balcony gets tied together with coleus ‘The Flume’.Read More»
I recently received this email from a client with a roof garden in Boston:
“Just got home . Garden is beautiful!! Thank you.
In contrast, our Cape containers look terrible. They (mostly petunias ) were pretty good all summer. Then all of a sudden they stopped blooming. I had been using a fertilizer in solution weekly. The product is supposed to stimulate blooms. I did it weekly for about a month—the last time I doubled the dosage.
Do you think that I over-fertilized? Any thoughts? Can you do magic on Cape Cod?”
While I am more than happy to do magic on Cape Cod I, unfortunately, cannot do magic with petunias. I have never succeeded with them long-term. Perhaps I am doing something wrong but it’s one reason petunias made my lecture “The 10 Most-Popular Container Plants – And Why You Shouldn’t Use Them.”
Petunias peter out, let’s be honest. They look gang-busters when you buy them in May and I think that’s why so many of us are seduced by their vibrant, brightly-colored little faces. We don’t look down the summer months and see that those same faces will resemble Grandma Moses. You can whack petunias back in July and hope that your hard-pruning will put the fear of God into them so they will bloom for your anticipated graduation/christening/bridal shower/first communion get-together. But that doesn’t always work. As I get older I get less sentimental. I am not interested in a plant that requires constant deadheading to look its best.
As my friend Kerry Mendez says “plants are not children or pets” we can get rid of them without guilt.
Which is what I do with petunias.
Out they go and are easily replaced with another colorful annual that will look even BETTER in August than it does in June. Are you wondering what that annual is?Read More»
I just came back from work and I had a big smile on my face!
It looks absolutely gorgeous!
Thank you so much for putting some life on my patio!
You are a true professional and I can see how passionate and how much you care about your work.
Hard to find people like you nowadays.
It feels so good to look outside and see some green.
I love the character that these plants have!
~~ RH, South End Boston