by Erl Svendsen
I was a little surprised to discover that there are over 3000 registered hosta cultivars. The choices are endless: giant, dwarf, green, gold, blue, variegated, wide leaf, narrow leaf, puckered leaf and twisted leaf. Do you want white flowers or mauve flowers? How about frangrance? You can have it all. With that much selection, how in the world does a gardener make a choice? And why are we usually limited to just a dozen or more of the same varieties year-after-year?
The American Hosta Growers Association (www.hostagrowers.org) understood this quandary 20 years ago when they started their ‘Hosta of the Year’ program. It was their way to encourage retailers to expand the range of cultivars they offered for sale by highlighting a cultivar that may be underused but is a good all-round garden plant with some great, interesting features.
This year’s Hosta of the Year is ‘Brother Stefan’. And it doesn’t disappoint. It was released in 1999 by Olga Petryszyn (known as the ‘Hosta Lady’, www.hostalady.com). It’s a medium-sized (25 inches tall x 30 inches wide) hosta with tri-colour puckered or seersucker leaves. Centred on the leaves is a gold maple leaf pattern (if you use your imagination) surrounded by chartreuse and edged in dark green. Pure white flower clusters fly above the mound of leaves in early summer. Because of its thick leaves, it is described as ‘slug resistant.’ I have also seen ‘deer resistant’ in some descriptions.
As with most hostas, it requires evenly moist soil. Amend you soil with plenty of organic matter and cover soil with 3-4 inches of organic mulch to conserve soil moisture, keep the roots cool in summer and protect them in winter from our extreme Prairie cold. Plant in part to full shade. In the garden, it makes a great accent plant or it can be used en masse as a border. It can also be grown in containers (in fall, dig plant into your garden) and the longer flower stems, up to 2 feet long, can be used a cut flowers.
Olga has registered several outstanding hosta cultivars, but her favourite, when asked, is ‘Brother Stefan’. It may turn out to be yours too.
Erl gardens in Saskatoon. He recently started tweeting @ErlSv.
This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society (SPS; www.saskperennial.ca; email@example.com; www.facebook.com/saskperennial). Check out our Bulletin Board or Calendar for upcoming garden information sessions, workshops, tours and other events: Gardening at the UofS – http://gardening.usask.ca or call 306-966-5539. May 27, 9:00 am – Labour & Learn [a volunteer and learning opportunity, helping to maintain two public SPS gardens at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo]. Got growing questions? Gardenline is here to help! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or call Helen at 306-966-5865.