Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hosta Mystery Solved

Last Saturday, I dug some hostas out of a client's lawn. Some time ago, the client decided to downsize her perennial garden. Now three years later, several hostas emerged through the sod for the first time since the garden was downsized. The only hostas that have disappeared in my past gardens were newly-planted ones dug up by squirrels, and those have never come back. I know hostas are sturdy plants, but I didn't know hosta roots could remain dormant and survive so long, re-emerging after several years. Did you?

Remember those mystery hostas I wrote about a couple of weeks ago? After digging and transplanting the lawn hostas into the client's remaining garden beds, I went home and showed our mystery hostas to my dear husband. I know I've never seen them before. I'd remember. The only hostas already here were some pathetic Guacamoles, a pedestrian green with white variegated variety, and Francee. I rescued, moved, and later divided Francee and Guacamole, and ignored the ordinary green and white variegated ones which I didn't like. Most of the green and whites have died off and have been replaced with other more interesting varieties.

Initially there were three mystery hostas, and later, number four emerged. Now there are two of each - solid yellow-green, and yellow with green variegation. I looked at the landscaper's plan for the garden, drawn up for the previous owner at least thirteen years ago. I think the gold and green variegated variety is the Gold Standard listed on the plan. The solid yellow-green variety isn't listed on the plan. Does anyone know what it is? Maybe Yellow Waves? Or Summer Dress?
Here are close-ups are the largest of each of the two varieties. The solid-colored one is bright yellow-green, although in this shot it looks more green. As you can see, the edges are slightly ruffled.

Is this one Gold Standard?

My husband recognized both of these as hostas planted by the previous owner. They'd disappeared several years ago, getting smaller and smaller each year. When I described them over the phone to his friend, he remembered them too, said he remembered they were planted too close to the sidewalk, and were so big they grew over the walk. He described them perfectly, including their location.

I never knew hostas could live underground with no top growth for so many years. Maybe the pine bark mulch has finally broken down enough that their crowns are no longer smothered? I'm still shaking my head over these little beauties. I'm also delighted since they're so pretty, and unlike any of the other hostas we have in our garden. Now that they've suddenly reappeared, I hope they continue to come up and grow bigger each year until one day they'll again be large enough to spill over the sidewalk. By then I'll have found them new homes. For now I think I'll leave them alone and let them grow where they decided to emerge. I'm still amazed they came back after all this time. And I find myself wondering what other surprises may be lurking under the pine bark mulch in our garden.


  1. Yes, this has happened to me several times when I transplanted hostas to a new location. I don't think I ever get all of the roots because a new hosta usually appears in the same location a few years later. It doesn't bother me any though, the more the merrier!

  2. And they do the same thing in a drought. They may not emerge one year but will the next. Isn't it interesting? But then a slug can come along and ruin the whole thing in one bite---errrr.

  3. Cinj, it doesn't bother me at all! I'm thrilled these hostas decided to emerge after all these years.

    Nancy, I think so too!

    Anna, I've never had hostas disappear like that before. I'm glad these decided to re-emerge, and I hope they'll stick around. Ugh, slugs! We have more than our share of the slimy pests here.

  4. I had no idea these could be so tough. What a neat surprise to have them emerge seemingly out of nowhere and be such pretty ones too.

  5. There's a great relatively new Hosta encyclopedia that could help you ID those plants. (Sorry I can't remember the name right now, but I got it from the library.) The green & gold one looks like it might be 'June.' I'm drawing a complete blank on the other one. (Brain fried.)

  6. It sure is a mystery to me.. do you not have slugs in America!!LOL mine are full of holes!

  7. My first thought on the green and gold one also was 'June', it's a beauty! I love Hosta and have quite a few but I never knew they could be dormant that long. How cool!

    Also, they do throw quite a bit of seedlings that pop up here and there. I've got seedlings everywhere now. Most seem to revert to solid green but I keep my eyes open in case something interesting shows up.

  8. Mine did nothing last year. I moved them into a sunnier place and they have grown a lot this year.

  9. Hi Linda, what a wonder plants are. We had hostas that were dug up when the renovation was done that keep tying to return from under the foundation! Good old Royal Standard, it cannot be killed. Your solid yellow gold could be August Moon? The variegated almost looks like Great Expectations? There are so many that look alike. You have to figure the date they might have been planted and what was popular at that time. Good luck!

    Frances at Faire Garden

  10. Amy, I knew hostas were tough (except when it comes to slugs,) but never knew they could be dormant but still alive after so many years.

    MMD, there are so many hostas that look so similar, it will probably hard to tell what they are, especially before they've reached their mature size. The landscaper's plan could be the key to one of them. On the other hand, it's quite possible June was substituted for Gold Standard. Thanks for the tip on the hosta encyclopedia. I'll look for it at our library.

    Matron, oh yes, we do have slugs! Some of the thicker-leafed hostas are pretty resistant to them, as well as some of them with puckered leaves.

    Melanie, I might ask the owner of the nursery where I work. He's pretty good at identifying hostas. I think it might be easier to figure out from a leaf than from a photo. A couple of outer leaves were torn pushing through the mulch. I'll probably remove them at some point and take them with me to work to see if he can tell me what they are.

    Cindee, I'm glad my hostas like the shade here. Shade and part sun is pretty much all I've got in the garden. Hostas are a mainstay, even in the dry shade of the heaviest maple and arborvitae root zones.

    Frances, we have the ones you mentioned at the nursery where I work. Maybe I can figure out what they are by comparing them.

    My husband has lived here 13 years. Since the landscaper's plan isn't dated, it might be hard to tell. Maybe my husband knows how long the previous owners lived here. That might help narrow it down.

    I've got a few clumps of Royal Standard transplanted from garden to garden as I've moved. Royal Standard was my first hosta, a pass-along from an elderly gardening friend about 25 years ago. They still remind me of her and how generous she was sharing her plants and love of gardening with me. I still love their large, shiny leaves and fragrant white flowers. It's one tough hosta!

  11. The book is "The Color Encyclopedia of Hostas" by Diana Grenfell.

  12. Interesting find. Aren't plants amazing?!

  13. MMD, thanks! I'll look for it.

    Chey, yes, amazing and mysterious sometimes too!

  14. A few years ago we needed to extend an area of concrete hardstanding into an area of wildernessy swampy perennials in our garden. A wheelbarrow sized clump of Hosta "big daddy" was removed and split and replanted elsewhere. 2 years after the concrete was laid a big hosta leaf emerged sideways from under the concrete. Those rhizomes are tough!

  15. Tai Haku, Wow, that's pretty amazing!


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