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by Pernell Gerver

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"Growing the Many Different Hostas"

Hosta is a tough, versatile, and beautiful plant. It's one of the best perennials for brightening up shady spots in the garden, but many also tolerate full sun.

Hosta abounds in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Leaf shape is very diverse among various hostas, ranging from rounded to lance shaped to strap like. When it comes to size, hosta varieties run the gamut from less than a foot tall to nearly three feet tall. Leaf size also ranges from only a couple of inches wide and long to over two feet wide. Leaf color is also quite varied and includes many different shades of green as well as chartreuse and blue. Variegated leaves are also quite prevalent in hosta and the variegation is as varied as the leaf colors.

Hosta 'Golden Tiara'When it comes to size, there is a hosta to fit any garden. A nice, tidy variety for a small garden is 'Golden Tiara.' It forms a handsome clump just 10 inches high and about a foot and a half wide. Its leaves are rounded to heart shaped and are deep green with a wide, gold edge. It bears deep-lavender flowers in mid summer. At the other end of the size spectrum is 'Sum and Substance.' This hosta is enormous and makes a bold statement in the garden. Its leaves are easily two feet across and it forms a large mound nearly three feet tall and at least as wide. Its large leaves are bright chartreuse green with a thick substance. Pale-lavender flowers bloom in late summer.

One of the most interesting hosta varieties is 'Cherry Berry.' It's a small-to-medium-sized hosta with lance-shaped leaves. The leaves have a creamy-white center edged with dark green. What's unusual about this hosta is its attractive red leaf and flower stems that provide a color contrast that's unique to this particular hosta. The leaves are held upright, showing off the attractive coloration of its stems. It bears purple flowers in summer.

One of my favorite hostas is Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans.' I think it's probably the best blue-leafed variety. It has very-large, rounded leaves that have deep veins, giving them a quilted appearance. The leaves are chalky blue and form a wide mound nearly three feet high and wide at maturity. It bears white flowers in early summer.


August lily is a type of hosta I grow just for its large and fragrant flowers. It bears six-inch-long, white, waxy, tubular flowers that have a sweet fragrance similar to freesia. The large, fragrant flowers are held above a mound of chartreuse foliage. It's a small to medium hosta that forms a low mound about a foot and a half high and wide. In my garden I grow it in areas that are in full shade as well as areas that are in full sun and I does well everywhere.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Plants Need One Inch of Water Per Week"

Q. I have a sprinkler system in my yard. It waters my lawn and flower beds. My question is how long should the sprinkler system be on and for how often? I don't want to waste water and I'd like to save some money on my water bill, but I don't want my lawn to burn up, either. Thank you!

A. As a general rule of thumb, most plants (including lawn) need one inch of water per week - no more, no less - either from natural rainfall and/or your watering. So if it rains that week and you get a half inch of water from the rain, you would only need to put down a half inch of water. The best way to keep track of how much rain you get is to set out a rain gauge.

For automatic sprinkler systems, as well as manual sprinklers that you set out yourself, I have a tip for determining how long you need to water to get one inch of water. The next time you water, get some small empty cans like tuna fish cans and set them at different locations under the sprinkler. Look at your watch and take note of the time. Turn on the sprinklers and keep an eye on the cans. When one inch of water collects in the cans stop the sprinklers and figure out how long it took. That's the amount of time you'd need to put the sprinklers on if there was no rainfall that week.

Another important consideration when watering is how often to water. It's best to do just one thorough watering per week instead of several light waterings. One thorough watering weekly encourages the plant's roots to go deep into the soil where they're less likely to dry out if a hot, dry spell hits. Short, shallow waterings cause the roots of the plant to grow near the surface where they will dry out quickly.

The best time of day to water is early morning. Water is a valuable commodity and by watering early less water is lost to evaporation. With the misting-type sprayers that shoot up in the air, I've heard that 40 percent of the water is lost to evaporation. Early-morning watering also means less diseases on plants since the leaves have a chance to dry off quickly. Many plant diseases are spread by water.

To conserve and avoid wasting water, it would be a good idea to add to the sprinkler system any type of sensors that shut down the sprinkler system when it's raining. If there's a rain gauge or moisture sensor that shuts the system down when you don't need to water, that would be a good idea to add as well.

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