Tag Archives: gardening

gardening on a budget: 5 steps for propagating hostas

My interest in hostas began with an inspiring podcast from Margaret Roach and a chance encounter with a sum and substance with a fragrant bloom at my local nursery, which I wrote about here and here and here.  (I’m surprised it’s been four years since I’ve planted it!). Over those four years, it’s weathered drought while I was traveling during the heat of the summer and an early season hailstorm that pulverized the tender leaves. I’d like to dig it up this fall and propagate it into a movable container. I won’t live here forever, and I want to be able to take that puppy with my when I go.

But, so, on to the newest hosta developments in my life. Last summer I bought three unremarkable hostas and used them to fill in flowerbed space. You can see one of the hostas pictured in last year’s flowerbed:

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hosta, bottom left

The one pictured above is a medium-sized hosta with lightweight, light green leaves–similar to sum and substance in color and texture, but much smaller. Another is medium in size and variegated, green with yellowish green border (american halo). I wanted to move it because you can’t see it where I planted it in the flowerbed (pictured/not pictured above). Both of these were pulverized by slugs and/or grasshoppers over the summer, but everything survived/is surviving.

The other is a small variety with leathery leaves (labeled elegans, but I think it’s actually a halcyon because it’s much smaller), pictured here:

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hosta elegans (or halcyon)

Since I’ve got lots of flowerbed space to fill, and I don’t want to spend money on a lot of new plants, I decided to try to propagate all three of these hostas for the first time. Here are some factors: I’ve never propagated hostas before, they’ve only been in the ground for one season, and two of the varieties were severely damaged by bugs.

If you’re propagating hostas for the first time, you can learn from me!

1. Propagate the hosta in the fall before it starts to fade, but well before the first frost of the season. This will allow it to readjust before winter hits. I’m in zone three, and the winters here are bitter. So, I completed the process in early August. (Incidentally, this is also before my work schedule gets to crazy and gardening falls by the wayside.)

2. Dig a deep, wide hole around the hosta, but nothing too crazy. In reading up on how to propagate hostas, I was astounded to read about the root mass these plants have. Two times the width and depth of the plant! Look, in reality, I didn’t find these particularly challenging to dig up. I didn’t put the spade in all that far away from the plant, and yes, I’m sure I accidentally broke off plenty of root system, but there was still plenty to work with in dividing the plants. For your reference, here’s a picture of the root system of the first hosta I dug up:

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hosta root system

3. Divide the plants. I started off by finding logical divisions in the plant and gently, slowly, steadily, and sometimes really firmly pulling (sometimes tearing) them apart. In doing so, I accidentally broke off a few chunks with very little root system. Though I don’t have much hope for their survival, I planted them anyway. I read that I might need an ax, a saw, a knife, anything sharp and sturdy, but these plants are relatively small, and I found it easiest to gently work the dirt away from the root system and then separate the plants with my hands from the bottom of the root (opposed to holding on to the plant and putting). Even though you can easily see the separate stems from the top, surprisingly, I found it easier to divide the plant by holding on to the root system and tearing upwards toward the plant in areas where it naturally seemed to spit. This allowed for much less leaf breakage and a more natural division of the plant.

4. Plant the hostas. Dig new holes to accommodate the newly divided hostas. I tossed in a little fertilizer and spaced everything at least a foot apart. That’s a little on the close side for some of these varieties, but I want it to look relatively full next year (which, I know, is a lofty and possibly unrealistic goal to have the first season after plants are divided). Sprinkle with more fertilizer and water into place.

5. Finally, prune. Cut off any of the leaves that were damaged or broken in the process. I bent several leaves in the propagation process, and so I just cut those off. I also cut away some of the leaves that had been most damaged by insects. I left a few leaves to help the plant absorb sunlight for the next few weeks as it adjusts to the new division. In about a month (hopefully a few weeks before the first of the bad frosts), I’ll cut back all leaves entirely.

As you can see here, I’ve turned three little hosta plants into a new little hosta garden. I transplanted all three into a new area. They are looking pretty ragged right now, but should start to be more presentable when they come up again next spring. Summer 2019 should be amazing…that is unless the bugs continue their raid and I continue to dig them up to divide and expand my hosta garden!

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newly propagated hosta garden

 

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raspberries! (canbys)

My parents put in a raspberry patch years ago, and it has been a source of low-maintenance deliciousness for years now. Worst case scenario, the patch is neglected all year, watered for a week or so before the berries are ready, and then we get all of the beautiful, delicious, plump raspberries we could ever want. Not only are the berries delicious, it’s a thornless (or mostly thornless) variety. That means me and my nephew can pick to our heart’s content without getting poked by itchy little thorns.

The inland northwest is a great place to grow berries, especially raspberries that seem to thrive in cooler temperatures. Since I love berries (I’ve been known to drive and hike and walk and bike to get to berries in the wild), I’ve wanted to plant berries of my own for several years, especially now that I’ve got the perfect place for them in Idaho.

Last summer, I decided I wanted to get starts from my parents’ plants–species that have proven themselves over the years. This spring, as the weather improved, and I was wanting to be out in it more and more, I also really started to want my own raspberry patch. Though I was planning on propagating plants from my parents’ patch, a sunny weekend got the best of me, and I started looking for starts to buy here locally. Nurseries in Utah and Idaho had root stock, but everything had thorns. I even called a private ad and was hung up on when I said I wanted a thornless variety of raspberries.

Here’s how the story ends: I found these Canbys at the local grocery store. I went home and did a quick google search and found that Canbys are thornless (or mostly thornless). It rung some subtle bell–like maybe this was the same variety my parents planted years ago. So, I went back to the store and paid way too much for these sweet little gems. I put them in the ground and then spent a lot of time just staring at them.

I still plan on filling out the patch with starts from the old raspberry patch back in Oregon. In the meantime, I’m love watching these little ones grow.

Behold:

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just look at this beauty, would you?

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ok, back up and you can see that they’re actually pretty small

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the tag, fyi

Lessons from the Great Gardeners by Matthew Biggs

Before reading Lessons from the Great Gardeners by Matthew Biggs, I also checked out The Wild Garden by William Robinson and Rick Darke and My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner. The latter two weren’t really my speed. The Wild Garden had some beautiful photographs, but I didn’t find the text to be very reader-friendly. My Summer in a Garden has a great title. I wanted to get lost in that book, but the tone and approach didn’t speak to me. When it comes to gardening, I want something that is real, and true, and earnest, and beautiful–like a garden. While some of these titles do offer that, it’s always along with the same kind of self-deprecating humor that doesn’t really speak to me.

Image result for Lessons from the Great Gardeners amazon

image from amazon.com

I enjoyed reading Lessons from the Great Gardeners. This book also had some lovely pictures. I liked the way it was organized. Each section named a gardener, provided their biography, a description of the garden, some lessons, and pictures, which included both beautiful photographs of the original gardens and beautiful botanical illustrations. Of course, there are only so many ways to say, “Experiment with color!” And, “Don’t be afraid to take risks!” And, “Think outside the box!” Still, this was a book I could get lost in. And did.

Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols

Before reading Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols, I quickly scanned Old Herbaceous and The Gardener’s Year, two old books on gardening that aren’t really about gardening, but more like old-timey, self-deprecating insights on the human condition.

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image from amazon.com

I, however, am in the mood to read gardening books, and so I settled on Nichols’ book because, while there was a lot of inappropriate humor (jokes at the expense of everyone besides wealthy white males), it was also about gardening. Nichols is clearly obsessed with every detail of the garden. I enjoyed reading about the painstaking work that went into his seeds and sprouts. I liked reading about the close relationship he had with his parents and their shared interest in gardening. The competitive relationship he has with the neighbor, Mrs. M, is enviable.

Here are some of the lines I liked:
-“I believe in doing things too soon. In striking before the iron is hot, in leaping before one has looked, in loving before one has been introduced” (9).

-“There are certain very definite rules to be observed when you are Making The Tour. The chief rule is that you must never take anything out of order” (39).

-“And yet, not quite silence. For if you hold your breath, and listen, you can hear the plants growing…” (211).

-“It took a few million years to make a snowdrop. Surely one is justified in spending a few hours in studying the results?” (265).

and the words I liked:
-effluvium (157).

-Elysian fields (173)

recommended flowers:
-aubretias (128).

-“[S]imple, hardy flowers…forget-me-nots, schizanthus, nemesia, and sweet peas” (212).

-“I would suggest the little purple vetch, the ragged robin, the scarlet pimpernel, and the speedwell” (222).

an update on the hosta

For the past month, each morning, I have opened the backdoor, walked down the steps with a cup of coffee and carefully the examined the blank space of dirt where the hosta should be. The ground is somewhat covered in leaves. I thought I remembered that strange spear coming up out of the ground earlier in the year last year. It was a mild winter, but I always worry about my outdoor plants regardless.

Hostas are such weird things. Mine is a “sum and substance,” which is the biggest of the hosta varieties. This one is fragrant too. Most hosta blooms are not. Hostas are spooky. I literally jump when I see the spear for the first time each spring.

Last year, it looked like a horned monster rising up from the earth. This year, I was sure it was dead, that is until this weekend when I spotted some horrific looking spikes coming up out of the earth. It looked like a stegosaurus. There were three spikes this time, which means that not only did the hosta survive the winter, it propagated. I can’t wait to watch it grow. Here’s a picture of it looking as terrifying as ever.

hosta spears April 2015

hosta spears April 2015