Questions with Hans Hansen – Nursery Management
Hosta has been one of the most popular perennials throughout history – what do you think are some of the reasons for its enduring popularity?
Several factors have increased the popularity of Hosta since the 1970s and 1980s. It is one of the few perennials that looks great from the time it emerges in the spring until it goes dormant in the fall. It is also hardy in most parts of the United States. They are great shade plants for people who have homes in wooded areas or have mature trees. They spread well and are affordable. They have a wide range of versatility which makes them collectible and lend themselves to many landscaping opportunities.
Is there any particular characteristic or type of hosta that you see gardeners holding on to?
The larger hostas seem to be the most popular, with the blue and variegated forms outselling the gold and green varieties.
What are some of the goals of the Hosta Program at Walters Gardens? What improvements are you working on?
I believe in the 10-foot hosta rule – a hosta should be easily identified without a label within ten feet. Excellence and hosting that stands out and stands the test of time is my goal. Distinctive features of my breeding program include blue color that maintains its color throughout the season, wavy leaf margins, slug resistance, and versatility. Of the 1,000 hybrids hand-pollinated each year, only 1 in 1,000 are cut. The strength and ease of deployment in production is also important.
When selecting hostas, are there any characteristics growers should look for?
I recommend a nice selection of diversification styles, sizes and shapes to give retailers a great color palette to choose from. Narrow-leaved varieties such as ‘Silly String’ and ‘Party Streamers’ complement heart-shaped leaf shapes such as ‘Diamond Lake’. Any Proven Wins® selection, especially Proven Wins® Hosta of the Year is popular with growers and gardeners.
What’s essential information for growers looking to get large quantities quickly and have good-looking plants for retail?
Hosts return what you put into them. They like moist, well-drained soil, plenty of water, and light shade. One of my early mentors said, “Don’t plant a $30 hosta in a 30-cent hole. Add compost and make sure your garden amends the plant. Also, if the shade in your garden is too dense to grow grass, you won’t be able to grow good hostas.” Hostas are shade tolerant – but need light to grow. Medium variegated varieties particularly thrive with morning sun (eastern exposure) or high shade. These tips translate to nursery production as well.