Hosta Potpourri, by John Baker

Our first club night lecture of 2023 was given by our very own John Baker, who gave a very entertaining lecture about all things Hosta.

John went right back to the origins of the Hostas we grow in our gardens today – which originated in Manchuria, and from there spread to Korea, Russia and Japan.  They were originally classified as Hemerocallis, or Day Lilies – which explains their common name of Plantain Lilies.

Plant Hunters brought the Hosta back from Japan to Europe in 1790.  The Dutchman Philip von Siebold was the most famous of these hunters – and many hostas today bear his name – sieboldii or sieboldiana.

Hosta ‘June’ is the most popular, and award winning hosta today.  Many of our popular varieties come from crossing the species to provide the unusual leaf markings and varied leaf sizes that we love today.  The current range spreads from the giant ‘Empress Wu’ to the diminuative ‘Mouse Ears’

John couldn’t talk about Hostas without addressing the elephant in the room – Slugs and Snails.  He gave us recipes for garlic spray and told us how to use Epsom salts and Ammonia.  And his top tip was to mark February 14th in our calendars for the Valentine’s Day massacre.

John and his wife June have travelled widely to see hostas growing in the wild, and he showed them growing in swamps, forest floors and in the cracks of rocks near waterfalls.  They have made many international friends along the way – showing how plants and shared enthusiasms can bridge language barriers and cultural differences.

Through it all John’s knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for hostas shone through.  We all came away wondering where we could find space for at least one more in our own gardens.