Best I can guess the hostas lining our front porch – the ones pictured here with the fireworks of blue flowers – have been popping up out there for at least 75 years.
Our house is at least 150-years-old. We have lived here 40 years. I know from talking to neighbors the hostas were here long before we were. The neighbors also told us of Prohibition dances on our front porch with bootleg booze being sold off our back porch. I sure wish our hostas could talk; it would be history with green leaves.
Some research showed iris and peonies can easily live 50 years, but I couldn’t find a definitive thing on the longest-living hostas. To keep hostas happy most will need shade, although truth be told they are not that happy in deep, dark shade either. Let there be truth – and some morning sun or filtered light. Their real happiness is rich soil, steady water and a slugless, bugless environment.
Our front porch hostas have dealt with some trauma on that score. They are forever trapped between a sidewalk and our cement porch, tight quarters, and yet they leap up to the challenge every year. They are of an ancient cultivar – maybe one of you hosta experts out there can help me on which one – and are obviously of hardy stock.
They are lovely in their own way; their strong, corrugated green leaves slapping up again the porch. They are plenty tough; for most of their lives they lived in the ample shade of a huge sugar-maple tree. Hurricane Ike sent that 75-foot maple crashing across our driveway, subjecting our hostas – literally overnight – to a remaining life of bright morning sun. In mid-summer – July in fact – that light will last until almost 2 p.m.
Yet our hostas still dance and sing, tossing up those blue flowers, although their leaves will now begin to yellow, and bug damage seems worse. By now they are family, regular as Christmas – or at least the Fourth of July.
Janet Hill has a penchant for dwarf conifers; she has a collection of them in small pots in the shade of a pin oak near our screen-in back porch. We have large plantings of various hostas all over our eight acres; gifts from friends and unsold specimens I’d rather plant in our yard than winter over for spring sales. And yes, of course, all name tags have been lost.
A brief history of hostas has them starting out in Asia – with roots in Japan, China and Korea. They journeyed to the outside world once the outside world began to journey into Asia. Their first known salesman was one Engelbert Kaempfer – apparently no relation to Engelbert Humperdinck – who was a doctor stationed with the United East India Company in Nagasaki in the early 1700s.
He did start something. There are now about 6,000 cultivars on the world market with names from ‘Elvis Lives’ to ‘Goodness Gracious’ – apparently a nod to Jerry Lee Lewis.
It might be kind of fun to invite a few creative friends over, warm them up with a for bottles of wine, and begin a Hosta Naming Contest. I could soon go with ‘Cheap White,’ ‘Merlot the Magnificent’ and ‘Ripple’
Hostas also seem to be the strong, silent type. I did try to GOOGLE up a hosta ‘John Wayne’ and was surprised the learn it hasn’t been invented yet. I did briefly consider naming hostas after presidential candidates – ‘Unbelievable’ and ‘Been There – Done That’ seemed appropriate. Then there’s always ‘Mexican Fence’ and ‘Please Keep Bill Home.