Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Woodland wonders this time...

I know it's garish and brash and really in awful taste, but Hosta 'Patriot' does make a statement: all the more so because there were a bevy of these planted--all looking splendidly healthy--along Denver's longest and least attractive street (Colfax) not far from Denver Botanic Gardens...

This is all preamble to say how much I enjoy shade plants generally, especially in this beastly hot summer when my poor summer alpines are being cooked and even the cacti are scorched. A closeup of 'Patriot' (I am almost tempted to buy and plant one in my own shade garden)...almost is the operative word....

THIS is more like it: a terrible picture (I took a good one, but how to find it?) of one of my favorite "new" finds: Dan Johnson has had this for years in his home garden, and gave a giant clump to the Gardens where it completely befuddled the Ratzeputz Gang (only a half dozen of the world's greatest perennial experts) and me too. I eventually tracked down the name...Napaea dioica has a whole list of pluses: first of all it is monotypic (monotypical plants always get brownie points). It is obscure and restricted in range--in this case to the central Midwest. Hardly known in commerce. And it is wonderfully statuesque and easily grown in shady gardens: what more can you want? Oh yes, and in the Mallow family. Looking great this summer at Denver Botanic Gardens (and a little one at my home garden!). Oh yes, it has a cool name that's fun to pronounce (and it's dioecious: more brownie points!)

A bevy of Lilium conocolor in the Plantasia Garden at DBG: these miniature lilies are hard to fit in most gardens: why not plant a mass and have a spectacle for a day or two...a mini spectacle, that delights perhas three people...what a luxury to have 25 acres where we can perform this sort of mini miracle...

Meanwhile, I shall retire to the shade among the foxgloves and ferns, the towering Ligularias and corydalis and hunker down for another blazing day! G'day!


  1. Haha...I've never been terribly fond of variegated Hostas (there are a few I like), or really, variegated plants in general. However, there are a few of the large varieties I love. I have a large blue-leaved one ('Big Daddy', I think), which is wonderful. Stay cool :-)

  2. Sharon IllingworthJuly 19, 2012 at 2:46 PM

    Hi Panayoti,
    In your blog you wrote:

    "I know it's garish and brash and really in awful taste, but Hosta 'Patriot' does make a statement:"

    Awful taste, eh? Well, I know that lots of rock gardeners do not like hostas, but lots of good gardeners, and tasteful gardeners, do. I think that the taste question should be considered in light of the way the plant is used, rather than blaming the poor plant, which has no choice in where someone is apt to put it. Patriot, in my opinion, should not be placed in front of a pinkish brick wall, with a pinkish-red mulch. A happier place for it is a garden shaded by deciduous trees - white birch are nice. Close to its base could be some corydalis, or Dicentra cucularia, which will bloom as the hosta emerges - its expanding leaves will cover their foliage as they die back. In front, for some early colour, there could be primulas, tiarellas, or anemones, or hepaticas. The list goes on. Surrounding larger plants will be mainly green, perhaps a bit of colour for a while could be provided with a Gillenia trifoliata, or a creamy astilbe. Brunneras will provide forget-me-not blue early on (if one is worried about being too brash one could eschew Jack Frost or Hadspen cream and stick with the plain green ones). Epimediums, Glaucidium, ferns, or arisaema all make good companions. The creamy white of the hosta will light up the green shade, like the play of sunlight through leaves, and will make a very satisfactory picture.

    Another question of taste - and I know that there are quite opposite opinions about this - has to do with the hosta flowers. Rob and I are of the opinion that they do little to enhance the plant, and your photographs prove the point. They are really quite messy, with the bottom flowers going over before the top ones are open, and they drop onto the leaves and glue themselves in place, detracting from what I feel is their raison-d'etre - the beautiful leaves which add a feeling of substance to a shade garden, and provide contrast with the finer textures of ferns. We try to remove the flowering stems of most - the possible exception being the fragrant, white flowers of the late-blooming Royal Standard.

  3. Your comments are appreciated! I would so love to see your garden, Sharon! I chuckled at your comment on the wall and mulch: they are part of the reason it stuck out so starkly on the busy street!

    I am one of those wierdo's who loves the funky flowers of Funkias (remember when they were called that?)...but that may be because they are often the only thing blooming in my shade garden that time of year!

  4. Hi Panayoti, I must admit that I too like Hosta Patriot. It is one of those fool proof plants for shade that livens up the north sides of a house.

    I have seen Napaea dioica once in the wild. It was in rich organic prairie fen soil. Quite the opposite of the shady situation you mention. Although the shade might help for a plant that does not like to dry out. I too was perplex when I saw it. My host told me that it was just Glad Mallow. He did not realize how unusual it was until I told him that I had never seen it before. I think he thought more highly of those few plants after my visit.


  5. What a great story, James! I would love to see it in the wild. All the plants in Denver I've seen are growing in dappled shade and seem to love it. But then, shade in Denver is like sun elsewhere!


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