Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mystery Solved

Have you ever been given a plant and can't figure out the specific horticultural name?  This beautiful hosta was one of those unknowns until recently. 
I've had this hosta since 1997 and would search nurseries and catalogs for an example - with no luck.  They typically carry new hybrids and this had to be an oldie.

It was surprising since it's substantial, has beautiful shimmering emerald green leaves and increases clump size easily.  Mine has never been bothered by pests or disease.  It is seldom bothered by drought or some direct sun. 
I saved the best attribute - it has this strong delicious fragrance. The scent rivals the sweetness of lilac, the strength of gardenia, the freshness of lily-of-the-valley. Bees, wasps and hummingbirds find it irresistible.

I was browsing an article on old garden books and there was my hosta with a history that does it's physical qualities justice.                                          
It was originally called "Old August Lily" (Funkia) and it was mistaken for a daylily.  The exact name is Hosta plantaginea or Fragrant Plantainlily.  Considered an heirloom and typically acquired from a neighbor rather than a nursery.

This hosta emerges late in the Spring and blooms late in early fall.  Mine are at their height of bloom right now.  It may not bloom if your summers are cool.  Zone 5 - maybe 4 is about as cool as it likes.  The blooms open at night and last several days.  Since they (typical of hosta) bloom starting from the bottom buds first, moving upwards toward the top of the stem, there is continuous bloom over a long period.

This is one of the few true Hosta species that is commonly grown now days and it has lent its genes to some of the most fragrant modern hybrids.

Every three years, the clumps have increased to the point they can easily be divided into at least ten more plants.  

I remove the stems, including the seed heads, after they bloom.  Don't do this if you would like to have them self seed or want to try hybridizing.   

Plant close to your patio or porch for full scent enjoyment.  Cut a few for inside in a vase.  This oldie but goody is an all-around valuable garden perennial.    

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