Hostas (Plantain Lily) are plants bursting into growth now. They have fabulous foliage with delicate architectural shapes that blend in very well with so many other plants in garden design. They may be used as ground cover or as an edge to paths and lawns. If you are a hostaholic there are 2,000 different varieties of hostas to choose from. There are dwarf varieties that only reach a few inches tall to giants that can grow a few feet tall. Hostas are available in a wide variety of colours and textures.
The leaf shapes and sizes vary greatly. They can be anything from lance shaped to almost circular and can be more than 14 inches long. The leaf is often deeply textured with prominent veins and can be either matt or glossy. Colours range from the coolest of silver blues through to deep greens and yellows. Many varieties are variegated with white, cream or gold, often with a distinct margin around the edge or streaked as if a paint brush was dragged length-ways down the leaf. Although hostas are grown for their foliage, they also produce flowers. The flowers are trumpet or bell-shaped that appear above the leaves on long stems and come in shades of purple, mauve and white. All hostas like a moist soil and generally improve in colour with age.
They tend to grow best in dapple to full shade. It is important to prepare the soil well before planting as hostas are long lived and can be quite happy in the same spot for over 30 years without being divided. Add well rotted manure or compost to feed the plant and retain moisture. Hostas may be planted in early autumn or late spring. Strong winds can damage the large leaves so they need a sheltered spot. Your local garden centre will have a wide selection of plants to choose from at this time of the year.
Brunnera is a perennial grown for its flowers and ground covering foliage. There is always a place in the garden for this tough plant that will thrive in the deep shade found under evergreen trees or shrubs, where it will quickly form a weed suppressing mat of round leaves. Shade is ideal for brunneras as their broad leaves can be scorched by cold winds or too much sun.
After the leaves have covered the ground, delicate sprays of intense blue flowers appear and will last for weeks until the onset of summer. Brunneras like a moderately fertile, humus rich, moist but well drained soil, in a shady position.
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Hadspen Cream’ is a lovely variety which has pale green leaves with creamy white leaf margins. Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ forms a neat clump of rounded, frosty looking silver leaves and is topped with tiny clusters of clear blue flowers in spring. Brunneras are virtually maintenance free, but clumps can be rejuvenated for the summer if the whole plant is cut to the ground. Fresh foliage will soon emerge along with an occasional show of late flowers.
Jobs for the week
May is the month when everything in the garden picks up pace, all those seeds that you planted should be growing strongly, deciduous trees and shrubs are producing new foliage and grass is starting to grow rapidly, lawns need to be cut every 5 or 6 days.
Feed your spring flowering bulbs, that have completed flowering, with a general purpose fertiliser. Permanent shrubs and hedges will also benefit from a feed. Use a hoe to mix the fertiliser into the soil and water if the weather is dry and cover the soil with a layer of compost. Prune back the flowering stems of hellebores as soon as the flowers are pass their best. Cut them back to their base to make room for new shoots. If seedlings are required, leave a stem with a flower on it to produce seed and collect when ripe.
Protect your treasured plants from slugs and snails. There are a number of methods used to control slugs and snails, none of them are one hundred percent effective, but they help.