Josh's column separates out his picks for the standout hostas hitting the market each year.

Standout Hostas of 2010

   Like most hosta addicts, I am constantly on the lookout for new hostas.  Local nurseries, hosta conventions, the Internet – you never know where you might find an exciting, new plant. As a nursery owner, I am also fortunate to have access to many of the newest hosta introductions before they reach the general gardener.  I acquire a couple plants here and a plant or two there, and my stash of new plants grows steadily through the growing season.
   I always find myself scrambling to get everything planted in the fall.  I am definitely a hosta collector, not a landscape designer, but as I look over my stash of new hostas every year there is always a handful of plants that really stand out from the crowd, plants that I feel deserve a featured spot in my garden.
   As the cool temperatures of fall motivated me to hurry up and get my 2010 stash planted, six hostas really caught my eye.

   It comes as no surprise that the most anticipated new introduction of the year was Hosta ‘Rhino Hide’.  Discovered by Don Rawson, this plant immediately shot to the top of every hosta-lover’s wish list when Don shared the first photos on the GardenWeb Hosta Forum several years ago.  Initially, it was the plant’s good looks that caught my attention.  Prominently cupped and heavily corrugated blue leaves are rounded and have a narrow gold flash down the center. However, feeling the foliage reveals the real claim to fame for ‘Rhino Hide’ – cardboard-like substance.
   Don suggests that this may be the thickest leafed hosta in existence and you can read about his experiments in measuring hosta leaf thickness in THJ Volume 39 Number 1 (Spring 2008), Page 31. ‘Rhino Hide’ is one that hosta slugs will shy away from.

   Mary Chastain’s Lakeside hostas are one of the most extensive and well-known series in all of hosta-dom.  Mary recently retired her pollen-dabbing tools and sold her nursery business due to health reasons, but we have not seen the last of her creations.  Many of her last introductions were only available in very limited numbers during her final two or three years in business.  As such, these plants commanded high prices and ended up in the gardens of a few high-end collectors. Slowly, but surely, some of these “lost” hostas will make their way back into the trade.
  One of Mary’s last hybrids that registered on my hosta radar this season is ‘Lakeside Tee Ki’.  The only knowledge I had of this plant up to this year was Mary’s two photos in the HostaLibrary.  What really impressed me was the growth rate of this little plant. In just three months, first year tissue culture liners filled out their one quart pots and would have looked equally at home in one gallon pots by the end of summer.  The bright, lime-green leaves are trimmed by a wavy, creamy-white margin that makes for a showy, upright mound.  

   Wide margined sports are hot commodities in the hosta world right now. These sports are often tetraploids and usually result in a much showier plant than the original parent plant.  This is certainly true of Hosta ‘Goodness Gracious’, a wide margined form of ‘Satisfaction’ introduced by Walter’s Gardens, Inc.  I am already a big fan of ‘Satisfaction’ with its prominently veined, green leaves and gently undulating, bright gold margin.  ‘Goodness Gracious’ takes an already flashy plant and turns it into a show-stopping specimen with exceptionally wide-margined foliage.  
   It seems to have inherited the whole spectrum of good traits from its parent, including heavy leaf substance and a good growth rate.  My plant is still young, but already shows a substantial gold edge.  It is too soon to tell, but I suspect ‘Goodness Gracious’ will grow a good deal larger than its registered size of 18” in diameter and 20” tall.

   I have been eagerly awaiting the introduction of Bob Solberg’s Hosta ‘Curly Fries’ since I first saw it at the 2007 Midwest Regional Hosta Society Convention in Davenport, Iowa.  It is a multiple award winner for good reason.  The casual gardener may not even recognize the small clump of long, very slender and highly rippled foliage as a hosta. Even Bob points out that it looks more like an agave than a hosta!  The leaves start out chartreuse in the spring and if planted in a few hours of direct sun (which it handles with ease), it quickly brightens to gold.  By late summer, the plant may even turn creamy-yellow.  
   For a small hosta, ‘Curly Fries’ has excellent substance and looked good right up to the first frost of fall.  I am very impressed with its quick growth rate, and to top it off, dusky purple-red scapes add an additional flash of color.

   Hosta ‘Deliverance’ is a new hybrid from Tony Avent at Plant Delights Nursery.  Of several new introductions from Tony this year, this is the one that spoke to me and urged me to order.  The photo on the Plant Delights website shows a beautiful blue-green plant with creamy-yellow, somewhat streaky leaf margins.  The elongated leaves twist a bit at the tip and the wavy leaf edges are, in Mr. Avent’s words, “reminiscent of the rapids in its namesake movie.”  I was not disappointed when my order arrived. 
  ‘Deliverance’ is every bit as beautiful in person as it is in the photo.  The blue-green color turns green by mid summer and the creamy-yellow margin turns white, but the plant held up nicely all season.

   I am always reluctant to pick just one favorite hosta.  Most hosta collectors can relate!  So I’m going to resist calling it my favorite new hosta of 2010, but Hosta ‘Ripple Effect’ captivated my attention all season long.  ‘Ripple Effect’ made a good first impression at the 2009 First Look seedling and sport competition where it took home a Best of Class award.  The first plant to be released was donated to the American Hosta Society Online Auction in January of 2010, and it raised over $100 for the AHS.
   Hosta ‘June’ has given us numerous excellent sports over the years, but this Walter’s Gardens, Inc. introduction is by far the most distinct. Unlike any other member of the family, the leaves are elongated and adorned with large waves down the edges. The gold foliage darkens to chartreuse by late summer and is trimmed by a narrow blue-green margin that occasionally streaks into the leaf. ‘Ripple Effect’ has the same great substance and season-long durability as its parent.  Even as a young plant, this hosta oozes with personality and character!

   By the time spring rolls around again, I will be eager to watch every one of my new hosta acquisitions of 2010 emerge from the ground.  Will they all develop into fantastic specimens that garden visitors will be drawn to?  Probably not, but I have high expectations for the six plants described here.

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