covers a wide range of topics of interest to hosta afficianados.
This and That:
some 20 years “This and That” was a regular column in the
Fall/Convention (No. 3) issue of The Hosta Journal. It now
will be featured in the online publication. T&T is a collection
of items that came to my attention during the year, sometimes
before. I’m always seeking additional information, especially
anecdotal; please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
On Mark R. Zilis’ Tissue-Culture Propagation of
First at Walters Gardens; Then T & Z Nursery, Winfield,
Now Q & Z Nursery, Rochelle, Illinois
| Over the years, Mark
R. Zilis, author of the outstanding reference tome, The Hostapedia
(Rochelle, Illinois: Q & Z Nursery: 2010), has supplied me with
considerable background on the early history of tissue-culture (TC)
propagation of hostas. Since I’m not aware of most of this
information being widely available before, I’m sharing it here.
Mark attended the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign. His Master’s thesis was on TC propagation of
viburnums and witchhazels. In September 1977, after finishing his
graduate work, he was employed by Walters Gardens, Inc. in Zeeland,
Michigan, the largest wholesaler of perennials in the U.S.
Mark worked in the TC lab. “Did you establish the TC
lab at Walters Gardens?” I asked him. “Was it the first TC lab
to propagate hostas?”
“Cunningham Gardens in Waldron, Indiana,” he
answered, “had a small lab, producing a couple of hostas such as
‘Decorata’ and H. plantaginea, but nothing else that I can
remember. Walters Gardens built its lab in 1977 with the
encouragement of Prof. Ken Sink of Michigan State University. They
hired a local woman, who attended a short course on tissue culture,
to work in the lab a few months before I arrived. She left Walters in early 1978."
Mark started working at Walters on plants that were in
short supply or had disease problems. “Walters had
been having problems with foliar nematodes in creeping phlox and
needed clean stock. Other plants with
disease problems included asters,
chrysanthemums and baby’s-breath,” he said. “Based on my work
with them, I developed culture techniques for dozens (not sure of
the exact number) of other herbaceous perennials before Walters came
to me later in 1978 with the idea of trying hostas in the lab. They were
so different from anything else that I had done, since the
meristematic tissue was located in the crown of the plant.”
Mark’s major professor at the University of Illinois,
Martin M. Meyer, Jr., had worked with hostas in tissue culture (as
well as daylilies, irises and peonies), but his method involved
using flower bud tissue and callus formation. Meyer’s paper, “In
Vitro Propagation of Hosta sieboldiana,” was published in
HortScience (Vol. 15, December 1980, p. 737) and reprinted in the
1982 issue of The American Hosta Society Bulletin (Vol. 13, p. 35).
(The AHS Bulletin was a yearly publication from 1968
through 1985. It then became The Hosta Journal, and published twice
yearly. Its first issue, Volume 17, Number 1, was in Spring
Through a literature search, Mark Zilis also found that
Mark Cunningham of Cunningham Gardens had published a paper, through
the proceedings of the International Plant Propagator’s Society,
describing a bit about hosta tissue culture.
“So I visited Cunningham’s lab and asked for his
advice on how to tackle the problem of establishing explants of
hostas,” Mark recalls. “I can remember him telling me to
‘wash, wash, wash’ the tissue after it was extracted from the
“It took me about six months to refine the hosta
explant technique, but eventually we had clean, multiplying cultures
of hostas. At the time, we worked with what Walters Gardens had to
offer, i.e., ‘Fortunei Aureomarginata’, ‘Undulata
Albomarginata’, H. subcordata grandiflora alba (= H.
etc. We found a few growing-media types that worked well with hostas
and [discovered] how to root them.”
challenge was getting them to survive in the greenhouse, Mark
explains. “Walters Gardens was not set up to grow young,
tissue-culture transplants of anything, so there was a high death
rate. Eventually, we got around that problem by farming out the
transplanting process to a few employees who had growing facilities.
“After all the work we put into the process and
finally succeeding, Dennis and John Walters became concerned with
the cost per plant. They were used to selling field divisions of
hostas for less than $1.00 and could see that the tissue-cultured
plants cost a lot more than that. The solution was to work with
John Walters, now Walters Gardens’ president, and
Mark visited Larry Englerth of Englerth Gardens in Hopkins,
Michigan. “Larry helped us select such ‘new’ hostas as [Paul
Aden’s] ‘Gold Regal’, ‘Gold Drop’ and ‘Gold Edger’.
Others were ‘Honeybells’, ‘Royal Standard’, H. ventricosa
‘Aureomaculata’, ‘Elegans’, ‘Francee’ and ‘Green
Gold’. We debated the merits of the latter two, finally selecting
‘Francee’ as the white-edged hosta on which to focus our
efforts.” Walters Gardens also purchased all of Pauline Banyai’s
‘Gold Standard’ and began propagating them in 1980.
“Keep in mind that all of the tissue-cultured hostas
were eventually planted in Walters Gardens’ growing fields. At the
time, it did not sell hostas in containers. The tissue-culture
transplants would be planted in the field and grown for two years
before they would be divided and sold as field divisions.”
H. montana 'Aureomarginata'
During his time at Walters Gardens, Mark continued to innovate. “In
1980, I started experimenting with colchicine on hostas in liquid
culture to induce tetraploidy. H. ‘Royal Standard’ was my guinea pig
for that testing. There is a good possibility that ‘Royal Super’
[registered by Walters Gardens in 2000] was the result of that
By the time Mark departed Walters Gardens in March of 1981,
the lab had over 30 hostas in TC propagation. “I left the lab in good
hands, as I had hired Clarence H. [“C.H.”] Falstad, III, a year
earlier, in June, as my assistant,” Mark said.
“How did you become so captivated with hostas?” I asked
“During my visits to Larry Englerth’s collection,” he
said in an e-mail, “I was amazed at the diversity in foliage color and
plant size in the genus Hosta. I continually kept this in mind in my
work with hosta tissue culture at Walters Gardens.”
Mark was invited to speak at the 1980 AHS National
Convention in Minnesota. His presentation, “Tissue Culture Propagation
of Hosta,” was published in the 1981 AHS Bulletin (Vol. 12, p. 19).
“During that convention I became enthralled with the hostas in the
[tour] gardens we visited. I distinctly remember seeing ‘Krossa
Regal’ in full bloom...five-foot scapes....wow!!
“But the plant that made me want to grow hostas in my own
backyard was Ken Anderson’s specimen of H. montana ‘Aureomarginata’,”
Mark continued. “His plant was perfectly placed in the middle of one
of his growing beds. I also left that convention feeling that the world
of hostas was on the verge of an explosion in popularity.”
(Kenneth A. Anderson of Country Lane Nursery in Farwell,
Minnesota, passed away in October 2009. A tribute by Minnesota’s Don
Dean is in the Fall/Convention 2009 issue of The Hosta Journal [Vol. 40,
No. 3, p. 81].)
“In 1981 I made the difficult decision to leave Walters
Gardens,” Mark said, “and open a new business [T & Z Nursery] in
the Chicago suburbs [Winfield, Illinois] with a friend from college,
Dave Tyznik. We decided that hostas would be a prime focus of our garden
center and wholesale landscape business. At first, our tissue-culture
lab only supplied our nursery with product, but by 1984 we decided to
start selling ‘liners’ to the rapidly expanding hosta business. The
quantities were actually fairly small at the time and continued to be so
until I split off the tissue culture lab as a separate business in 1992
and started Q & Z Nursery, Inc. Initially the lab comprised the
original lab at T & Z Nursery. In 1996-1997 I moved Q & Z
Nursery to Rochelle, Illinois.”
Q & Z Nursery is a family business. Mark is president;
his brother-in-law, Rick Vanous, is general manager; Mark’s sister,
Mary Beth Vanous, is involved with sales; and Mark’s son, Andy, joined
a year or so ago after graduating from college. If you wondered about
the Q in Q & Z, Mark’s wife’s name is Katie Queller-Zilis.
Hero’PPAF Helps Support GreenCare for Troops
H. ‘American Hero’PPAF (Walters Gardens - 2009) is a sport of
‘Revolution’ (G. van Eijk-Bos & Walters Gardens - 2000)
with wider, dark green margin and a creamy white-to-pure white center
speckled with green, often called “grass clippings.” The
registration says ‘American Hero’ is a sport of
‘Loyalist’; it should be ‘Revolution’.
The lineage of ‘Revolution’ is
interesting. It started with the classic ‘Francee’ (M.
Klopping - 1986), which has green leaves with a thin whitish
margin, being exposed inadvertently to a pre-emergent herbicide.
H. ‘Francee’ is a diploid, that is, it has one set of
chromosomes. The chemical apparently caused doubling of the
chromosomes, resulting in ‘Patriot’ (J. Machen Jr. - 1991),
which is tetraploid. H. ‘Patriot’ has thick dark green leaves
with distinctive wide, crisp white jetting margin. These are
characteristics of polyploidy.
H. ‘American Hero’PPAF (Walters Gardens - 2009)
In tissue-culture (TC)
propagating ‘Patriot’, ‘Loyalist’ (Walters Gardens/G. van
Eijk-Bos -1998) was found. Its leaves have the reversed variegation of
‘Patriot’: nearly pure white center with dark green margin. And in
TCing ‘Loyalist’, ‘Revolution’ was found; it has the white
center/green margin variegation of leaves of ‘Loyalist’ but with
green speckles in the white tissue. H. ‘American Hero’ is a
selection from TCing ‘Revolution’, having a narrow, speckled white
Lineage is: ‘Francee’ > ‘Patriot’
> ‘Loyalist’ > ‘Revolution’ >
There are other members of this family. H.
‘Minuteman’ (J. Machen Jr. - 1994) also resulted from exposure of ‘Francee’
to the same pre-emergent herbicide as ‘Patriot’ at Mobjack Nurseries
in Virginia. It has a darker green center color than ‘Patriot’. Some
references described ‘Minuteman’ as having a whiter white margin
than ‘Patriot’, but my studies of these cultivars indicate this is
H. ‘Minuteman’ is total tetraploid, while some
‘Patriot’ plants have both tetraploid and diploid tissue, called
“ploidy chimera” or “partial tetraploid chimera.” H.
‘Minuteman’ is slower growing than ‘Patriot’.
H. ‘Fire and Ice’ (H. Hansen - 1999) and ‘Paul
Revere’ (M. Zilis - 2003) are also white-centered sports of
‘Patriot’; they are ‘Loyalist’ look-alikes. But as Peter Cross
detailed in “Look-alikes: Of the four white-leaved, green-edged sports
of H. ‘Patriot’, which is best?” in the Spring 2007 The Hosta
Journal (Vol. 38, No. 1, p. 31), ‘Fire and Ice’ has some notably
different grown characteristics than its look-alikes. It is not as good
a grower, maturing to a smaller clump size. Peter also pointed out that
‘Fire and Ice’ is very susceptible to “melt out” (see page 596
in Mark Zilis’ The Hosta Handbook [Rochelle, Illinois: Q & Z
In TCing ‘Revolution’, ‘Independence’PP17,044
(Walters Gardens - 2001) was found. It has the reversed leaf variegation
of ‘Revolution’: dark green center with white margin having green
speckles. Both ‘Revolution’ and ‘Independence’ often develop
“spoilers.” That is, they develop plain green leaves.
I need to mention one more sport. It’s ‘Americana’
(Walters Gardens - 2006), a wide-margined sport of ‘Loyalist’. Its
thick leaves have deep green margin and nearly pure white, narrow
Back to ‘American Hero’: Walters Gardens, Inc. is
supporting military families across the U.S. through GreenCare for
Troops. For each plant of ‘Americana’ sold, Walters Gardens, Inc.
will donate $.25 to Project EverGreen, a national non-profit
organization and founder of GreenCare for Troops.
|| The mission of
GreenCare for Troops is to provide free lawn and landscape
services to US military families at home whose loved ones serve in
the Armed Forces. “This is one small burden that we can bear for
them during this difficult time,” says Walters Gardens, Inc. The
funds raised through the sale of H. ‘Americana Hero’ will go
directly towards supporting over 9,000 military families
registered for the program.
Many readers will recall that Walters Gardens, Inc.
has a similar program for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Honoring an employee who died from breast cancer – and countless
others who have been touched by this disease, Walters Gardens,
Inc. donates $.25 for each plant of H. ‘Remember Me’ (G. van
Eijk-Bos/D. van Ervin/Walters Gardens) to a local chapter of Susan
G. Komen for the Cure.
H. ‘Remember Me’ is a sport of ‘June’ (Neo
Plants - 1991). Leaves emerge yellow with a narrow, dark
blue-green margin that jets towards the midrib. Center brightens
to cream in summer.
- S&S: Another Good Hosta
- But Also Handy Designation for New Book on
- Little Hostas
by Kathy Guest Shadrack and Mike Shadrack
| No sooner did the Fall/Convention 2009 issue of The Hosta Journal
(Vol. 40, No. 3, p. 8), with the item titled “SiT, BME, GE, NbC
and TAP: Some Handy Acronyms and Initialisms for Cultivar
Names,” arrive in members’ mailboxes when I started receiving
inquires why I had not included “S&S” as the abbreviation
for the popular classic H. ‘Sum and Substance’ (P. Aden -
1980). Many said it was their favorite cultivar name abbreviation,
pointing out they’ve been using it for years.
My response was: I thought S&S was an
obvious initialism and well known. I too have used it for years.
It’s a lot easier and quicker writing S&S than ‘Sum and
S&S also is being used to designate
the recently published The Book of Little Hostas (Portland,
Oregon: Timber Press, 2010). The authors are S&S, initialism
for the authors’ surnames: Kathy Guest Shadrack and Mike
Shadrack. Kathy, AHS Recording Secretary, supplied the text and
Mike, AHS Vice President Publications, the photos. He also
provided the photos in Diana Grenfell and his The New Encyclopedia
of Hostas (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2009).
As for pronouncing S&S, roll S&S
off your tongue and I’m pretty sure you didn’t say S and
Instead you voiced the ampersand (&) as a clipped form of and,
namely ’n’. That is, you dropped both the a and the
pronounced S&S simply as S ’n’ S. This is what customarily
- The Book of Little Hostas
- by Kathy Guest Shadrack
- and Michael Shadrack
Pronounced Dip-loid and Trip-loid
This item was suggested by
C.H. Falstad III (Walters Gardens, Inc. Zeeland, Michigan) in a phone
conversation we had on polyploid hostas, a subject getting a lot of
attention these days.
Hostas usually are diploids, that is, they have
two sets of chromosomes. Some hostas, however, are triploids and
tetraploids. And others are ploidy chimeras having tissues with
different ploidy, that is, with different chromosome counts.
“Not everyone I talk to knows how to
pronounce diploid and triploid correctly,” CH remarked. “Sometimes I
hear DI-ploid and TRI-ploid. Both are incorrect. Though the prefixes are
Greek di (meaning two) and tri (meaning three), the words are pronounced
DIP-loid and TRIP-loid.”
On the other hand, tetraploid is TETRA-ploid
and hexaploid is HEXA-ploid, he added.
You can hear their pronunciations on www.thefreedictionary.com
Mitigates Slug Problem
is an effective molluscicide, killing slugs and slug’s eggs intimately
in contact with it. Barbara Tiffany reports she and husband “Tiff”
have used this treatment in their garden, Mill Fleurs in Point Pleasant,
Pennsylvania, for many years and hostas are “virtually slug free.” A
key to success is applying the chemical very early in the season.
Here’s a protocol to follow:
Continually be on the look-out for
slug egg masses, especially in late autumn and early spring. They
are light-tan or brown, somewhat transparent 1/8-inch spheres,
usually two dozen or more. Scrap them into a disposable jar with
water containing ammonia or a few drops of dishwashing detergent.
Alternatively, sprinkle them – and any slugs found – with
table salt and trash the mess.
In early springtime, thoroughly
clean the garden of leaves, litter, debris, etc. This is
important. Anything resting on the ground might prevent the
ammonia solution from effectively affecting that spot.
It’s best if soil is moist before
applying ammonia. Usually it is in early season. If not, water the
planting areas well.
When divisions start poking up from
the ground, completely drench the shoots and crowns, and soil
extensively around them, with 10% solution of regular household
ammonia in water (one part ammonia to nine parts water). Effectual
also is drenching crowns and surrounding soil before shoots
appear. Barbara says an 8% solution works as well; but I
need to point out that the ammonia-to-water ratio is more complex.
Whether less ammonia percentages perform satisfactorily, I don’t
For small gardens, a sprinkling can
be used. For large gardens, better is a garden hose with an
attached container that mixes and meters full-strength ammonia
with water. Also, very useful is a high-pressure sprayer with a
large tank capacity. You’ll likely find you’ll need copious
quantities of the solution.
Importantly, make sure you
thoroughly wet (saturate) the leaves and crowns, and soil around
them. Be generous in applying the ammonia solution. Remember, this
is a contact molluscicide: its effectiveness is short lived, soon
dissipated. Ammonia (NH4OH)
also is a source of nitrogen fertilizer, especially helpful in
early season when leaves are unfurling and actively growing.
Two to three weeks later, apply
ammonia again. This will kill slugs and eggs missed before, plus
kill baby slugs since hatched. Don’t forget this second
Cleaning products containing
additional ingredients should not be used as these could damage
plants. Simple ammonia is preferred. Also, if you’re wondering
whether ammonia might adversely affect earthworms, practical
experience indicates it does not if application is less than about a