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   There was a time when the tradition of guest plants at the National Conventions was one of the most interest-generating parts of the convention. Small groups could be found in the tour gardens huddled around a guest plant of note, and some of those guest plants were truly noteworthy. Some were the most- photographed plants in the whole convention.  Sometimes they were our first look at a plant that would become a star, like the first 'Liberty' displayed as a guest plant in the garden of Hideko Gowen at the 2000 convention in Minnesota. Other times they piqued our curiosity but were never seen again.

    The showing of guest plants has begun to fade somewhat in recent years, with small TC plants becoming the norm. While seeing small young plants is better than seeing no guest plants at all, they don't have the impact of seeing more mature versions. Let's face it, young hostas tend to look a lot alike - it's only when they start to exhibit some maturity that they really strut their stuff.
    So what do you say hybridizers and nursery people? We want to see your stuff! Bring the good ones to the convention so we all can see them! That goes for you collectors that found a nice sport too! You don't have to send them if you're coming - just bring them along. They can be in pots or they can go into the ground - it's your call - but show us your good ones!
    We'll do a feature article in the Online Journal each year with the guest plants of the year's convention. We'll get pictures and show them to the members who couldn't attend.

   At left a crowd gathers to discuss the mysterious plant displayed as a guest plant in the garden of Inta and Skip Krombolz during the 2006 National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa. As each busload of attendees entered the garden a similar scene unfolded.
At right the object of their fascination - An 'Elegans' sport found by Herb Johns, owner of a small nursery in Danielsville, PA. Herb named the plant 'Special K' in honor of his wife Kay Johns.

Other great guest plants spotted at recent conventions:

   The following material was included in the handbook for the 1991 AHS Convention in Raleigh, NC.  It is the garden description for the Solberg garden, which was on tour. We've included it here to show the tradition of guest plants when it was at its peak and seeing the guest plants was one of the real treats of the convention. It is included here as it was written, complete with out-of-date nomenclature. 
   The Solberg garden is both a hosta collectors garden and a hosta display garden for the nursery, Greenhill Farm. It is a hosta collection arranged in an educational way. It is also landscaped to be a cool and peaceful retreat from the heat of our Carolina summers. Although the hosta garden was begun nine years ago, all the beds have been reworked in the past five years and the entire hosta garden will be replanted after the convention.
   Two beds containing only hosta species or cultivars of species are found in the front yard. Included in these beds is a great clump of H. laevigata (Schmid) the newest Hosta species. In another bed the Tiara series is featured. The nursery side of the house has the "beginners collection" bed and the other side yard displays some of Mildred Seaver's and Bob Savory's newer introductions and seedlings. The backyard has groupings of H. kikutii hybrids, H. tokudama cultivars, Tardianas, variegated H. fortuneis, and mature clumps of several cultivars old and new. To the side of the greenhouse is a grouping of gold hostas hidden behind a clump of 'Blue Angel'.
   There are several great guest plants in the garden. Many have been grouped in separate beds at the back of the garden so that you can find them more easily. They include: Mobjack Nursery's 'Francee' sport, Bill Zumbar's minis, Ursula Syre-Herz's Peedee series, White Oak Nursery's 'Brenda's Beauty', Tony Avent's 'Fourth of July', and plants from Kuk's Forest, Jim Wilkins, Powell Gardens, Jernigan Gardens, Walters Gardens, Clyde Crockett, and George Schmid. Also there is a clump of 'Raleigh Remembrance' from Mark Zilis in the 'Chinese Sunrise' circle in the side yard.

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