The Larsens have been gardening together almost since the day they were
married, 34 years in August. Their current gardening activity started
shortly after moving to this location in 1994. It was an empty palette:
all turf grass with trees around the perimeter. There were no
ornamentals save the two lilac shrubs on the cul-de-sac and a row of
Hosta ‘Undulata Albomarginata’ along the sidewalk. A nascent
interest in shade gardening, fueled by a Minnesota Horticultural Society
seminar in which Bob Olson, then president of the AHS, and Clayton
Oslund, founder of Shady Oaks Nursery, were presenters, has resulted in
the landscape seen there now. “I don’t call it a garden as I feel
gardens are more ‘planned out’ than my landscape will ever be. I’m
a collector and rather haphazard in organization, but I do try to
arrange the collection in a pleasing manner” says Kim.
She first started planting hostas
in the backyard, as it was in total shade for most of the day. What
better place for hostas, she naively thought after that first
seminar. The hostas grew O.K. (some better than others), but it
didn’t really matter because their myriad shapes, sizes, colors,
etc. sparked her “collector gene” and she just wanted more of
them. So she started finding other locations that weren’t in the
deep, dark shade to grow them. The expanding planting beds taught
her they would tolerate more than just a little sun. Kim now grows
hostas just about everywhere—sometimes a bit outside their
“comfort zones” — but gains enjoyment and knowledge from all
of them, even the burnt ones.
Visitors can enjoy the hostas in
the deep shade of the woods beside the house, the sunnier beds at
the edges of the yard, the sunniest beds in the middle of the yard
and even the newest area—the only bit that Kim says actually has a
vision. Plantings there in the lowest part of the property have been
in place only one or two years—some may have been planted just
before the convention!
Is this a magical
mystery tour or what?
Oh yes, there were some hostas too!!! To be precise, there
were about 1500 hosta cultivars and about another 300 seedlings. Do you
already get the impression that Jim and Kim are collectors?
The Larson hosta story starts in 1994 when they moved to
their current location. The property started as an empty palette: all turf
grass with trees around the perimeter. There were no ornamentals with the
exception of two lilac shrubs and a row of Hosta ‘Undulata Albomarginata’
along the sidewalk. The Larsens love to build things. What do you expect
when you team up an architect and an engineer? The very first summer in
their new home had them building the pergola that separates the front and
back yard areas.
The point of no return occurred a year later in 1995. A
nascent interest in shade gardening was fueled by a Minnesota
Horticultural Society seminar where Bob Olson, then president of the AHS,
and Clayton Oslund, founder of Shady Oaks Nursery, were presenters. The
Larsens were hooked.
The hosta garden started in the backyard
under the somewhat dense shade of silver maples. These trees are now huge
(one easily had a 48 inch diameter trunk). They are great for shade, but
not the best for growing hostas, as the Larsens quickly discovered. So,
they started planting hostas in other areas that they didn't want to mow.
The hosta collecting craze had begun. They kept clearing out the perimeter
of the lawn adjacent to the woods to put in more hostas. Then they started
clearing out the woods to put in more hostas. Then they planted more
trees, so they could plant hostas at the base of the trees. Finally, they
started planting hostas pretty much anywhere and everywhere.
Kim’s favorite hostas included a beautiful clump of
‘Climax’ , which she nominated for “Best Single Clump” and a rare
hosta named ‘Glacial Lake’. Tucked in the far back corner of the
property behind the garage is Kim’s hosta seedling collection. Nearly
all are open- pollinated seedlings, mostly solid blues and greens. Kim
doesn’t believe in culling (i.e. “killing them” in her words).
Instead she gives them away. Here we found Kim’s nominee for “Best
Seedling” – a shiny green hosta with ruffled edges in an upright
clump. It begged your attention.
Two years ago, the Larsens purchased the one-third acre
adjacent property. For the moment this really gives the overall property a
really naturalistic feel. The goal was to create a buffer area, but the
practical outcome is more space to plant hostas! Because they first have
to clear this land before any planting occurs, and this property has some
interesting terrain changes, Kim says it will require more of a “plan”
this time. There is a vision of a dry creek bed and bridges, a water
feature, a fire pit, a grass jungle, and paths. The Larsens have already
kindly invited us back in 10 years to see how that vision is manifest.
Make your reservations now for the 2020 magical mystery reunion tour.