What's a Mini Hosta?
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Size Designations Dwarf and Tiny

   Note that the hosta size designations dwarf and tiny are obsolete and remain discontinued.
   When AHS Hosta Shows were initiated in the late 1960s, the smallest size classification was designated dwarf. It was defined as leaf blade area <2 sq. in. A mini hosta was the second smallest category, defined as leaf blade area from 2 sq. in. to 6 sq. in.
   It turned out that few leaves meeting the dwarf size were entered in shows. So some ten years ago the designation dwarf was absorbed into the mini size category and discontinued as a size category. The smallest size in an AHS Hosta Show then became the mini category with leaf blade area <6 sq. in.

Very Small Hostas?

   I need to say a few words about the size designation “Very Small.” Diana Grenfell, the international hosta authority, applied it in Chapter 13 of her and Michael Shadrack’s The New Encyclopedia of Hostas (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2009). Also, Kathy Guest Shadrack and Mike Shadrack utilize it in their exciting (and I’ll add charming) new publication, The Book of Little Hostas (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2010).
   A very small hosta is defined as having leaf blade area of about 4 to 10 square inches (10 to 25 sq. cm.). A mini hosta has leaves less than about 4 sq. inches.
   I’m told that in an informal discussion at the AHS board meeting in November 2009, the AHS adopting the very small size designation was rejected. I don’t know the reason(s). Possibly introducing a new size category would be too cumbersome and complex – requiring an inordinate amount of volunteers’ time and effort to adopt it for the AHS Hosta Show. 
   This decision was made when the AHS’s mini size was still 4 sq. in! Today’s AHS’s mini size (6 sq. in.) puts an interesting slant on this issue.


Little Hostas?

      'Cat and Mouse'

     The title of Kathy and Mike Shadrack’s 2010 publication, The Book of Little Hostas, has me wondering whether yet another new hosta size category might be introduced: little. An umbrella term, it would comprise minis and very small hostas, with a limit on leaf blade area of, say, about 10 sq. in.

     Having a size designated little is intriguing and certainly has some merit. But as an official AHS designation, I don't advocate it. Likely it would cause more confusion than already might exist with introduction of the 2010 AHS mini size. Still, I expect to see the term in articles and nursery catalogs. I wouldn't be surprised if some enterprising nursery folks offered special collections titled “Little Hostas.” 

AHS Online Registry

   Here is some little-known information about dimensions in the AHS Online Registry and in the official registrations published yearly in the special Registration issue of The Hosta Journal: They may not be the same. Donald A. Rawson of Comstock, Michigan, alerted me – and I was quite surprised:

Dimensions in AHS Online Registry are rounded off to whole numbers.

   Here’s an actual example.  Leaf dimensions of ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ were officially registered in 2000 as 2.75 inches by 2.0 inches. You’ll find this size in the 2000 Registrations issue of The Hosta Journal (Vol. 32, No. R, p. 6),but leaf size in the online registry is 3 inches by 2 inches. Leaf blade area calculated from the official dimensions is then  5.5 sq. inches; this is <6 sq. inches. Leaf blade area calculated from AHS Online Registry information is 6 sq. inches; this is not <6 sq. inches. AHS Hosta Show Classifications are based on dimensions in the official registrations.

AHS Miniature Pop Poll: Mini Hosta List

   All candidates for the AHS Miniature Popularity Poll should be registered hostas, and all candidates should comply with the new AHS mini criterion.
   To assist in selecting candidates for the AHS Mini Pop Poll, Donald A. Rawson, on behalf of the AHS Nomenclature Committee, has compiled a list of AHS Registered Mini hostas meeting the AHS Hosta Show’s size requirement. It contains the latest (2009) registrations. You’ll find it and other mini information by clicking HERE. Included also is a list of unregistered hostas; but not being registered, they are not candidates for the Mini Poll.
   Take a look at these extensive lists. (You might want to click this site right now.) I think you’ll be surprised at how many minis there are, registered and unregistered. Probably some no longer exist or are rare, only in introducers’ or keen collectors’ gardens. Don intends to update the lists annually. Check from time to time to see what’s been added and maybe deleted.


Update on Some Specific Hostas

   In the Summer 2009 Journal, I reviewed a handful of cultivars. Here is an update.
   H. 'Vanilla Cream' (P. Aden - 1986) is registered with leaf dimensions of 2 inches by 1 1/2 inches. Accordingly, its leaf blade area is 3 square inches and is listed as a mini in the AHS Hosta Classification list and the AHS Registered Mini list on the AHS Web site.
   However, everyone who grows this handsome yellow hybrid knows that mature clumps have leaves well exceeding 3 inches by 3 inches, some reporting as large as 5 inches by 4 inches.
   Reference texts corroborate that leaf blade size of 'Vanilla Cream' is larger than its registration dimensions. Mark Zilis' The Hostapedia gives leaf size as 5 1/2 inches long by 4 1/2 inches wide. Diana Grenfell and Michael Shadrack's The New Encyclopedia of Hostas cites 4 3/8 inches by 4 inches.
   Certainly 'Vanilla Cream' is no AHS mini, but until dimensions in the AHS registration are officially changed, it will continue to be listed as a mini.
   H. 'Little Wonder' was registered by William and Eleanor Lachman in 1989 with leaf blade of 2 1/4 inches by 1 1/2 inches. That's an area of 3 2/5 square inches, which complies with the AHS mini definition. As such, it's listed as a mini in the AHS Hosta Show Classification list, and as such, it also is an AHS Registered Mini.
   Well-grown mature clumps of 'Little Wonder' have leaf blade areas well over 6.0 sq. inches. The Hostapedia gives leaf dimensions of 4 3/8 inches by 2 1/4 inches. Until the registration is changed, 'Little Wonder' remains an AHS mini.
   All members of the Pandora Box Series, which comprise the
variegated-leaved sports of H. 'Baby Bunting' found by Hans Hansen at Shady Oaks Nursery in Waseca, Minnesota, are AHS Registered Minis. They are 'Pandora's Box' (1996), 'Hope' (1999), 'Cameo' (2002); and 'Cherish' (2002).
   Surprisingly, their parent, 'Baby Bunting', is not a mini according to the AHS Hosta Show Classification List and ergo not on the AHS Registered Mini list on the AHS Web site. H. 'Baby Bunting' was registered with a leaf blade of 2 3/4 inches by 2 1/2 inches. This calculates to 6 9/10 square inches, well exceeding about 6 square inches. Authorities agree: The Hostapedia gives the same leaf dimensions as in the registration, while The New Encyclopedia of Hostas cites an even larger leaf blade size: 3 1 /2 inches by 3 1/2 inches (12 1/4 square inches).
   H. 'Baby Bunting' is best described as a very small hosta, the size designation advocated by Diana Grenfell and Kathy Guest Shadrack. It ranked high in the 2009 (Very) Small Hosta Pop Poll. To be eligible for the 2010 AHS Miniature Pop poll, it would need to be specially classified as an AHS Mini.

'Lemon Lime'


'Tiny Tears'


'Cracker Crumbs'


'Country Mouse'

   All members of the Mouse Ears Series, sports derived from H. 'Blue Mouse Ears', are AHS minis except 'Mighty Mouse' (Walters Gardens - 2006). It was registered with leaf dimensions of 3 inches by 3 inches, exceeding <6 square inches.
   On the AHS Registered Mini list are 'Blue Mouse Ears' - as would be expected being the mini garden standard, 'Blue Mouse Ears Supreme' (W. Silvers - 2007), 'Cat and Mouse' (H. Hansen - 2007), 'Frosted Mouse Ears' (M. Zilis - 2006), 'Green Mouse Ears' (E. & J. Deckert - 2004), 'Holy Mouse Ears' (M. Zilis - 2006), 'Mighty Moe' (W. Silvers - 2009), 'Mouse Tracks' (Walters Gardens - 2009), 'Pure Heart' (Walters Gardens - 2009)  and 'Royal Mouse Ears' (E. & J. Deckert - 2004).
   Also Mouse Ears Series members and AHS minis are: ‘One Iota’ (J. Anderson); ‘Ruffled Mouse Ears’ (C. Wilson); Marco Fransen’s Dutch nursery’s ‘Snow Mouse’, ‘Dancing Mouse’ and ‘Funny Mouse’; and J. van den Top’s Dutch nursery’s ‘Desert Mouse, ‘Lucky Mouse’ and ‘One Iota Supreme’. None of these, however, are registered.
   Though 'Blue Mouse Ears' is recorded in the online AHS Registry with leaf dimensions of 3 inches by 2 inches, in the AHS Hosta Show Classification List it is listed as 2.75 inches by 2.0 inches. So it complies with the AHS Hosta Show's mini requirement of <6 sq. in. Another example is 'Blue Mouse Ears Supreme'. Registered having leaves 3 inches by 2 inches in the online AHS Registry, the dimensions in the AHS Hosta
Classification List are 2.5 inches by 2.25 inches.
   By the way, although its name might imply it is a Mouse Ears Series member, 'Country Mouse' (H. Hansen - 2006) is not. It's a sport of H. 'Blue Dress's Blues' (S. Chamberlain - 1999). H. 'Country Mouse' is an AHS Registered Mini, ranking Number 10 in the 2009 AHS (Very) Small Popularity
Poll (see below).
   Most members of the Cheatin Heart Series are AHS Registered Minis: 'Cheatin Heart' (W. Zumbar - 1995), 'Illicit Affair' (J. Anderson - 2003) and 'Faithful Heart' (K. Brill - 1999). H. 'Stolen Kiss' is not included and is not registered; furthermore, there is concern it is not a sport of 'Cheatin Heart'. Also not registered is the popular 'Silver Threads and Golden Needles' (J. Anderson) with interesting, unusual variegated leaves. This gem and Hans Hansen's 'Change of Heart' probably should be included in
the unregistered mini list.
   Some other AHS Registered Minis are the popular 'Bitsy Gold' (R. Savory - 1986), 'Dragon Tails' (W. Zumbar - 2009), 'Green Eyes' (R. & D. Benedict - 1960), 'Surprised by Joy' (A. Malloy - 1998) and 'X-Rated' (R. Simmering - 2001).
   H. 'Pixie Vamp' (R. & J. Ward - 1996) needs mention because of its notable distinction of being ranked Number 9 in the 2009 poll (see below). It was the first time it was in the top ten. This gem is an old timer: note the registration date. Leaves are listed as 2 1/2 inches by 2 inches, medium green with 3/8-inch slightly rippled, creamy white margin.
   It's a hybrid of 'Pin Stripe' [a.k.a. 'Pinstripe'] (K. Vaughn - 1983), a great breeding plant. H. 'Pin Stripe' was introduced by now-shuttered Handy Hatfield's nursery near Columbus, Ohio, not far from where the Wards live. Handy and Dick Ward were good friends.
   Hosta Finder 2010 lists 12 nurseries offering 'Pixie Vamp'. Considering how long 'Pixie Vamp' has been available and its wide availability in the trade, it's not surprising it's a very popular mini.

Where to Next? Suggestions:

  •    Increase the number of hostas in the 2010 AHS Miniature\ Popularity Poll to at least 15, better yet 20. Mini hostas are hot and gardeners want to know which specific ones are the hotties beyond just ten.

   Let's be frank: Other than maybe 'Baby Bunting' (discussed earlier), that's a very hard group of mini hostas to "beat." They, for the most part, are "ol' standbys" and will be "continual winners." My bet is hosta fanciers will have considerable difficulty nominating other minis for the 2010 poll if limited to just ten candidates

 Rankings in the 2009 poll in the Summer 2010 Journal (Vol. 41, no. 3, p. 77) are: 

 #1  H. 'Blue Mouse Ears'
 #2  H. 'Pandora's Box'
 #3  H. 'Baby Bunting'
 #4  H. 'Cameo'
 #5  H. 'Cracker Crumbs'
 #6  H. 'Tiny Tears'
 #7  H. 'Cat and Mouse'
 #8  H. 'Lemon Lime'
 #9  H. 'Pixie Vamp' and
#10 H. 'Country Mouse'

   I'd further bet that many AHS members are well enough satisfied with the above list and thus won't participate at all in the upcoming poll or simply will just copy the list (maybe with one change). Furthermore, I have doubts that such a list of the same candidates will even be submitted.
   If we want to motivate more participation in this poll, wanting it to be more exciting, more upbeat, more informative, then I submit that the number of minis should be upped to 15 or, better yet, 20. I wouldn't be surprised that those in the second tier, 11th to 15th, and third tier, 16th to 20th, might be as interesting as those in the top ten - or more so.
  • Use Don Rawson's AHS Registered Mini List to assist in making selections for the 2010 AHS Miniature Popularity Poll and future polls. It's a pdf (portable document format) file; you'll need Adobe® Reader, which is easily downloaded.

   As I've said, you'll be amazed at how many hostas meet the mini criterion of leaf blade area <6 sq. in. Possibly a few of your mini favorites might not be included. They may comply with the slightly larger, AHS mini criterion of no greater than about 6 sq. in. I think you'll have fun consulting the list to see which cultivars are and are not on it.

  • Give a fair shake to other minis. H. 'Alakazaam', 'Cherry Tomato' (Walters Gardens - 2008), 'Curly Fries' (R. Solberg - 2008), 'Daisy Doolittle' (G. Goodwin - 2003), 'Dragon Tails', 'Imp' (H. Hansen - 2006), 'Itsy Bitsy Spider', 'Little Treasure' (J. van den Top - 2008) and 'X-Rated' (R. Simmering - 2001) are a few registered ones I'm keeping my eye on. I also like 'Cats Eye' (D. Heims), 'Crater's Rim' (Japan), 'Little Stiffy' (R. Benedict) and especially 'Manzo' (Japan), but they're not registered. Some of the variegated-leaved members in the Mouse Ears Series would be excellent candidates as well.
  • Update information in the hosta registrations. Some of the dimensions are incorrect, out of date. Registrations should be examined periodically by an ad hoc committee chaired by the International Hosta Registrar. Only this authority can change registrations. It will be a Herculean task to make alterations, but worth the considerable and laborious effort. A prime question: What information should be used to update and correct the registrations? Zilis' tome? Grenfell's book? Solicited growers' information?

  • Have American Hosta Growers Association members uniformly and consistently use the new AHS mini criterion in descriptions in their catalogs and listings. In addition, clump heights for different hosta sizes should be standardized by the AHGA and the sizes uniformly used by its members who prefer these designations.







'Cherry Tomato'

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