Winter Scientific
Dan Adams, Chicago, Illinois


Meeting Notes

   January 23, 2010 was a date marked on many a Midwesterner gardener's calendar.  A sojourn over to the Winter Scientific Meeting meant  a reprieve from the menacing cold winter's frosty chills. Sponsored by the Midwest Regional Hosta Society, this educational forum has grown more popular with each passing year.  There attendees can listen to different gardening subjects, attend various breakout sessions, enjoy the companionship of fellow gardeners, or even participating in several silent auctions scheduled throughout the day, involving garden-related items, hosta seedlings, or even hosta seeds - most being donated by several of the leading active hosta hybridizers around today.  Here's how the meeting was conducted:
Evolution of the Mini Hosta:  Bob Solberg opened the meeting by posting the AHS Nomenclature  Committee's 2008 definition of a mini:  "The leaf blade area is no greater than about 4.0 square inches, and the leaf length is no longer than about 4.5 inches."  Bob then mentioned what he called the "Starved-Dwarfing Technique."  He explained that in the past, the "mini" stature could be achieved by some hybridizers by under-watering and under-nourishing a small plant.  One hosta that technically is too large by the current AHS standards is 'Blue Mouse Ears', even though many enthusiasts perceive it as being a mini.  Bob stated that he would like to see it be the upper-size limit standard in the mini category.  He discussed the different species involved with producing minis.  Several early hybridizers were mentioned, along with the significant minis for which they were responsible.  Many of today's modern minis are actually sports of these pioneering minis.  He closed with some thoughts and suggestions on how to hybridize them.
When Hostas Needed Help - A Historical Perspective:  Roy Klehm talked about early hosta contributions from earlier hybridizers, focusing primarily on Paul Aden and Mildred Seaver.  He shared humorous stories and thoughts about their work and techniques, along with some of their idiosyncrasies.
2010 AHS Convention Preview:  In a manner much like a movie premiere, the Minnesota Hosta Society aired a video, designed to promote the upcoming event to be held in Bloomington, MN in June.  Emceed by Mary Schwartzbauer and Kim Larsen (dressed up in makeup and period costumes), the movie short shows them 30 years from now, sitting in their rocking chairs on the front porch, waxing nostalgic friends about the convention and what a wonderful experience it was.
Highlights:  Swedish accents galore. "Swedish jokes" abound.  Frequent frozen tundra garden walks.  Scenes were eerily reminiscent of those from the movie "Fargo".  It certainly was a hoot! (Ja, Ja ... Zat's zo!)


Breakout Sessions:  Attendees could choose from one of three 90-minute classes to attend.  These were repeated twice, in a morning and afternoon session, with a wonderful lunch buffet intervening. This format gave everyone the chance to attend 2 out of 3 classes.  Subject areas included:
    1. Mark Zilis - "What You Need to Know about Nematodes and Hosta Virus X (HVX)"
    2. Glen Herald - "Family Matters II - The Barberry Family".
    3. Don Dean - "A Hybridizer's Perspective."
Certain classes proved so popular that some attendees went to both sessions.

Hostas of Distinction:  As the latest installment on his series, Mark Zilis focused his talk on those classified as "Giant" hostas.  To be in this category, a cultivar had to meet a minimum requirement of 36 inches in height and 120 square inches in overall leaf size.  Mark started with a list of 226 plants from his book, but eliminated 155 of these, since he hadn't personally measured them.  Measurements of clump height, width and leaf size were the standard criteria employed, with the totaled averages used to determine the rankings.  He emphasized that these rankings were based upon his own observation -  certain plants may have been immature and thus undersized at the time of measuring, so they could possibly grow to even larger proportions (ie. 'Big John' and 'Empress Wu').  As he went down the list, starting with the 25th largest hosta ('Winter Snow'), he also listed which plant had the greatest measurements in specific categories:  Tallest plant: 'Sum and Substance'; Widest plant: 'Solar Flare (120 inches); Largest Surface Area Coverage: 'Sum It Up';  Longest Leaf: 'Empress Wu' (21 inches); Most Vein Pairs: 'Mikado' (21).  'Sum and Substance' finished as the #1 largest hosta.  (Note:  Read the complete list below.) For those interested in developing large hostas, Mark suggested the following he considers best for hybridizing: 'Big John', 'Elatior', 'Elegans', 'Green Piecrust', 'High Noon',  montana  'Areomarginata', montana f. macrophylla, 'Sagae', sieboldiana 'Mira', and 'Sum and Substance'.
The Best Hosta Companion Plants & Shrubs: Dave Wanninger finished the day with a closing talk and photo montage of various plants that would greatly compliment hosta plants in the garden.

The World of Hosta Giants, 
According to Zilis
Note:  This list as compiled by Mark Zilis used totaled averages to determine rankings.  It begins with the 25th largest plant and ends with the largest cultivar.

25. 'Winter Snow' ('Sum and Substance' sport)
24. 'Birchwood Elegance'
23.  montana f. macrophylla (f/k/a 'Praeflorens')
22. 'Empress Wu' ('Big John' seedling)
21. 'Roderick' ('Elatior' parentage)
20. 'Behemoth' (montana seedling)
19. 'Friar Tuck' ('Sum and Substance' sport)
18. 'Lady Isobel Barnett' ('Sum and Substance' sport)
17. 'Borsch 1' (montana background)
16. 'Key West'
15. 'Mikado' (montana x 'Big Sam')
14. 'Steve Moldovan' ('Blue Vision' x 'Fantastic')
13. 'Canadian Foreign Affairs'
12.  Green Dragonet ('Butternut Hill' x 'Chartreuse Wedge')
11. 'Mountain Man' (montana parentage)
10. 'Corduroy' ('Green Acres' seedling)
  9. 'Lakeside Ripples'
  8. 'Russ O'Harra' ('Elatior' parentage)
  7. 'Victory' ('Elatior' sport)
  6. 'Solar Flare' ('Francis Williams' x 'Tokudama Aureonebulosa' x 'Fortunei Aurea')
  5. 'Millennium' ('Herb Benedict' x 'Sagae')
  4. 'T. Rex' ('Big John' x montana f. macrophylla)
  3. 'Sum It Up' ('Sum and Substance' sport)
  2. 'Elatior'
  1. 'Sum and Substance'


                                                           Photos Rod Kuenster>

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