John Baker and his wife June Colley, who has a Masters in Botany, hold the National Collection of Hostas in their Hampshire garden, which has featured in Monty Don’s BBC programme.
John gave the Club an absorbing, detailed account of the plant he terms “The Perfect Perennial”. Originating in Northern China – then Manchuria, they can be seen growing wild in Japan where H. montana leaves are used in stir-fry. Chosen for their beautiful and varied foliage they combine well other plants. Some such as “H. war paint” change their colour during the year. Shade or dappled shade in rich loam, warm, moist but well drained, and with plenty of organic matter create the ideal environment. They can be grown in the ground or in pots, indeed in John’s garden he has “hanging hostas”, where plants are displayed at eye level creating a “wall” of colour. Planted in Spring, divided in late Summer, those in pots need protection in the Winter but will be safe in the ground. ( John and his wife were invited to visit a fellow hosta enthusiast in Moscow!) Of course a illustrated in the many slides John showed us whilst their foliage is remarkable hostas also produe handsome flowers in July (white or lavender or purple) and some are scented.
Alas, we’ve all seen hosta leaves resembling lace doilies following attacks by slugs and snails. There are 80 kinds of snails and 20 of slugs. John’s characteristic humour came into play here as he proposed February 14th for the Valentine’s Day Slug Massacre. First clear the garden of all debris then the following may be effective:- slug pellets spread thinly, beer traps, liquid made from coffee grains or Epsom Salts, ammonia or garlic in solution, ashes, gravel or pine needles, copper strips on pots.
Certainly John and June have succeeded in creating a beautiful garden with themed areas, their 1,500 hosta cultivars, including miniature specimens, unusual plants from South East Asia and much loved cottage garden favourites, An inspiring talk indeed.