In my mid-20’s I became interested in both hostas and heirloom garden plants. My boyfriend at the time owned his abandoned family home. He told me about a hosta that his late mother had planted there many years before and he encouraged me to dig one up and replant it in my own tiny flower bed where I was growing shade loving impatiens and wax begonias.
I had seen hostas before. As a kid I delighted in squeezing the buds and “popping” the small purple flowers that grew on the plants beside our front porch. My friend however, insisted that this hosta was different. He described a plant with large, white, lily-like blooms that filled his childhood backyard with a sweet scent. Unable to find anything like what he was describing in my gardening catalogs, I became intrigued and anxious to see it for myself. A few days later, I drove to the run-down, empty home. Alone and feeling a bit self-conscious, wondering if eyes were watching me from neighboring windows, I carried my shovel through tall grass to the back yard and quickly dug a single clump from the row of shiny green hostas I found growing along a stone path.
That August, the hosta bloomed with the large fragrant blossoms my boyfriend had described. It was Hosta plantaginea ‘Grandiflora,’ a now hard-to-find heirloom that has been grown in gardens for 150 years. The plant that older generations often called the “August Lily” quickly spread into a large clump.
Gardeners will tell you that a love affair with one hosta will lead you to another and another after that. I soon discovered hostas in all shapes, sizes and color combinations. Some like “Lancifolia” had smooth narrow leaves. Others such as “Inniswood” grew leaves that were wide and puckered. I purchased a green leaved hosta with white edges. I purchased a white leaved hosta with green edges. There were yellow hostas, gray green hostas, and shades of Chartreuse. When I saw “Blue Angel” growing in a display garden I had to have one of my own. I searched garden catalogs for weeks until I found a small start in a 3″ pot. Today, it is 3 ft. tall and 4 ft. wide and growing.
The boyfriend wasn’t a keeper but his hosta was. I dug it and took it with me when I moved to my next home and to the next home after that. It is still my favorite and remains a carefree backbone in my gardens today.