Say hello to hostas!

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You can’t beat hostas for fabulous foliage. Val Bourne picks her favourites for colour, fragrance and slug resistance

HOSTAS ARE PRINCIPALLY grown for their luxuriant foliage. They come in quilted grey-blues, golden yellows, swirling variegations in white, cream and mayonnaise-yellow, plus every shade of green under the sun. Hosta foliage funnels out very elegantly as well, so the leaves are always beautifully arranged and this makes them perfect foliage plants for a shady spot close to the house, the edge of a woodland border, or in containers.
You can mix and match the textures, shapes and colours because hostas come in all shapes and sizes. The tallest may reach a metre high and produce substantial leaves, or there are miniature ones with evocative names like ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ that make ideal container plants for small gardens. They’re all very hardy and long-lived.
Hostas need moist soil in the first part of summer because they come from the Far East, principally Japan, although some are native to Korea, parts of Russia and China. These areas of the world tend to experience a humid rainy season that usually finishes at the end of June, so hostas in British gardens need lots of moisture in order to produce their impressive foliage. Water in the mornings because you’ll attract fewer slugs and snails. Both nibble the foliage, although snails are the major culprits!
Most hostas also need shade because they’re found on woodland edges and clearings in the wild. However, golden- and chartreuse-leaved hostas, such as ‘Sum and Substance’, need a brighter spot to develop their sunny foliage. The leaves turn dull green if it’s too shady.
Although grown mainly for their foliage, some also produce fragrant lilac or white flowers. ‘Fragrant Bouquet’, ‘Royal Standard’ and ‘Stained Glass’ are among the best for scent.  

Best for lush green ‘Devon Green’ The most popular green-leaved hosta in Europe, it has ribbed, high-gloss bright green foliage. Looks good in a container or in the border. H and S45cm (18in)

Best for fragrant flowers ‘Guacamole’ Rounded gold leaves with darker green markings frame pale fragrant flowers in August. Plants enjoy a brighter spot. H and S70cm (28in)

Best for slug resistance H. sieboldiana elegans Large hosta with thick, puckered leaves that need a cool spot to keep their bluish colour. Pale lavender flowers in June. H and S1m (3ft 3in)

Best for small leaves ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ Rosettes of round, rich blue-green, mouse-ear-shaped leaves plus unusual buds and lavender flowers. Lovely in a pot. H and S15cm (6in)

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