Fran Haupt's hosta varieties may make your mouth water

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

When she talks about Fried Bananas, Spilt Milk, Guacamole and Pineapple Upside-down Cake it sounds more like Fran Haupt is cooking than gardening. But those are the names of hostas that the Cape Girardeau County resident grows in her shade gardens.

A few years ago, Haupt would never have considered hostas for her shady spots. She wanted flowers or plants that would provide a good show of color in her beds. And she didn't think hostas would do that.

"I have a lot of shade and it's hard to find something that will do well," she said. But at a plant sale in 2000, she found a hosta variety with golden yellow leaves that she adored.

So what started with a single hosta plant has now become an abundance. Haupt grows 169 different varieties of hosta. "Now I'm always looking for them," she said.

A tour of her garden gives visitors a glimpse of hosta leaves that shine in deep blue-greens, golden yellows, pale greens and mottled hues. The leaves for the Spilt Milk variety look like someone dribbled milk over them. The Pineapple Upside-down Cake plant has leaves about the color of the cake for which it's named.

There are varieties named Abiqua Drinking Gourd for its cupped leaves that resemble a gourd, a Stetson because the leaves curl up like the hats, and a Rosedale Tractor Seat because it looks like the seat of an old tractor.

The names, like Sweet Marjorie, Quilting Bee, Geisha and Old Glory, are part of the reason Haupt likes the plants, but it's the leaves that truly capture her attention.

"I like the different colors and leaf patterns," she said. Most of her hostas are planted in beds around her front and back yards, below the shade trees she's grown from seed. Gardening isn't a new hobby for her.

"I've always had flowers but not any in the shade," she said. Hostas have a calming effect in the garden, especially with the fragrant varieties that give off a sweet scent in the evenings.

The leaves and variations of hosta patterns and blooms are what attracts her interest. She keeps a garden diary, uses several hosta resource books and tracks how the plants do from year to year. She's even experimenting with growing some hostas from seeds collected off her older plants.

Hostas grow best in shade, though some varieties will tolerate more sun than others. And if a hosta is placed in a bed with some dappled sunlight, and then moved to an area with more sun exposure, its leaves are likely to burn.

Overall, though, hostas aren't fussy plants. Haupt doesn't do anything special to hers. She mulches them in the early spring and gives them an inch of water each week, which is about the same requirement any other garden plant would have. Their only predators are slugs, cutworms and voles. Slugs tend to eat the leaves of the plants and voles like grubs that hide in the ground. Pesticides can rid the ground of grubs, and small trays of beer placed near the hostas will draw slugs away from your plants, drowning the pests in the process.

Haupt chooses companion plants for her beds because it adds some color. She likes pulmonaria, astillbe and hardy begonia. Some petunias and impatiens also fill in along the borders. Stepping stones made of concrete resemble the leaf pattern of her hostas as well.

Like any other garden plants, hostas come in a variety of heights and widths. There are giant versions that grow nearly 5 feet high over time, and miniature versions that don't get much taller than a few inches. Most hosta gardeners grow both kinds, using the smaller plants to fill in along borders and edges in the garden.

335-6611, extension 126

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