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Garden Designing ... with Hostas in Mind

Having recently given a presentation on Garden Design using Hostas, We thought it might make an interesting blog? It is probably best to watch the video of the presentation first and then read the the words. And if you are feeling bold you can skip to points of interest by watching it again!

We will start with the hard landscaping, the start and finished project, effectively before and after pictures for a variety of areas, Give ideas for enhancing and the use of various materials.

We will also show Hostas & ideas for companion planting, varieties of Hosta available, and finish with a bit of OCD, organising what you have so you know where it is.

A Short History of Rewela Cottage

When we first moved here, we were faced with a large ¾ acre of open paddock, formerly used for feeding horses. There were no trees or shrubs or any paths or paved areas. It was all green. It was January 1998.

My task was to create a garden, suitable for our needs, that was low on maintenance but created a space that felt as if we were in our own little world.

We were aware that the whole area was fully exposed, open to the elements, from all sides, and we were in North Yorkshire. This was something that needed to be addressed. First little job were the hedges or windbreaks, on the boundaries.

The design process was split into three basic elements. The first being the hard landscape, patio, paths, stone walls, etc. The next was the upper canopy consisting of trees and large shrubs, and the last area being the lower planting such as the smaller shrubs & perennials such as my Hostas. The build was tackled in three sections over a 3 year period.

Intrinsically, this was to be a shade garden.

Many people when faced with an area of shade, and what to do with it, are often faced with dread. We set out to create that very condition.

The Hard Landscape

Any hard landscape items are always first thing to include in any design. Create your paths and patios and get them in first. This not only applies to the design, but the construction as well.

You can then consider, enhancing the hard landscape, with other materials and of course the ‘soft’ landscape of trees, shrubs & other plants. They can make a great design, fantastic!

The Patio

Everyone needs a patio… don’t they?

This is usually an area of paving, that will generally be used for sitting out on, using garden furniture and even the BBQ. There is often a cheaper version, of using decking. (particularly useful in areas of little space).

Here at Rewela Cottage, we created a large patio, the full width of the house, so we could follow the sun. The patio was on the north side of the house, and some of it would be in shade for long parts of the day.

This paved area gave us the opportunity to display many areas of containerised Hostas that could be moved and altered as we wished.

A small slope necessitated the building of some steps to gain access to a slightly higher part of the garden. Stone walls were used to cover different levels.

The next concern was the planting of the area surrounding the patio & steps. This was the part that created the canopy and made the area feel like a garden. The finished picture shows you what can be achieved when you put your mind to it. This completed the first 1/3rd of the garden construction.

The sunken garden was created by excavating a large hole in the ground and several access points. This area is now 4ft lower than ground level, supported by curved stone walls, and paving, set in gravel to create drainage.

The excavated soil was put on either side to create mounds for wind protection. This was then covered with the topsoil and planted. Conifers on one side and Rhododendrons on the opposite side.

Looks quite new & stark to start with but has matured very well since.

The central section was created later, where the old pond used to be. This was filled in, and compacted ready for the hard landscape construction. As you can see, the old waterfall has been enhanced with Hostas already, but the borders are still to be created. A stone seat has been built to enhance the area. Once planted, it looks like it’s been there for years.

It has created a large area of both paving and timber decking for displaying Hostas.

Enhancing the Hard Landscape

Whilst all the stonework and paving forms the backbone of the design, it was enhanced using other materials, such as timber, paving blocks, brick, bark, gravel, cobbles etc. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You can always change it. 

Adding in a metal pond to highlight the paving with pots enhancing this. This is great for wildlife. Don’t be afraid to add other artifacts such as the Asian head or old wheel. We took full advantage of next doors cherry blossom tree to show off the stonework on the patio.

You can even use the same materials in a different way. Perhaps slabs with gravel in between.

The Power of Hostas

This is a shade garden and was designed with this in mind. Plants like Hostas are perfect for a shade garden.

Provide your Hostas with several differing types of shade, from dappled shade to heavy shade. There is a Hosta for all types of shade.

We have opted to have as many varieties as possible in pots and containers, as well as planted in a mixture of borders.

Any containers will need to suit the size of the Hosta.

Put small growing varieties, singly, in small sized pots and display at the front, using bigger pots for bigger varieties placed according to size. Maybe some bigger pots could have 3 different varieties in.

A miniature needs a very small pot and to be quite honest shouldn’t be planted in a border, as they cannot cope very well with the competition. By all means, put 2 or 3 together in a low round pot, or other small container.

Giant and extra-large varieties will benefit from being planted directly into the ground. This will give them space to expand their root system and show their true glory. They also look great as individual containerised specimens as a focal point.

Companion Planting

Even the massive Hostaholic, such as myself, would not consider planting just Hostas alone, to make a display. They need other plants to give different shape, colour, texture etc. These, we like to call companion plants.

They really should be plants that share the same growing conditions as the Hostas. There is plenty to choose from! I have a collection of Ferns, Heuchera, Heucherella, Tiarella, that I use to interplant between the Hostas to give them that contrast in textures. These plants usually look very different from Hostas with their foliage.

You can also set the larger Hostas off against smaller shrubs such as the Viburnum plicatum Kilimanjaro. Even the lifted canopy of conifers, with their bare stems set them off.

Hosta Varieties

There are many, many varieties of Hosta that come in all sizes, from giant Hostas to miniature varieties, slug resistant, sun tolerant types, and even those with fragrant flowers. Yes, even the humble Hostas have some varieties that carry a scent.

What & Where?

Now that you have done all your design and planting, wouldn’t it be lovely to know what you did, and where it is.

The first stage of this is to label each individual plant. There are dozens of proprietary label systems. The world is your oyster and I tend to stay with the cheaper, easier option of using plastic labels which can be recycled

We use 6” pot labels for the main label with a 4” plastic pot label pushed into the pot or ground to stop Blackbirds pulling them out.

We also use small & large ‘t’ labels so I can find them easily. The eyes are not what they used to be.

All these labels can be written on easily enough with a permanent marker pen and will generally last about a year.

You could go all posh and use a labelling machine to print your labels. These will last a lot longer.

Keeping Records

What about going just that little further to ensure you know where everything is and what it’s called?

Draw yourself a little diagram of each of your Hosta beds, with a note of what is planted, and where it is. That way, if the label ‘disappears’ you still have a note of what it is and can easily replace the label.

If you are computer savvy, you could even create a small database or series of spreadsheets to record digitally where everything is.

Keeping your Hostas properly identified, at all times, is critical to us, but maybe not so important to others.

Take loads of photos and don’t forget to name them. It may come in handy later.

However, take what you need from this blog. Once you lose the label, it is a lot more difficult to re-identify your Hosta again.




To learn more about Hostas, you may be interested in reading : What Are the Common

Shop for Hostas HERE


John Plant

Rewela Hostas

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