Things you can do on a snowy spring day

It’s difficult to think of something to write in a garden column while listening to “snow desk” on the local radio station. There are many things we can do at this time of year, even if we can’t be outside. The difficult part is to get motivated.

One of Sue’s favorite flowers is hostas. There are a couple reasons for this. The first is she seems to have more and more shade areas around the yard and the second is how easy they are to care for.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

As soon as we can get out in the flower bed is a terrific time to move, renovate, and/or divide your hostas. If a clump is getting to be crowded and you would like additional plants, the best time of the year to do this dividing is as soon as the sprouts show above ground. Hopefully you have your specimens identified. Hostas can be moved/divided any time during the year but if you wait until the leaves are fully open, you won’t have a very pretty hosta the first year as opposed to doing this task before the leaves have unfurled.

Another task for spring, after you remove all the dead leaves from last year and get the bed cleaned up is to do some slug prevention. You will be glad you did later in the year. Sprinkling granite fines around each hosta will aid in preventing slugs dining on those beautiful leaves. The sharp edges of the product can cut into the slug, killing them. Eggshells might do the job as well but you really need quite a thick amount of them crushed. Using diatomaceous earth works best.

Placing a saucer of beer beside your plants to protect them from slugs might be one of the most well-known homemade slug control measures ever devised. Is it really? Jeff Gillman, an associate professor in horticulture science at the University of Minnesota gives us the true story on beer and slugs in his book “The Truth About Garden Remedies” We heard him speak at a seminar in Litchfield last year. He says some types of slugs are more attracted to the smell of beer (yeast) than others. You must be careful in how you design the trap. A poorly designed trap is one where the slug has a difficult time getting into the beer to drown itself, i.e., a bowl with sides that flares out and are slick. The way to set up your trap is the top should be even with the surface of the soil, and the level of beer in the container should be about an inch below the top of the trap so the slugs have to extend their bodies to reach it; as they extend they will fall in and drown. The best containers to use are those that are deep enough to allow an inch of clearance at the top while still having enough room for five to six inches of beer. If traps aren’t set properly then you can expect slugs to come for the beer and stay for the very plants you’re trying to protect.

Wood mulch looks so nice in a perennial bed, but remember it is an ideal hiding place for slugs during the daytime.

Since 1996, the members of the American Hosta Growers Association have selected a Hosta of the year based on outstanding merits. These Hostas have exceptionally decorative foliage, showy or fragrant flowers, and perform well throughout their hardiness zones 3-9. The 2013 winner is Rainforest Sunrise. It is a sport of Maui Buttercups with heavy substance, puckered round gold leaves with green margins. It has lavender flowers in July. Hint: Slugs usually leave heavy, puckered leaves alone.

AHGA has already announced the 2014 winner. It is Abiqua Drinking Gourd. This hosta has been around since 1989 and Sue has had a couple plants for several years. She can attest to the fact that it is quite slug resistant and very lovely. The leaves are deeply cupped, nearly round, heavily corrugated, blue-green leaves, with a thick substance. Near white flowers on 24-inch scapes in late June. In fact the leaves are so cupped that they hold rainwater.

One of Sue’s favorite hosta is Liberty, which was the 2012 hosta of the year. She has had her specimen for several years and it just keeps getting bigger and more beautiful each year. It is a sport of Sagae (another winner), is vase shaped and gets to be 40 inches by 40 inches with medium blue-green leaf center, and very wide creamy yellow margins becoming creamy white. Lavender flowers in July.

It would be fun to have a hosta bed that contained all the winners but this probably wouldn’t be practical because not all require the same light requirements. Sum and Substance and Guacamole do better with some sunlight each day unlike the blue hosta, which prefer mostly shade. An example of this is the tiny Blue Mouse Ears.

Other winners since 1996 are: So Sweet, Patriot, Fragrant Bouquet, Paul’s Glory, June; Regal Splendor, Striptease, Stained Glass, Paradigm, Earth Angel, First Frost and Praying Hands.