I currently have about 1,500 different varieties of hostas, growing mainly in plastic pots in 2 shade houses. When they reach a sufficient size, typically as a 3 year old plant, I divide them and plant the larger part out in the garden in beds in my woodland and other shady areas. I have about 300 varieties in the garden at the moment, but I’m hoping to plant a further 200 or so this autumn and more next spring. I’m intending to keep at least one piece of each variety in a pot in the shade houses to further divide, to act as an insurance against losses and to use for hybridizing.
Building the Collection
I inherited my very first hosta in 1998. A sieboldiana-type, it came with the first house we bought in Suffolk. I acquired a few more varieties after we moved to Freston House in 2004 but the bug really only bit in 2014. This is when I started to research and to collect hostas with a passion.
I built a shade tunnel in 2015 to house about 500 pots and another, slightly larger in 2016. I started to plant out the larger specimens into the garden in mid 2016. By the end of 2016, my collection had grown to about 1,100 different varieites.
I’ve acquired plants from a few different sources. My first 200 or so came from Bowden Hostas in Devon. I bought them in about 3 different batches, mainly in the winter of 2014-15.
I was fortunate to live quite close to Sandra Bond, the multi Chelsea-gold medal-winning hosta expert who ran Golbrook Nurseries. I called her, only to discover that she had closed her nursery a couple of years before. Very kindly though, she said I could visit the nursery and take some of the plants she still had. She offered me not only the plants and an endless supply of used pots – I visited 3 times, bought about 200 varieties of plants and was given thousands of pots – but also invaluable advice on growing, cultivating and collecting hostas. I bought several of her own originated plants (OS) which all carry the ‘Goldbrook’ preface and some OS stock she had from other sources. Looking further afield, but continuing on the OS theme, I bought plants from Dirk Dupre in Belgium. Many of these were also his own registrations – he’s a big Star Trek fan so most have a ‘Trekkie’ connection. In terms of size, condition and vigour, these plants were as good as any I’ve bought. Other suppliers included Jan van den Top also from Belgium, and Marco Fransen and Theo Dautzenberg from the Netherlands.
In the summer of 2017, I decided to acquire about 100 choice plants (and by that I mean expensive!) mainly for the purpose of hybridizing. Most of these plants aren’t available to order directly or online from even the most specialist hosta nurseries in the UK or Continental Eurpe. So, I contacted several private collectors and well-know hybridizers in Belgium and the Netherlands and arranged a trip over there to buy the plants. Naturally, they included a lot of streakers – old classics such as Pin Stripe Sister, Gunter’s Prize, William Lachman, Liberty Bell, Sea Prize and Breeders Love, to name a few, but also some newer varieties which are said to be fertile and relatively stable. These included a couple each bred by Piet de Rooij, a great hybridizer in the Netherlands who’s focusing almost exclusively on streaked plants, Bart Leuckx, who I bought the vast majority of the plants from on the trip, Dirk Dupree, better known for his ‘Star-Trek’ series and Danny van Eechaute who really needs no introduction. In total I acquired over 30 streakers and lots of other plants with interesting characteristics such as good substance, heavy rippled edging and red-purple petioles. The best of these was probably Maya Kingsnake, a very fertile plant with red petioles going up into the leaf which has been used extensively in the pursuit of red-leaved plants.
In the summer of 2015, I noticed that about 5 or 6 of the plants I had received from Bowden Hostas were showing tell-tale signs of HVX. I bought some Agdia HVX ImmoStrips and tested the suspect plants along with several others from Bowden and other suppliers. All of the plants from the other suppliers tested negative but, sure enough, the ones from Bowden showed a positive result. I contacted Bowdens several times throughout the summer and autumn, showed them photos of the plants and of the test results. To my surprise, they were completely dismissive of the issue. Despite the photographic evidence, the test results and their admission that they never test any of their stock for the virius, they denied that any of their plants could possibly be infected. They neither offered me an apology nor undertook to remove the infected varieties from their nursery. I certainly won’t be buying any more plants from them!
I’ve observed and tested the rest of my coleection throughout 2016 and thankfully, to date, have had no other cases of HVX. Bowden Hostas were the only supplier to have sold me infected plants.
I’m always keen to build up my collection and would consider exchanging plants with other collectors.
You can download a list of the varieties I have in my collection from the link below. Please note though, that many of my plants are still a little small to split. I have already split or should be able to split about 40-50% of the varieties in the collection.
Please drop me an e-mail if you’re interested in an exchange and if you share my vigilance when it comes to detecting and destroying infected plants!
Andrew Whittle, Freston House, The Street, Freston, Suffolk. IP9 1AF.
e-mail : email@example.com