Gardening: The hostas are in full leaf down by the water

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With the weather finally starting to improve, things are finally starting to get away in the garden.

This can especially be seen on Streamside, several plants in particular are polygonatum x hybridum, hostas and matteuccia struthiopteris.

On streamside at Harlow Carr we have several varieties of hostas, these vary from established species to young and recently planted. One species of hosta in particular which is exceptional is hosta ‘Alligator Shoes’.

Hosta ‘Alligator shoes’ can be identified by its large frosty blue/green leaves that have a white margin. It has an excellent growth rate when grown in the right conditions. It prefers full shade but it can tolerate dappled shade. At the moment on streamside hosta ‘Alligator Shoes’ has only been in for two years, so therefore they are still young plants and have not matured, they are also susceptible to slugs. We don’t treat for slugs as we plant in large numbers and let nature take its course.

Also on Streamside you can find polygonatum x hybridum or more commonly known as Solomon Seal. It is easily identified by its tall slender stems which have paired oval leaves all the way up the stem. Underneath the leaves are small graceful white bell like flowers, which are green at the tips. You can find it planted up and down the streamside and along the woodland edge in large swathes stretching down to the water’s edge. polygonatum x hybridum thrives in cool damp shady conditions and likes to be in rich humus soil.

It can be heavily attacked by saw flies which devour the leaves all the way back to the stem within the space of a week. These can be treated by nematodes, but this can be a very costly exercise and not a route we use at Harlow Carr. Polygonatum will not tolerate or thrive in hot positions, although they don’t seem to mind dry shade once established, especially if leaf litter covers them in autumn to provide mulch. With polygonatums you might find that they need moving in the spring as they start to grow, this is because they can be fussy before they find a spot that they will really thrive in, and they will spread but not too invasively.

The ancient name (Solomon’s Seal) comes from the inner markings found inside the rhizomatous roots.

If cut through vertically, to form discs, the pattern was thought to resemble Hebrew script. Herbalists used the roots to make a tincture for serious ailments and it’s still used to treat sports injuries today. Historically, it was used an aphrodisiac too.

The matteuccia struthiopteris which can be found accompanying the polgonatum x hybridum, has fantastic architectural foliage that can be located in numerous places on streamside, it can be identified by its completely vertical crown with its fronds growing 100-170cm tall and can be as broad as 35cm.

The fronds are long and tapering to the base but short tapering to the tip so that they resemble ostrich plume hence one of its common names. This is why the matteuccia struthiopteris and polgonatumn x hybridum works really well together and also they enjoy similar growing conditions.

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