I don’t think I saw a hosta until I was thirty-five. That perennial of the gas station meridian, the landscaper’s go-to-plant , the cliched unnoticed cluster of leaves, always ringed with white in landscaping circles, was a non-starter in my early gardening consciousness.Lou disliked them: he called them “The Berwyn plant” because the hardworking conservative Bohemian residents of the Chicago suburb of Berwyn planted them everywhere, the dust of the streets settling on the big leaves. They looked the way your elderly piano teacher smelled — proper, musty, resigned.He called them the Berwyn bungalow plant. Neat, tidy perennial and a “we don’t have time” kinda plant.
Our garden is pretty much Midwestern full sun — good for tomatoes, zinnias and roses. But we have a corner behind the garage that’s in full shade 365 days of the year. Somehow we were smart enough to plant a couple of hostas there years ago, divide and replant, and that ten foot horseshoe is the most reliable shady cool room in my garden. and when I bought that first plant, all those years ago the gardening gods cut me a break: I chose a variety (Honeybelle, perhaps?) with enormous elephantine leaves and big, heavily scented blossoms. When I was taking the pictures bees were lolling about deep into the blossoms’s cups (the flowers are four inches long) but bopped away from the camera not matter how I tried to snap them.
Here’s a closeup of those fragrant bells:
These plants require zero effort from the gardener: they self-compost and their broad leaves and shady habitat discourage weeds. On summer nights they double as a cat habitat. They’re so big that a black cat can disappear overnight, invisible. The leaves are so broad that both our kitties sheltered under them tonight while a furious prairie thunderstorm was booming and nipped in later, crabby but dry.
But the scent, the scent…