The usual hosta flower goes something like this.
We don’t grow them for the flowers. We grow them for the gorgeous
clumps of foliage, thick and corrugated, thin and glossy, lance-shaped or
stubby, big enough to offer shelter or strangely stunted. And in a wide range
of blues, yellows, greens, whites, even silvers, with lots of patterns as well. In fact, had I made my stop at Plant Delights this year (it
wasn’t in the cards), I was planning to ask Tony Avent how many hosta cultivars he thought the world really needed. I’m sure I would have gotten an interesting answer. By
my count, Plant Delights has about 125 varieties for sale.
I’ve convinced myself that these work better as flowers.
And even though we don’t necessarily want or care about their
flowers, they all have flowers. Many are fragrant, too, though I have never run
across the ones Henry Mitchell describes as being the most fragrant—a type of
late-blooming plantaginea. Much attention is given to the color variegation of
the leaves, but breeders seem content to have the flowers be either lavender or
white. Tall flower scapes are valued, though you don’t always get them,
especially with the whites. In fact, with some of my white-flowered hostas, I
can hardly wait to cut down the awkward stunted-looking clumps. A faded hosta
flower scape is an ugly sight—pendulous and dirty-looking.
The hosta seedhead.
This is why I value my nameless hostas with the deep purple
flowers. Not only is the color a clear, definite violet, not any old muddy
lavender, the buds are neatly positioned up and down the scape, with a nice
little pause between each one. The scapes are tall, and the buds are firm and
rounded, not wispy and ragged. The emerald green leaves are big, but tend to be
scorned by my neighborhood hosta snobs. They go for the big blue one with the
stubby white flowers, huddled together near the bottom of the leaf cluster. And I’ve never been able to find any
like my nameless purples.
So here’s my request to hosta breeders. As long as there
have to be flowers, could they be just a little more interesting—taller, more
graceful, with a slightly more discernable fragrance? As long as we have hundreds of them.