Sunday, June 21, 2009
First Look at Future Hostas
I was in hosta heaven last weekend – attending the American Hosta Society's First Look event – which included some wonderful garden tours and a large number of vendors selling the latest and greatest hosta. However the real reason I attended was for the main event – the First Look competition – an opportunity for hosta aficionados to showcase potential new introductions and gauge audience interest, both judges and attendees. There were over 100 hosta sports and seedlings showcased in Lowell, Massachusetts this year. A sport can result when an existing plant consistently throws up leaves with a different color and/or pattern. I have heard that sports result in approximately half of all new hosta introductions. The seedling category included open pollinated plants (the bees do most of the work), and plants resulting from a hybridizer's careful planning - combining the characteristics of a pod parent and pollen donor to create a new plant. Hostas competing in the First Look competition were evaluated on a number of factors; however distinctiveness carried the heaviest weighting in the evaluation process. Distinctiveness looks for stand-out qualities that set the plant apart in size, coloration, leaf pattern and/or form. I had the opportunity to clerk for the judges of First Look and watch them put the evaluation process into action. The judges are highly regarded for their knowledge of hosta and many of them have their own hybridizing program. I felt I was in very good company. There are a lot of hostas on the market today that look very similar. As a collector, I try to fill my garden with plants that stand out and have their own distinct characteristics. I applaud the efforts of the First Look organizers for putting more value on distinctiveness which hopefully will help to drive unique introductions. The contributors should be proud of their work to date and hopefully some of the beautiful and interesting plants I previewed will come to market and someday reside in my own garden.