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Inspiring combinations
One of the benefits of exhibiting hostas at shows is to illustrate planting combinations, and how you can create a wonderfully varied border using just one genus.

Hosta borders

Herbaceous borders can take a lot of maintenance to keep them looking lovely. If you grow a lot of hostas together they can look fabulous and, because there isn't the constant shedding of decaying flowers and leaves, they naturally attract less pests. If you place a few jars on their sides with some slug pellets in each, in the darkest recesses of the bed, you will target any snails that do wander into the area. Beer traps work quite well in these conditions but the smell can attract more of a problem, rather like scattering pellets - use the pellets in the jars, it works.
Malvern 2012
Malvern Spring 2012
Also, if you have no love for the flowers, removing them helps minimise the risk of attracting pests, and it tricks the plants into thinking their season isn't yet over!

Replicating a natural environment
Hostas are woodland plants, naturally found growing on the lower slopes of the mountains where they form the lower layer of vegetation. Above them grow small trees, such as acers. These two images are of acer 'Pixie' standing over hostas in our 2012 Malvern Spring display. This choice of red-leaved tree was made to mirror the red stems of H. 'Fire Island' and H. 'Bedford Rise and Shine' planted underneath:

Underplanting acers   Underplanting acers

The dappled shade created by acers is excellent for keeping the worse of the weather off your hostas. However, the biggest advantage of growing hostas under trees is the fact that they are constantly shedding decaying material. Woodland floors are constantly littered with debris, which is what pests feed on. It is the converse idea to the one mentioned previously, but if you have too many pests they will also munch your fresh vegetation. The answer to any pest problem is balance, because the garden needs pests, as do the wildlife that predate on them. However, too many pests and you will need to intervene with the little glass jars.

Using similar types of plant

Some combinations work really well because the plants are related. A particularly gratifying branch of the hosta genus to play with is the Tardiana group, which includes such favourites as H. 'June' and H. 'Touch of Class'.
Selecting different branches of the genus to display together is something we like to do in Plant Heritage displays because it helps illustrate the characteristics shared by those plants more closely related to each other.

Malvern Spring 2012
  Hampton Court 2011
H. 'Mourning Dove' planted with H. 'El Nino' for the 2012 Malvern Spring show
H. 'Midnight at the Oasis' and H. 'Spring Fling' planted among others from the
. 'Francee'
branch of the genus,
at Hampton Court 2011

In 2014 we experimented with spiral designs of planting and used a selection of small and miniature varieties to taper off the spiral mounds. Here we used several varieties with round leaves to carry through the theme:

Good colour combinations
Despite the fact that these days there are so many colourful cultivars to choose between, many people still consider all hostas look the same! We often stand bewildered when asked why this is the case, but perhaps what is really meant is that they are so complimentary no one variety stands out from another? You can be sure this comment is even made whilst standing beside varieties so colourful, no other foliage plant could come close - we are talking about H. 'Orange Marmalade' in its full spring glory!

Gardeners' World 2012
This is a particularly lovely combination of plants with similar leaf shapes but different textures and colours.

The glaucous matt blue leaves of
. 'Deane's Dream'
are surrounded clockwise from the right by the bright chartreuse and cream leaves of H. 'Sea Dream', the blue green leaves of
. 'Blue Boy'
, the rich dark, shiny green leaves of H. 'Devon Green', the chartreuse and blue-green variegation of H. 'Katie Q', the glossy, wavy-edged leaves of H. 'Little Red Joy' and the beautiful variegation of H. 'Julie Morss'.
Gardeners' World 2012

Gardeners' World 2012
Small scale
The rapid increase in the number of different small and miniature varieties over recent years has opened up new possibilities for gardeners, with much more modest spaces, to use hostas in their planting schemes. We like to pop these little gems into nooks and crannies we create in our displays but sometimes they deserve a stronger billing, like we did here, yet again at the 2012 Gardeners' World show - opposite.
Here we planted clumps of H. 'Paradise Puppet', H. 'Lime Fizz',
. 'Feather Boa'
and H. 'Iced Lemon' around our slate sign - click on the image to view larger.

Titanic at Gardeners' World
Creating drama - 'wow' planting combinations
We have some truly magnificent giant varieties, many originating from H. 'Sum and Substance', which have dustbin-lid sized leaves with a particular sheen that just grabs the eye. This year we used H. 'Titanic' at Gardeners' World and it stole the show. The use of such a giant leaved variety among the detailed planting surrounding throws the variety of the genus into sharp relief - it certainly inspired visitors to the stand to try something similar in their gardens, and there is a wealth of giant leaved varieties to choose from.

H. 'Titanic' is underplanted with H. 'Vulcan' to the right, bog oak and H. 'Yakushima Mizu' in the foreground. H. 'Captain Kirk' sits to the left underneath H. 'Fortunei Obscura'
(H. 'Bella')
, at the back of H. 'Titanic'. A selection of pots sit in the coil of rope - simple but very effective.
Gardeners' World 2012

If any of our ideas inspire you, don't forget you can select specific plants using our search resource. Simply click on the dominant leaf colouring you desire and those varieties with that leaf colouring are listed in order of size, the variety links are colour-coded according to the flower colour.
Last updated: 1/11/2017