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Graham Rice

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

Two surprising hosta sisters

Posted by Graham Rice on 06 Jul 2008 at 06:55 PM

Sandra Bond has been coming to Hampton Court for many years with hostas from her Suffolk nursery, Goldbrook Plants. She always features mature specimens grown in large pots on her exhibits and a couple of new introductions caught my eye.

‘Rise and Shine’ makes a neat plant, the rounded leaves with their creamy edges just 15cm high but with attractive spikes of lavender-blue flowers in just the right proportion. One special feature is that the leaf stems are red, which adds a whole new dimension to the appeal of the plant.

“It’s a cross between the white edged ‘Little Wonder’ and Hosta yingeri,” Sandra told me as she carefully adjusted the positions of her plants prior to judging. “ It was raised by Ian Chrystal, the most active, best organised and most prolific of the few British hosta breeders. The slightly spidery shape of the flowers is inherited from H. yingeri.”

Surprisingly, the nearby plant of ‘Wakey Wakey’, identical to ‘Rise and Shine’ except that the leaves are green, has the same two parents. Both plants would be excellent in small containers and as edging. They're available for the first time this year from Goldbrook Plants.

Nearby was a plant of ‘Torchlight’, also variegated and with red stems, but one size larger. This reminded Sandra to mention to me of the dangers of raising hostas in the laboratory using tissue culture – and in particular of using plants which themselves have been propagated by tissue culture as parents of more tissue cultured plants.

“Plants of ‘Torchlight’ from tissue culture,” she told me “have stems which are less red than plants propagated by division. Tissue cultured plants of ‘June’ are less blue, while some plants of ‘Mildred Seaver’ in tissue culture lose the gloss from the back of the leaves giving the foliage a completely different look.” These variants on ‘Mildred Seaver’ as so different that Sandra has named them ‘Goldbrook Gratis’.

“And there are more red stemmed hostas on the way,” she said. “look out for ‘Designer Genes’ where the red colouring extends into the blade of the leaf. Now that sounds tempting... How long before we have hostas whose leaves are entirely red? It will be a while, I think. But breeeders are working steadily in that direction

 All these hostas are available from Goldbrook Plants.

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