Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hosta Companions

Martagon Lilies

My first large scale garden was a glade of hosta under a grove of ash and oak. I limited the amount of variegated and gold varieties selecting more for leaf-shape, height, blue and green color. This background made the variegated/gold varieties more vibrant specimens. This garden was popular among many visitors and I was asked to reproduce it for friends.

The semi-shade under the high canopy was ideal but the gardens lacked a sense of intimacy and enclosure for they lacked sub canopy structure. A shrub layer adds masking structure but also requires additional space I did not have, so I experimented with tall perennials of the woodland edge.

Over the next few blogs I will discuss my experience with tall companions for the hosta garden.


Martagon Lily

These rare jewels I intersperse amongst large-leaved and tall vase-shaped hosta clumps. Prodigious growth is achieved under high canopy morning lit gardens sheltered from the hot afternoon sun. Good air circulation is essential for healthy lilies, reducing the affect of airborne pathogens.
I space different varieties well apart from one another, Martagons create long-lasting, ever widening clumps. Bulbs are often sited below the superficial root systems of hosta, making it easier to move hosta without the need to transplant lilies.

Each growth stage adds living sculpture to a glade. Martagons will emerge before the hosta erupting into domes of packed energy which race into the sky.  The dark, pointed, whorled leaves get smaller as the stem towers like minarets. The plants discharge a nodding flower spike which lift and unfolds into symmetrically arranged buds. The candelabra of buds will color and open into down-facing flowers of remarkable grace. With this visual feast the flowers add a musky fragrance.

The symmetrical sculpture show of these lilies enhances the debut of hosta as they unfurl from winter slumber. After the Martagon bloom season the flowering of hosta can take over center stage.

Living sculpture
Martagon bulbs are uncommon and pricey. Specialty nurseries and groups associated with the North American Lily Society are great sources for quality bulbs. Two varieties I recommend are listed below. These have been robust growers and normally modestly priced.

Morning  has broken

Claude Shride - Dark green foliage with white buds turning to dark red flowers. A vigorous grower, this lily flowers at 4’, one of the best reds.  
Claude Schride
Terrace City – Yellow flowers with a pink flush and some spots. This beauty never fails to impress and can bloom at nearly 6’.  
Terrace City
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