As the summer winds down and you grow tired of planting tulips and daffodils, why not try some great, easy perennials -- hostas. Even better, plant some fragrant hosta, which bloom in August and September and are a great end-of-the-season garden delight.
Fragrant hostas are as simple to grow as the other varieties, but the extra punch to their beautiful flowers is a sweet, sometimes delicate fragrance. The fragrance comes when the flower is in bloom, and right now the show gardens of Jerry and Ruth Murray are full of fragrant hosta flowers.
Jerry Murray has been growing hostas for 10 years. He gives free tours throughout the season and has more than 195 varieties of hostas.
Murray says one of the nice things about fragrant hostas is that they will tolerate a lot of sun, a fact we really have needed to consider the past few seasons. Fragrant hostas, like their counterparts, like good garden soil and dappled light -- the kind of light you would find under a tree, or early morning or evening light. Though hostas can survive in full sun, they will have much different characteristics from the same variety planted in the shade. The colors, size and look will vary greatly.
Hostas are the easiest perennial to transplant and will last in a garden up to 20 years.
Murray says two of the most popular fragrant hostas are Fragrant Bouquet (a medium-size hosta, 15 to 24 inches in height, with a white flower), or So Sweet (another medium-size hosta with a lavender flower).
Murray has at least 14 different fragrant hostas at his farm, categorized by height and the color of the flower. But each hosta has different colored and shaped foliage, variegations and leaf shapes.
A gorgeous fragrant hosta is the Aphrodite. It has a large, double-petaled white flower and a delicate sweet scent. This hosta is a descendant of the Plantaginea, or Old August Lilly, which is the oldest fragrant hosta and one you may find in many established gardens.
As with many new hybrid species, some hosta names are getting a little strange. The small, white-flowered fragrant hostas include: Fried Green Tomatoes, Guacamole and Hoosier Harmony. For lavender flowers try Invincible, Iron Gate Delight or Summer Fragrance. Each variety has its own foliage design, color and texture.
Hostas can be planted and divided at any time, including the fall. One important tip Murray has for fall plantings is to make sure that when February and March come and the temperature begins to fluctuate, cover your newly planted hostas with something like pine boughs. With the changes in temperature, the ground freezes and thaws and this could cause the new hostas to heave out of the ground, exposing their roots to the cold air and possibly killing them. The cover will keep the ground frozen and the roots safe until it's time for the hostas to begin their spring growth.
Murray fertilizes his hostas in the spring using 1 0/1 0/1 0 fertilizer, and after about a month he puts compost on the plants. This is about the time the first weeds appear. He doesn't pull weeds, he just smothers them with compost.
At the end of the year he doesn't cut back his plants or even clean them up. Instead, he waits until spring, sprinkles the 1 0/1 0/1 0 on the plants, and rakes it into the ground.
Murray explains that hostas take about five years to really become established. His saying is, "First year sleep, second year creep, third year leap!"
For information or a free tour, call Jerry Murray at 662-9984 or visit the hosta gardens at 4735 Transit Road, Orchard Park.
Jackie Albarella is a lifelong Gardenville resident and gardener and the host of "Gardening for Real People," seen Saturdays at 11 a.m. on WNGS-TV. For more gardening information and tips, visit www.gardeningforrealpeople.com.