Gilt by Association

Green Hill Hostas
New Hostas for the Wholesale and Retail Trade

A division of GREEN HILL FARM, INC. Bob and Nancy Solberg
P.O. Box 16306, Chapel Hill, NC 27516 Phone: 919-309-0649
E-Mail: Fax: 919-383-4533

Top Ten Events and Hostas of the Past Millennium

by Bob Solberg

As the last year ended and the odometer rolled over to 2000 several "best of" lists were circulated by all the various media. As editor-in-chief of The Green Hill Gossip, I thought that we should have a list or two of our own. So, I have come up with two: the top ten hosta events of the past century and the top ten hostas of the millennium.

I will start with the usual disclaimer that the views expressed here are strictly the opinion of the author and are not necessarily those held by Green Hill Farm, Inc. its management, employees or customers and they are in no way responsible for its content. Further, I apologize in advance for those people, events and hostas that were overlooked or omitted and that no personal offense was intended. Whew!

The criteria for creating both lists were necessarily similar and there must inevitability be some overlap in selections. The events were chosen as to their significance to the world of hostas. They generally deal with the creation of new hostas, hosta hybridizing breakthroughs, the propagation of these hostas to make them widely available, the marketing of hostas, and the promotion of hostas through the education of the gardening public.

The list of hostas includes cultivars that were widely grown and became "classics". They were so distinct as to: form new classes of hostas, be the beginning point for a new hybridizing line, and/or act by their mere existence as ambassadors for the genus. Most are still readily available in the trade and still sold in large numbers although "better" cultivars have since been produced.

Finally, it has been my experience that if you want to end up on a list like this, it is much better for you to be born at the end of the century than at the beginning. We all have short memories and tend to undervalue the achievements of the distant past as we judge them by today’s standards. I have tried to be fair to the "old timers" as well as my contemporaries. The reality of hosta history however is that these are the glory days. Almost all the popularization of hostas has occurred in the past 20-30 years with the general perennial plant boom and advent of tissue culture propagation.

Top Ten Hosta Events of the 20th Century are:

1. The development of the tissue culture process for hostas by Mark Zilis and Walters Gardens in the late seventies and the formation of the hosta liner industry by T & Z Nursery, (now Q & Z Nursery).

2. The formation of the American Hosta Society in 1968, founded by Alex Summers, its first President and Bulletin Editor, and Eunice Fisher.

3. The work of Frances Williams of promoting hostas through her letters , which have left a historical time capsule of the hostas and people of the mid-century. Also, her discovery of the hosta ‘Frances Williams’ in 1936 in Bristol, CT and hybridization of ‘Beatrice’.

4. The distribution and marketing of new hostas to the gardening public in large numbers in the late seventies and eighties through alliance of Paul Aden and Klehm’s Nursery by their use of color pictures in both the Klehm Catalogue and Aden’s Hosta Book. Many of these hostas have become household names like ‘Sum and Substance’ and ‘Great Expectations’.

5. The hybridization of the Tardianas, the bluest group of hostas by Eric Smith, of Hadspen House, Dorset, England in the early sixties.

6. The hybridization and promotion of her "Sea" series of hostas by Mildred Seaver, dubbed "Queen of Hostas", through her enthusiastic spirit and her infectious excitement over hostas during the past 30 or so years. Her love of color in hostas may be best fulfilled in her hosta ‘Spilt Milk’.

7. The work of Eunice Fisher promoting hostas in the Midwest and the publishing of the first hosta book for gardeners and collectors, Hosta: The Aristocratic Plant for Shady Gardens, (three editions: 1969,1973, 1979.)

8. The mail-order marketing of Hatfield Gardens, headed by Handy Hatfield. In the eighties and early nineties it was the premier introducer of the best new hostas for hybridizers like Kevin Vaughn, William and Eleanor Lachman, and Mildred Seaver.

9. The establishment of Savory’s Garden by Bob and Arlene Savory in 1946, hybridizing new hostas for the retail and wholesale trade, including ‘Golden Tiara’ and ‘Lemon Lime’.

10. The establishment and growth of Shady Oaks Nursery in the nineties, whose huge production numbers of hostas has finally helped hosta supply meet gardener’s demand.

The Top Ten Hostas of the Millennium:

1. ‘Frances Williams’
2. ‘Sum and Substance’
3. ‘Beatrice’
4. ‘Great Expectations’
5. ‘Gold Standard’
6. ‘August Moon’
7. ‘Golden Tiara’
8. ‘Halcyon’
9. ‘Undulata’/’Undulata Albomarginata’
10. ‘Patriot’

Editor’s Note: For me, ‘Guacamole’ will always be right up there!

Copyright Green Hill Farms Inc. 2003 Last revised: January 14, 2003