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Interview: Robert Barlow, North Staffordshire Hostas

Updated: Mar 12, 2023


How did your interest in Hostas come about?

I am an amateur gardener running North Staffordshire Hostas as a hobby to support our Plant Heritage Society National Collection of Hostas. I have worked in the automotive components manufacturing sector all my working life. My wife Margaret worked all her working life as a nurse at the Stoke-on-Trent Hospital. We are now both retired. In November 2009 having worked for a company for over 25 years as part of the global recession I was made redundant. My interest in hostas grew during the winter of 2009 and spring 2010 whilst I was between full time employment. From our initial collection of 15 varieties, we have grown the numbers to our current collection of over 550 varieties.


Do you have any particular favourites in your collection? And why?

I have a liking for all varieties in our collection. All generally have a unique characteristic, either size of plant, shape and texture of leaf, leaf colour. All hostas flower. Some of my favourite varieties are:

  • Miniature varieties: Lime Fizz; Hydon Sunset, Blue Mouse Ears

  • Small / Medium varieties: Toy Soldier, Hands Up

  • Large varieties: Patriot, Sagae, Dream Queen

  • Giant varieties: Krossa Regal, Empress Wu, Sum and Substance

How do you keep slugs off Hostas?

There are many, many things you can do to protect your plants. Some hostas are slug resilient and therefore less susceptible to visitations. Growing hostas in pots, raised off the ground will help. Natural mulches such as bark chippings, straw, leaf mould, wool, hair clippings or mineral mulches such as pea-grit, horticultural sand, pebbles or slate chippings will help. All create air pockets. There are many proprietary treatments available from garden centres or DIY shops.

The key thing to consider is any one treatment on its own will not work. Be prepared to mix and match a number of options. Start any treatments early in the year. Slugs and snails become active in your gardens from February.


What varieties of Hostas are best suited to pots?

All varieties will grow happily in pots. The key is not to over-size the pot to the size of plant. Hostas prefer a snug location. Hostas can be grown in a pot for 3 or 4 years before they need to be re-potted. Hostas grow better in acidic soils. Growing hostas in pots I prefer to use an ericaceous based compost, however any general purpose compost will suffice.


Do you have any tips for cultivation and propagation?

Hostas are very hardy, long living plants. Hostas will cope with winter temperatures as low as -150C. Hostas prefer moisture- retentive, clay-based soils, but are not bog plants. Never let the soil / plant dry out. Do not submerse plants in water for long periods as this will cause the crown to rot and die.


What are your planting suggestions for combining Hostas in garden borders?

Hostas are classed as herbaceous perennials and are often grown in mixed borders of similar plants; they are often used as complementary plants within a broader planting scheme. There are many varieties that are now grown as specimen high/impact plants. Miniature hostas are often grown along with other small alpine/rockery plants in sinks or troughs. The smaller / medium varieties are often planted in larger rockery schemes or at the front of flower borders. The large / giant varieties are often grown in larger planting displays or as individual specimen plants.


Tettenhall Gardening Club would like to thank Robert Barlow for his interview and photos.

North Staffordshire Hostas is a family business based in the village of Endon in the southern region of the Staffordshire Moorlands. The business was established in 2011 specialising in hosta plants. 500 varieties currently available.


All photos copyright of Robert Barlow, North Staffordshire Hostas


https://www.northstaffordshirehostas.co.uk/



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