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Rosemary Barrett
Photographs by Derek Hughes
David Bateman Ltd

LIKE many plants, hostas can prompt a love/hate relationship: they're magnificent when a comfortable habitat allows them to flourish in splendid diversity, but cranky and tatty if plonked into hostile conditions and left for slug fodder.

This timely New Zealand book by nurserywoman and writer Rosemary Barrett is unequivocal in promoting hostas as the perfect perennial. As she points out, they are plants that are easily grown and valued for their range of foliage.

Well structured, superbly illustrated and cleanly laid out, the book details the discovery and development of various species. Two early spreads focus on foliage and hosta flowers. The foliage spread has a portfolio of 11 pictures across two pages, a compelling way to present the diversity of the genus.

The book also details when and where to plant hostas, their shade needs and soil preferences.

Propagation is discussed in detail, including a useful section on growing from seed.

Various aspects of landscaping with hostas are given three chapters and there are useful sections on container growing and companion planting. Their seasonal demise even gets the once-over.

Enthusiasts will relish the 20-page hosta catalogue at the back, although search as we might, we couldn't find the "useful addresses" referred to in the index.

It's great to have a book written for New Zealand gardeners, championing the cause of a plant that deserves wider recognition.

One peculiarity: despite being written by a New Zealander, the book has been sold to an American distributor and thus features American spelling.

Weekend Gardener, Issue 141, 2004, Page 26
(reproduced in Horticulture in New Zealand:
Journal of the Royal NZ Institute of Horticulture 2005, 8(1): 19-20)

Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH

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Last updated: March 1, 2021