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Michael Shadrack and His Hostas



Potted hostas at Mike Shadrack

The ‘long bus’ turned so sharply off the paved road and onto a dirt track that all 40 of us garden bloggers collectively held our breath. Fortunately our driver was a real pro and soon we were driving through the woods where Kathy and Michael Shadrack, hosta experts, awaited us.

When the bus stopped Mike Shadrack leaped on to welcome us to his home and gardens.  With a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright Mike calls his house Fallingwater North because it is literally set over a stream. Its broad decks provide a deliciously dangerous view of the stream plunging into a deep wooded ravine.

In front of the house a marquee (that’s British for tent) had been set out with a proper cream tea. China cups, tea pots, milk, lemon and British scones (not the big dry kind you get in upscale bakeries) with clotted cream and strawberries were ready to help us restore our tissues before we set out to explore the shade beds planted with Mike’s hostas, and the sunny hill planted with scores of his wife’s daylilies.

Everywhere we looked were hostas of every size and hue, hostas in the woods, in beds and in pots. Shadrack explained that putting hostas in pots was one way to cut down on slug and snail damage. He also said that putting copper tape tied around the pots would act as a further deterrent. He also puts whole arrangements of min-hostas in a single pot.

I looked at the hostas growing in the dappled light of the woods and  wondered if there were no deer in New York state. In his ebullient and charming manner Shadrack told us all to be careful because we might bump into his “unique, patented deer fence.” He described this as a kind of web of monofilament fishing line that went from tree to tree.  I had heard that a single strand of  fishing line could be run around a garden at chest height to deter deer. The idea is that the deer cannot see the fishing line, but they will feel it. The touch of this invisible thing will confuse or frighten the deer and they will advance no farther and leave.  I haven’t tried this, but the idea fishing line going up and down and across from fence post to fence post, or from tree to tree sounds more dependable.

I certainly do know that hostas are deer candy. I have a few common plants growing by the Cottage Ornee and they are nibbled at all season long.

Michael Shadrack

Since most of the Buffalo gardens we had been visiting were small urban gardens, they had a fair amount of shade. And where gardeners have shade they will have hostas. In the small Timber Press Pocket Guide to Hostas ($19.95) by Diana Grenfell and Michael Shadrack, there are descriptions of 800 hostas  from mini to giant, and in every shade of green, yellow green, gold, and blue greens. Some are variegated and some are crinkled and some have fragrant flowers. There are hostas to please every taste.

In this book Shadrack and Grenfell  point out that  hostas can be a “foil early in the season to strap-shaped hemerocallis . . . later on, sun-tolerant hostas . . .  can accentuate the spikiness of yuccas.”

Shadrack reminded us that hostas are shade tolerant, not shade loving, meaning that high or dappled shade is best. Hostas need protection from the strongest sun of the day.  They need fertile soil that is moist but well drained, and a site that is protected from strong wind.

With Diana Grenfell, Shadrack has put all his knowledge and advice about hostas in the big New Encyclopedia of Hostas (Timber Press 49.95) and in November Timber Press will release The Book of Little Hostas: 200 Mini and Very Small Varieties. Just in time for holiday giving. Shadrack said he once took a photo of 100 potted mini hostas on one of his deck benches to show that every one of us has room for a substantial collection of different hostas.

Mini-hosta collection

The Shadrack garden was the final stop of the third day of touring Buffalo’s gardens for 70 garden bloggers from across the country, and from Canada. The only thing you can say about all garden bloggers, who write about their gardens online, is that they are passionate gardeners. We are also journalists, garden designers, garden coaches, garden magazine editors, and garden lecturers. If you would like to ‘meet’ some of the gardeners I met in Buffalo and see their posts and photographs of Buffalo’s gardens, logon to www.Buffa10.blogspot.com. I love the idea that Buffalo’s gardens have become an important tourist attraction.

Of  course when I returned home from Buffalo I found my own garden had undergone a growth spurt. Why is it that weeds don’t mind drought, and grow twice as fast as anything else?

I also saw that the Community Harvest has begun at Ev Hatch’s Field for the Hungry on Plain Road. If you would like to help with this harvest call Mark Maloni at Community Action 413-376-1181.,    If you cannot help with the harvest there because your own harvest is keeping you so busy, remember you can bring any extra produce to the Salvation Army or Center For Self-Reliance, or the Survival Center or any other food pantry near you.  Log on to www.parwmass.blogspot.com for more information about the Plant a Row program. ###

Between the Rows   July 24, 2010

3 comments to Michael Shadrack and His Hostas

  • Lisa at Greenbow

    I wonder if he has to bring all of those little pots of hosta into a greenhouse during winter??

  • Deer make a pilgrimage through our property on their way across the tidal salt marsh to the woods on the islands along our shore of Long Island Sound. And in passing they plunder and pillage and render the hostas unfit for the season, nearly every season. Until this year. Hunters.

    But I know that our community, with its abundance of fishing tackle outlets and shops selling line and other nautical and sailing and fishing paraphernalia is basically in the deer prevention business: I will buy hundreds of yards of mono-filament fly line and weave my own invisible barrier. What a perfect solution! It will keep the stags at bay and allow the dachshunds to roam unimpeded. If you had a benign solution for cicada-killing wasps (they’ve now invaded the stone terrace), I wouldn’t be surprised.

    Fly line. Brilliant!

  • Do mini slugs eat small hosta? Of course they do and so do their bigger cousins.

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