|Hosta 'First Frost' 19 July 2023|
Of all the hostas in my gardens since I first started collecting them in 1987 my favourite has been the blue, narrow leafed and extremely elegant in my eyes Hosta ‘Halcyon’
When hostas mutate the hosta lingo is that they sport. The most famous Halcyon sport is Hosta ‘June’.
But there are many more of these hostas that are called Tardianas as their parentage is from an event that happened only once.
The scan here of a late Tardiana called Hosta ‘First Frost’ is remarkable as all those scapes (hosta lingo for flower stems) is tha they are all from my pot of the plant. The pot is not all that big.
I have the opinion that of all the hosta flowers (which I think are beautiful) the most beautiful are the bluish/purple Tardiana flowers. And I must add that they are beautiful even before they open.
My friend hosta hybridizer Bob Solberg explains it quite nicely and does add that he had that experience that Eric Smith had also.
The “Longiana” Story (Solberg 2009)
Way back in the fall of 1961 Eric Smith took some pollen from a late, reblooming plant of H. sieboldiana and crossed it on to the first flowers of a H. ‘Tardiflora’ scape. He had to finish ripening the seeds inside in a solution of sugar and water. He was able to germinate about 30 seeds of which 14 were blue. The result was his famous group of “Tardianas”, of which ‘Halcyon’ was the first introduced from this historic cross in 1974. He was never able to set seed on ‘Tardiflora’ again. (The Hosta Journal Vol. 13, page 18.)
He was able to cross this first generation (F1) with itself and produce a second generation (F2) of very blue hostas with variable leaf shapes. ‘Blue Wedgwood’, ‘Blue Dimples’, ‘Hadspen Blue’ and ‘Blue Moon’ are some of the most widely grown. Eric Smith was able to achieve his goal of producing small, heavily substanced, blue hostas for the very small garden.
As a group of maybe 30 in number or more, (they have become collector’s items now and many have been named after the fact), “Tardianas” are all small to medium size plants with at least some white wax so that they appear blue in color. They have good substance and a sort of stiffness and sturdiness to their personality. Their clumps are usually pretty tight with dense foliage. They are almost the perfect hostas, (you certainly could argue that ‘Halcyon’ is), although some of the second generation seedlings are very slow growing, like ‘Blue Moon’.
Being a student of hosta history and a great admirer of the insight of Eric Smith, when the rare opportunity of a reblooming H. sieboldiana presented itself to me in 1997, instead of repeating Eric Smith’s cross, I decided to use ‘One Man’s Treasure’ as the second parent. ‘One Man’s Treasure’ is a seedling of H. longipes hypoglauca and for all intents and purposes a form of the species, H. longipes. My new hostas were to be “Longianas”. I expected them to be blue, larger and more vigorous than the “Tardianas”, and well suited to all growing conditions.
I recovered 15 seeds from that cross and five seedlings made it to maturity. There was not a ‘Halcyon’ in that group, all were mediocre plants brimming with genetic potential. In 2001, hundreds of second generation seeds were taken from the F1 seedlings and germinated. Several hundred seedlings were then culled, first for the best blue color, and second for interesting leaf shapes, and soon there were only 25.
In 2010, 13 years later, I am introducing four of my second generation “Longiana” seedlings. They are a very special group of hostas, a new genetic combination, not of the historic proportions of the “Tardianas” by far, but a new line of breeding for all hosta hybridizers to incorporate into their seedling programs. All four are vigorous growing medium to large hostas with good color and distinct leaf shapes. They have good substance but lack the stiffness of the “Tardianas” and are more interesting to the eye. While none may ever rival ‘Halcyon’, ‘Summer Squall’ and ‘Sun Shower’ are great hostas.