Sunday, June 10, 2012

Putting the Fun in Funkia

Most southern gardeners have come to rely on
the graceful mounding habit of hostas, once called funkia,
to fill their shaded gardens and line their walkways.
Yet, the hosta's easy beauty makes even the most inept gardener
look capable of creating a lush landscape.

The hosta, also formerly called plantain lily, is a native of Asia,
brought here like many plants via Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.
There are many different types of these plants with as many different names.
Whatever you call them, hostas are elegant and
properly admired for the beauty of their leaves.

My hosta are up and looking quite pretty
under the sweet bay magnolia tree on the northwest side of the house:

The flowers on my plants are a lovely violet color: 

I enjoy hostas a lot, but they are not the kind of plant
that makes my heart beat faster. I'm a fan, but not a fanatic.

People who love hostas can take them pretty seriously though.
Based on past experience with an unnamed midwestern herb society,
(by the way, it's not for commonfolk
who like potting a few basil plants in the summer),
when I see the addendum "society" joined to an organization's name, 
I know the folks who comprise it are dead earnest
about their horticultural pursuits.

So when I saw the web page for The American Hosta Society,
I knew these folks would be hyper-knowledgeable about all things hosta.
And they are indeed meticulous. They address everything
from the proper way to render hosta plants' names in Latin
to the requirements for punctuating and capitalizing them in texts.
Such issues of style are not unusual for publications, so I didn't think much of it.
What did get my attention was the Society's link for their hosta dictionary.
Yes, lexicography lovers, there is a prescriptive dictionary of hosta terms.

First of all, I learned that what I was referring to as a yellow-leaved hosta
(how embarrassing) is actually an albescent:
And when I admire the lovely smooth leaves on my hostas,
I should not say smooth,
I should say they are glabrous.
But please don't confuse that with glaucous
because that is the waxy coating on the leaves:

And please, suppress any urge to laugh 
when hearing someone speak of their hosta's panicles and peduncles
instead of calling them the leafy-looking things on the stems:
 I looked up this green-and-white pattern in the hosta dictionary
but didn't find what looked like a suitable term for it.
Is it simply variegated, or could this be viridescent?
Maybe it's  jetting or possibly an example of ludescence?
After a few trips through the glossary, I was more confused than ever.
I guess it's better to leave some things to the experts.

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