URBANA, Ill. – The gardens at the University of Illinois Arboretum serve as a living lab for U of I students, as well as a place of enjoyment and education for the public. The Arboretum’s newly installed Hosta Garden has been designated as an American Hosta Society National Display Garden, thanks to a gift and volunteer hours from the Illinois Prairie Hosta Society.
The Hosta Garden was officially dedicated as a national display garden last week in a ceremony held at Japan House on the grounds of the Arboretum. The garden, located just north of Japan House along the Kari walkway, was installed as only the 18th national hosta display garden in North America and only the second in Illinois. In order to gain the national display designation, the garden must feature at least 100 different varieties of hosta.
Barbara Schroeder, a former president and current treasurer of the Illinois Prairie Hosta Society, said the Hosta Garden at the Arboretum features over 200 hosta cultivars, with 127 varieties meeting the national registry requirements. “There is a hosta variety in the garden for everyone’s preference,” she said.
Bill Kruidenier, director of the U of I Arboretum, said that members of the society approached the Arboretum a few years ago to see if there would be interest in such a garden. “We thought this location near Japan House was ideal. There is high visibility along the Kari walkway, and it matches the fit and feel of that space.”
Kruidenier added that the Illinois Prairie Hosta Society and its members not only provided the financial backing for the garden, but also provided “countless hours of labor” to design, install, and care for the garden. The society worked with our staff, but they took the lead on this. The garden is the vision of this volunteer staff that put it into place,” he said.
The gift from the Illinois Prairie Hosta Society also provides the annual funding for a student intern to assist in maintaining the garden, which Kruidenier said will give an opportunity for hands-on experience at multiple levels. “I’m so pleased with this gift and what it means to the university,” Kruidenier said. “It will serve to enhance the educational experience of our students and provide the same for our guests.”
U of I Chancellor Phyllis Wise attended and spoke at the dedication, noting how the Arboretum’s gardens bring together the university and the community. “We are pleased to be able to serve the university and the community in such a meaningful way,” Wise said. “I come to the Arboretum for a walk, for quiet and contemplative meditation, whenever I can, and the Hosta Garden will make everyone’s experience at the Arboretum even more beautiful,” she added.
The Hosta Garden has been in place for over two years, with new varieties being added to reach the requirements for national display recognition. Kruidenier said that visitors are welcome to come and tour the garden during the Arboretum’s regular daylight hours. “We believe it is close to complete, but the society may have more wonderful ideas to add,” he said.
Mark Zilis, an alumnus of U of I’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) is the author of the The Hostapedia and the Field Guide To Hostas. Zilis was the featured speaker for the ceremony. “Hosta used to seem like an ordinary plant, but it has become one of the most sought-after plants,” said Zilis, who also travels to Japan frequently for hosta research.
“Hostas can get addictive,” Zilis said during the ceremony. “The more you study them, the more you want to know. I have traveled to Japan to study wild hostas, and so I think it is appropriate that the Hosta Garden sits just a few steps away from Japan House.”
According to Zilis in his The Hostapedia, although hosta is commonly thought of as shade-loving, these plants are actually shade tolerant. Hosta should be planted in a site that drains well and provides evenly moist water, and under trees that provide light or dappled shade and have deep, rather than shallow, roots. H. plantaginea cultivars, for example, need four to six hours of sunlight daily to maximize growth, color, and the fragrant blooms for which the species is known.
The Arboretum is a campus-wide asset of the University of Illinois housed in the College of ACES and jointly administered by the Departments of Crop Sciences and Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. Visit the Arboretum website at http://arboretum.illinois.edu/ for more information.
The Illinois Prairie Hosta Society, a Champaign-Urbana area not-for-profit organization, was formed in July 2004 and has grown to over 100 members, several of whom are alumni and citizens with connections to the university.
The society aims to promote knowledge and interest in hostas, foster the development of new and improved hosta varieties, and encourage cultivation and usefulness of hostas in landscapes. The society also brings together, for their mutual enjoyment, people who are interested in growing hosta as a hobby and promotes the American Hosta Society as a group dedicated to the study and improvement of the genus Hosta.
For more information on the Illinois Prairie Hosta Society, go to http://illinoisprairiehostasociety.com. For more information on the American Hosta Society, go to http://www.americanhostasociety.org/.