05 June 2012

Full Figured Frances Williams

I did have a few moments last week to photograph and write about the Frances Williams hosta (Hosta sieboldiana), between a national convention, picnics, and happy hour in a whirlwind weekend. One of my only two plants from the 'famous Walmart collection' is now in its third year, and it continues to improve and impress. This year, Frances Williams is larger than life and reaching her full figured size. Look at those ginormous quilted 1-foot (30 cm) leaves! No slug can gnaw through that thick hide.

Frances Williams was an American hosta connoisseur and breeder. This was one of the first big leaf hostas, so it became very popular despite its shortcomings. What are they? First, like the best vampires, there is an intolerance to sunlight and summer heat. Second, it is slow to grow and mature with age. I read that the less green on a host leaf, the more sun tolerant it is.

He or she? Frances was a she. And she has 17 hostas to her credit, along with a notable impact on the American Hosta scene. This particular plant was given one name by Ms. Williams, but renamed in honor of her at a later date. Two different stories emerge about its origins. Did she breed this or find it in a batch of seedlings in the 1930s? Regardless, it was one of the most popular hostas for a very long time. Newer varieties improved on its deficiencies, but it is still around as an original.

My plant was purchased from Walmart and split into two after my infamous shopping trip there three years ago. I have been back a few times since, and have never seen anything like the selection available then.

Each year, the colorful leaves emerge bigger than the last. Flowers are on sturdy stalks, about 18-inches tall (45 cm). And each year, the plant develops crispy burnt leaves toward mid summer. In truth, it gets direct morning sun for about 3 hours. Its size has increased in direct proportion to the organic amendments I add to the clay between her toes.

Growing between the two gals is Gold Standard - a perfect companion. It has chartreuse leaves with green edges, as opposed to Frances with her green leaves with chartreuse edges. Goldie is lower growing with more-pointed leaves that gradually change over the growing season from chartreuse to gold yellow. Flowers are unimpressive, but we don't grow them for floral arrangements. I lucked out with another pair of plants with great complimenting colors. Tell them I planned it that way.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with lots of organic amendments
  • Mostly moist shade, a little direct morning sun
  • Small amount of organic fertilizer
  • Slugs and something else eating small holes in Goldie
  • Burnt leaf edges in summer due to heat and direct sun (I think)

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Echinacea, nicotiana, daylily, peony poppy, hosta, tradescantia
  • Harvested: Radishes


Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...
I had Frances Williams in my garden in VA, bought a bag of her at Sam's. Super hosta! Now that I have a spot for hostas that the deer seem to be leaving alone...maybe it is time for Frances to come to SC.
Outdoor Sheds said...
very pretty! I also have these on my garden.