I was very surprised when these hardy Hosta ‘Ginko Craig’ survived a zone 3 winter in their pots. Normally, perennials have to be underground here during the winter, or at least protected, to endure the cold. Being tucked away in the ground with a blanket of insulating snow gives the plants the best chance of survival. I’ve never left any new potted perennials out over the winter before, but last fall I didn’t get a garden bed extended where I planned on planting the Ginko Craig. Then the snow came, and I left them on the back patio. When I saw them again in early spring I thought they would just be compost, since we didn’t even get a persistent and reliable snow cover like we normally do. However, these perennials survived the cold winter just fine, with no setback, and even got a boost.
When I looked at the containers, there appeared to be one little green nose poking up in one of the pots. I didn’t think they could have come through the winter, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt and left the pots on the patio. Then slowly additional sprouts appeared, looking more like Hosta growing tips than weeds. They had the distinctive look of Hosta leaves coming up directly from the crown as tightly curled funnels. As they elongated and started to uncurl, I could see the variegated white margins. I was very impressed with Ginko Craig’s fortitude after the tough winter.
The fortunate part is not only did these three Hosta in pots persevere through the cold zone 3 winter above ground, their growth was actually ahead of the Hosta in the ground. The punishing temperatures didn’t appear to set them back, and they actually got a head start on their growth spurt. I assume that the soil in the dark plastic containers heated up quicker than the ground in the spring sunshine, and gave them a boost.
In the picture above, you can see how much more developed the overwintered potted plant on the right is compared to the Ginko Craig plant in the garden. The slowpoke Hosta are usually one of the last perennials up in spring, generally managing to beat only the Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (ghost fern) and the Osmunda regalis (royal fern). They like to make sure that everything will be warm and toasty when they start growing, which is another reason I’m surprised that they toughed it out.
Ginko Craig are a terrific little Hosta. They aren’t in the miniature group, but they are a small Hosta, so they work well as an edging. The plants are about 35 cm (a little over a foot) tall. The narrow white edges on each dark green leaf make them more prominent in the shadows beneath the trees, and add some light, similar to the dappled light patterns flickering between branches. These are a vigorous Hosta, that expand well, which I really appreciate in a short growing season. The group above is from midsummer last year. The two plants in front were planted the year before that, and the smaller one behind was planted that summer, so you can see the growth they made in one season. It also shows how the more mature Ginko Craig plants have wider, more elliptical shaped leaves than younger specimens. In the top right hand corner of the photo are some Cornus canadensis (bunchberry), which are another good groundcover for the shade. Here are some other perennials that are planted under the conifers with these Hosta.
This photo of the flower scapes is from a previous season, since they won’t be blooming for a few months yet. The flowers are pretty purple funnels that flare out and hang down around the stem. You could plant these for the late summer blooms alone, but the attractive foliage will look good until frost. There are more photos of these flowers next to some Heuchera ‘Cinnabar Silver‘ in this previous post.
I need to get their future bed extended, and get the Hosta ‘Ginko Craig’ out of their pots and into the ground to give their roots more wiggle room in the garden. Meanwhile, I’ve got some more plants to go with them. The colour scheme for this garden section will be mostly green and silver leaved perennials, with blue, white and lavender flowers. I especially like leaves with some white or silver on them in the darker areas of the garden, so the plants don’t disappear into the shadows. There is some Heuchera ‘Green Spice’ in the middle right of the picture, with leaves that are green and silver highlighted by purple veins. They will make a link between the new green and silver plants and the nearby foliage of some solid purple Heuchera ‘Raspberry Ice’ (coral bells). The Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’ (dead nettle) is at the front of the shot, the silver leaves with green edges, which I’m using as an edging. Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian bugloss) is at the back with beautifully patterned silver foliage and green veins. There will also be some Tiarella (foamflowers) with white flowers. All of these shade perennials will do well in the new bed that weaves between some conifers.
The Hosta ‘Ginko Craig’ are definitely on the hardier end of the spectrum. If you have colder winters, these are tough survivors. Plus, the plants are good-looking with their narrow, crisp bands of white on the leaf margins against the dark green foliage. They will spread, like a groundcover, so are very helpful for filling in any shady areas, or tough spots under the trees. After having all three of them persist through a zone 3 winter in pots, I would even try these perennials in a planter now.