Taking care of over 1,000 types of hostas is a two-woman job.
It's "1,010, to be exact," said Dolores "Rosie" McCreedy. She and her daughter Dee Strellner maintain Rosie's Garden in Esko, more than 1½ acres of trees, irises, daisies and hostas, hostas, hostas.
The leafy perennials were a low-maintenance substitute for the rose gardens McCreedy left when she and her family relocated from Florida in the late 1960s. To have really pretty roses in Minnesota, you have to dig them up and bury them in the winter, she said. "I decided to have something that could stand the weather, and hostas are such an easy plant," said McCreedy, 85.
Hostas come in different colors and sizes. "I'm not quite 5-foot, but they come up to half my waist, and some of them are so little that they're no bigger than a spool of thread," she added.
Colors range from yellow, blue, green and combinations, and their names are just as colorful - Knockout, Lunar Eclipse, Dance with Me. Strellner's favorite is the Ebb Tide because they remind her of Cindy Lou Who, she said.
The women keep track with little labels stuck in nearby dirt. Other identifiers are the plant's blooming flowers, though they caution against letting them grow. They're "zapping the energy out of the plant," Strellner said, so if you're not breeding them, cut off the flowers.
Each hosta has been individually planted, which gives you a scope of the work involved, Strellner said. She's the garden laborer/designer who dreamed up their landscaping and stone arrangements.
The biggest thing in building hosta gardens is to know their size and place them accordingly. "If you don't, you will be ripping your gardens apart in two to three years, and it will look ugly," she said.
Their hostas need 2-6 inches of water a week, and it takes two days to cover it. Other tips: Water on cloudy days. Use alfalfa meal as a stimulant. Also, it's a misconception that they need to grow in the shade.
The more you put them in the Minnesota sunlight, the bigger they get, and "If it doesn't grow in one place, move it," Strellner said.
The only things to worry about are slugs, lack of space and deer. (One year, the deer ate all the hostas, McCreedy said.) To keep them at bay, the women use fishing line, colored ribbons and compact discs, which shine when the wind blows, scaring the deer. Also: milorganite Milwaukee sludge. There's an aroma only when it's first applied. Then, you can't smell it, but deer can, McCreedy assured.
Before she became a Master Gardener, Roberta Meyers was a customer of McCreedy's. "Everyone that leaves that place leaves with more information on planting and growing and care for plants," she said.
Meyers has purchased more than a dozen hostas from McCreedy, whom she describes as a hard-working woman. "It's a fortune she has invested in there. She doesn't live very fancy; she's interested in the love of her plants, and nothing else is important," Meyers added.
Donna Peterson and other Master Gardeners visited McCreedy's space during a tour, and she recalled being impressed by the number and variety of plants. "She was extremely knowledgeable with the names and plant characteristics," Peterson said.
Peterson has hostas in her own garden; their rounded shape is pleasing to the eye, she said by email. "They're a hardy plant in Minnesota."
Before McCreedy adds another hosta baby to the family, they do a lot of research. It first needs to have substance, good growth weight, good slug resistance and nice color. Their resources are books and an online hosta library.
"This is what I call my walk in the wild," said McCreedy, making her way through the slate walkways in her backyard. She has an affinity for plants. Growing up during the Depression, she would sell cherries, apples and plums for money to eat, she said.
Today, she has plants that are worth more at $200, and she sells most hosta stalks for about $10. A popular plant with her customers is the Guardian Angel. She doesn't advertise or sell aggressively; she just wants enough money to add to her collection, she said.
McCreedy's mother was always in the garden, and she said the green thumb has been passed down generations. Added Strellner: "It's a hereditary thing."
Visit Rosie's Garden on Facebook. To purchase, call (218) 879-5027 the night before to make an appointment. Hosta sales run from June through October.