The Hosta Handbook
The Hosta Handbook, by Mark R. Zilis (A & Z Nursery, 2000; $30), reviews in detail 278 commonly grown hostas and briefly mentions 1,300 more. Introductory chapters describe the history of hostas; how to grow them; what to plant with hostas; and how to propagate, hybridize, and select mutants. Then the author examines each hosta in great detail, describing leaf size, color, shape, texture, and substance; as well as flowering habits, bloom time, flower color and size, scape height, and pod formation. With over 300 color photos, this book is a handy field guide, and because it's spiral bound, I simply carry it into the garden to identify my own plants with ease.
Favorite or New Plant
There's really no contest -- my favorite landscape plant this time of year is definitely Camellia sasanqua. Blooms of deep to bright pink against dark, glossy green foliage from mid-December through February makes this a standout in my garden.
Camellias originate from subtropical regions in China and Japan and are easily cultivated in open ground or in pots. They love warm, wet summers and moderately cold, dry winters. Cultural requirements for camellias are similar to those for rhododendrons, azaleas, and hollies. They like acidic, well-draining soil, some afternoon sunshine, and a light application of fertilizer in early spring. Occasional pruning will keep the shrubs in shape. Camellia cultivars usually set five to seven flower buds on each terminal shoot. Disbudding (removing all except one or two buds) will help the remaining buds develop into larger, longer-lasting flowers.