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700 hostas in one man's garden? Yeah, but that's nothing. Would you believe 1,500?

700 hostas in one man's garden? Yeah, but that's nothing. Would you believe 1,500?

Hostas are one of the most popular perennials in the United States, and it’s easy to see why.

The leafy plants, which originated in northeast Asia, are perfect for those hard-to-grow shady areas. The long-lasting beauties make quite an impact.

Some perennials bloom for a few weeks, and then you’re left with just a green plant, says Omahan Gene Nystrom. “Hostas stick around for three or four months.’’

Nystrom belongs to the Shady Choice Hosta Society of Omaha, which has about 100 members.

They’re all crazy for hostas, some more than others. 

Gene Nystrom, Kimberly Place, near 102nd and Maple Streets

His hosta garden: The 72-year-old has about 700 hosta varieties in the garden he’s been tending for more than 20 years. Although everything is labeled, he has lost track of the total number of plants. He spends about 20 hours a week in his garden, and there isn’t a weed in sight. “I’m out there dinking around all the time,’’ he says.

His secret to a good hosta garden: compost and a lot of water. You can’t just plant them and walk away, Nystrom says. They’re happiest in filtered shade away from a maple tree. “That is one of the worst trees you can plant under. Their roots stay on top of the ground, and the hostas can’t compete against them.’’

He has no favorites: But he’s partial to sagae and June varieties for their enormous leaves and blue-green color. “June is one of the best hostas a person can have. It’s just pretty.’’

He’ll buy and share: He doesn’t track what he spends on his hobby. If one dies, he just replaces it. He’s more than happy to share, too. “My problem is finding pots to put them in.’’

His hosta challenge: “Streaked hostas are the hardest to maintain. They revert back to green, and you are always having to pull the leaves out to maintain them.’’

He likes them all: Nystrom just buys whatever appeals to him. He’ll check out what’s being sold at Naylor Creek Hosta Nursery in Washington, or Northern Grown Perennials in Wisconsin, which he calls the cadillac of hostas. Sunrise Lawn and Garden in Omaha is a popular local spot for hosta growers, too, he says.

Ed Jones, Old Loveland neighborhood

His hosta garden: Jones has divided his yard, which is about 100 yards long from front to back, into seven tiered "rooms." He has two ponds and lots of stone work leading to the various areas. “It’s a cornucopia,’’ he says. “There is a little bit of everything and a lot of hostas and trees.’’

His inspiration: It was a neighbor’s big blue sieboldiana elegans hosta that he first set eyes on 20 years ago. He started out with 18 hostas and now has about 700 hostas of 400 varieties.

Basic elements: Jones was told that water, stone and plants complete a garden. He’s got huge boulders in his. The garden has a strong oriental influence, especially in the statuary. “The beauty of them adds to the garden beauty as a whole.’’

He doesn’t dare claim a favorite: How could you, he asks, when they are all beautiful and unique? That beauty represents life. “Every year they come back, and someday I won’t,’’ he says. “They are inspiring to see each spring.’’

His most expensive purchase: He's not telling. He’s too ashamed, he says. It was a rare hybrid hosta propagated by a much sought-after woman gardener and difficult to grow. It disappeared after the first year.

12 hours a week: That’s how much Jones, who works at Parsow's clothing store, spends on his garden. It’s just a matter of maintenance now, he says, but it was built on dedication and inspiration. “Those will carry you a long way.’’

What’s next? He added azaleas and rhododendrons this spring and says they look beautiful among the hostas. The only problem? “They need more light, and the hostas don’t.’’

Tony Wong, Raven Oaks area

His hosta garden: Wong has more than 1,500 hostas on about a quarter of his two-thirds of an acre lot. He wanted to add to his landscape, so he bought a few and was hooked. They’re tough and can grow almost anywhere, he says, provided the deer and rabbits stay away. That’s a battle he lost last year when deer and hail decimated his collection.