A woodland garden wonder... but loved by snails

One of the good things to come out of a cold, cold winter is the noticeable absence of slugs and snails. A good brush with heavy frost puts them in their place.


Unfortunately, it’s only temporary. As the temperature starts to rise and fresh green shoots begin to appear above soil level, the battle begins again. And one of these pests’ favourite foods – and, hence, a family of plants which seem to suffer the most from the attention of molluscs – is the hosta, whose wonderful leafy growth begins to emerge at a time when spring bulbs are dying back. Hostas are the wonders of the woodland garden, as well as being marvels in borders and beds and ideal occupants for containers where their leaves can at least be offered some sort of protection.

Leaves could be yellow, green, grey-blue or variegated, heart-shaped, or ovate. They grow quickly, but not fast enough to thwart a hungry snail. And gardeners may not be aware of the damage being done until it is too late.

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Hostas do well under deep-rooting trees and are perfect near water; they appreciate shade. As perennials, they die back completely in winter, the new spear-like shoots of the tightly- rolled leaves appearing in spring, when they are at their most vulnerable from attack.

Most hostas are fully hardy. They need a reasonably fertile, moist but well-drained soil, and yet it’s important to stop them drying out. In the garden, spreading compost over the surface in spring should do the trick.

In a container, regular watering is essential. And covering the compost sharp gravel will not only keep in moisture – it may also deter slugs.