Hosta 'Great Expectations'

This classic hosta was introduced by John Bond of Savill Gardens in England and was registered by Paul Aden of New York on his behalf in 1988. It is a giant size (29 inches high by 58 inches wide) hosta which is a sport of H. 'Elegans'.

The bright yellow center of the blue-green leaves tends to turn white as the summer progresses (albescence). It is a slow growing plant with thick substance and near white, bell-shaped flowers on 33 inch scapes from late June into July followed by viable seeds.

According to The Hostapedia by Mark Zilis (2009), "...its stature in the world of hostas has only increased. A mature specimen has a significant impact on any garden in which it grows. Its only negative is a slow growth rate."

The New Encyclopedia of Hostas by Diana Grenfell (2009) states in its Hosta Hybrids for Connoisseurs chapter: "In many regions growers find it lacks vigor; indeed, it can dwindle rather than increase in size. Only the arresting tonal variegation of the leaves keeps this hosta in favor."

It has been reported that this cultivar may be more difficult to grow in hotter parts of the country i.e. the South. Growers in that region have found that a mature clump may begin to decline for no apparent reason. However, it is not susceptible to a problem called spring desiccation burn which afflicts similar types of hostas.

This cultivar has appeared several times in the Popularity Poll by members of The American Hosta Society.

An article about H. 'Great Expectations' by Warren I. Pollock in The Hosta Journal (1996 Vol. 27 No. 2) states that, "Everyone has great expectations for 'Great Expectations'. It is the great hosta dream (probably throughout the world) to grow a big, handsome specimen clump of 'Great Expectations'. But it doesn't do well for everyone...About half the people responding to my call for personal experiences say they have or have had problems growing it. The others say it is doing "fine" and cite the growing conditions...There is no consensus yet other than 'Great Expectations' :

  • Is a slow grower,
  • Forms an open clump (not a tight mound), and
  • Doesn't have leaves that exhibit the undesirable characteristic called "burning," "scalding," "browning," or "rusting" as does 'Color Glory' (a.k.a., 'Borwick Beauty'), which also is a sport with a bold bue-green border of H. 'Elegans'.

An article by Warren I. Pollock in The Hosta Journal (2000 Vol. 31 No. 1) states that, "H. 'Great Expectations' (John Bond is originator; Paul Aden named and introduced it - 88). When attendees to the 1997 National Convention of The American Hosta Society in Indianapolis saw the 'Great Expectations' clumps in the tour gardens, many couldn't believe how huge they were...This led to much discussion on why this hosta does well in some gardens and not in others...H. 'Great Expectations' and H. 'Dream Weaver' both have green or bluish green leaves. The difference is the variegation...H. 'Great Expectations' has a prominent "maple-leaf-like" (for lack of a better descriptive term) pattern in the leaf center and the creamer center variegation...The center leaf pattern of H. 'Dream Weaver', on the other hand, is more "spear-like" with more than 1/2, often as much as 2/3, of the leaf surface being green or bluish green.

...John Bond wrote, "I became aware of an obvious sport on a substantial clump of H. 'Elegans' the rhododendron species collection in the Valley Gardens in Windsor Great Park during the early 1980s. After a year or so I decided to remove this sport for it was clearly promising to say the least...The three "cuttings" were carefully planted in a sheltered corner of my own garden...The following spring produced three nice little plants...Rightly or wrongly I gave Paul Aden [Baldwin, New York] one of my plants and the remaining two were transferred to the Savill Garden from where sadly they were both stolen!...So that is the very simple story and explains that there was no mysterious breeding programme and also that H. 'Frances Williams' had no part to play."

Large, blue-green hostas with a gold/yellow marginal variegation such as H. 'Frances Williams', a medial (center) variegation like H. 'Brother Stefan' or yellow/gold leaf H. seiboldiana related cultivars such as H. 'Golden Sunburst' can make very attractive statements in the garden. Unfortunately, some of this type of hosta suffer from a physiological disorder called "spring desiccation burn".

For some reason, these plants often sustain discoloration and damage to the gold/yellow variegated margin or center of the leaf. Although this does not kill the plant, it does make it unattractive looking later in the season.

We have accumulated sample lists of similar size and color cultivars noted as being Resistant or Susceptible to spring desiccation burn.


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