Everybody has certain rules they live by, or try to anyway. Over the years, I’ve developed my own garden rules. They may not work for everyone but they work for me. In order to keep true to these rules, you need a proper set of tools to help you along the path, so to speak. I call this “Cappy’s Tools & Rules for Successful Gardening and Peace of Mind”. Now you might get the idea that I’m pretty disciplined -I like to call it organized or systematic. If you’re going to be serious about something, you need a certain degree of this. Otherwise, all you have is chaos. If you’re one of those special people that thrive on chaos, and it works for you, read no further. Otherwise, here goes…


  1. Plant what your garden wants, not what you want

    Eventually it becomes one and the same and you’ll save tons of wasted time and money. You can’t grow roses in the woods or ferns in the sun!

  2. Feel the Dirt

    Get out there and get your hands dirty - You’ll never bond with your garden or learn what’s going on out there if someone else does all the dirty work!

  3. Keep it clean

    Cleaning up your garden and hauling away debris not only looks better, it’s healthier for your plants. Those nasty slugs that love to make holes in your hosta leaves lurk under garden clutter. Fungal and other diseases have less chance of spreading in a clean garden too.

  4. Label your hostas

    If you’re at all serious about starting even a small hosta collection, you need to know what you have. Don’t count on remembering the names, because you won’t. Besides, you can impress your friends by knowing all the cool hosta names!

  5. Takes notes - all season

    This is another memory thing. Right now I’ll bet your sitting in the house looking out the window at your dormant garden trying to remember which hostas you wanted to move and where was that group of pulmonaria that died and needed to be replaced?? See, note taking really helps!

  6. Move it!

    If a hosta (or any other plant) is not doing well where it is, don’t be afraid to move it. Remember the sun/shade issue? Perhaps you planted some very small hostas right in front of some very big hostas that are getting bigger and the little ones are disappearing. Move them!

  7. Don’t just spray

    Some people like to spray just for the sake of spraying. You have no idea how often someone says to me, “There was something eating my hosta so I sprayed it!” Then I say, “Okay, what was eating your hosta and exactly what did you spray?” And they say, “I don’t know - some bug and I used some sort of insect spray.” I just shake my head in dismay. PLEASE take the time to figure out what your problem is before you decide to spray some unnecessary chemical in your garden. I’m not an organic gardener but I do the best I can and only use chemicals when needed. Most of the time they are not needed. Do a little research and respect the environment.

  8. Don’t be lazy!

    At times we all wish we had that fancy programmable underground sprinkler system with all the sprinkler heads properly placed to water your hostas from beneath and you could get up in the morning and have everything all hydrated and happy without having to lift a finger, right? And maybe you do. But guess what - hand watering is better for your hostas AND it’s very therapeutic! Plus, you can organize your whole day, plan your meals and make a shopping list on your iPhone while watering your garden - all before 8:00 AM.

    P.S. Hand weeding is also therapeutic…

  9. Have patience

    Rome wasn’t built in a day and Hosta ‘Empress Wu’ doesn’t grow 4’ tall and 6’ wide in a year. Especially if you divide the poor thing every chance you get (I rarely divide my hostas, by the way). Some hostas will take 5-10 years to reach full maturity. That’s just the way it is. And every time you divide a plant, it gets a bit stressed and may take awhile to settle down. Besides, it’s much more gratifying to see the progression of your hosta garden each year, as you add new plants and change things around. Or, you could just break the bank and buy mature hostas!

  10. Nobody’s perfect

    Ultimately, just do your best and have fun trying!


  1. Research

    In my opinion, the best tool for successful hosta gardening is reading everything you can about hostas. My go-to hosta bible is “The Hostapedia” by Mark Zilis. It’s a 1,125 page book that describes more than 7,400 hostas, contains 1,897 color photos, tells you just about everything you ever wanted to know about hostas, and weighs 9.4 pounds! My copy has post-it markers sticking out of the top and sides, dog-eared pages and chocolate chip cookie stains here and there. Guess you could say I use it A LOT! I have other Mark Zilis publications as well as many books by Diana Grenfell and Michael Shadrack, which are beautifully illustrated and highly informative.

  2. Hosta organizations

    Since “The Hostapedia” was published in 2009, you’ll want to keep current on hosta information and new varieties, so you’ll definitely need to read “The Hosta Journal”. The only way you can get this publication is by joining the American Hosta Society. If you’re serious about hostas, you really need to join. It will be the best $30 per year you spend. You’ll get 2 printed issues per year of The Hosta Journal plus 1 online issue and this magazine is phenomenal. Tons of interesting and entertaining stuff and the photos are superb! When I first joined, I ordered all the back issues since the beginning of time. Two of the most exciting days of my year are the days I get the Hosta Journal in the mail. Sounds pathetic, but if you’re a hosta geek, you totally understand.

    I also belong to a local and regional hosta society. All of these organizations have conventions and garden walks and plants sales and seed auctions and you will meet all sorts of super nice people that share your passion.

  3. Other hosta people

    Getting to know other hosta people will really help you grow as a gardener. As I said, join some organizations or just talk to people. You’ll soon find out you’re not the only geek in town.

  4. Other people’s gardens

    I love visiting other people’s gardens. It gives you great ideas, allows you to meet and talk with other gardeners and, you get to see how others design with their hostas. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Either way, it’s fun!

  5. Garden centers

    You never know what you need until you find it!

  6. Real tools

    I know you’re probably wondering when I’ll tell you about my favorite shovel or pruners or garden gloves … when the ground thaws and I can get into my garden shed, I’ll pull out some of my favorite stuff and post photos, okay? This is the midwest - the snow has just melted but the ground is still frozen!