Hamburg authors write first book ever published on popular “little” hostas

Mike and Kathy Guest Shadrack of Hamburgby Connie Oswald Stofko

The wife-and-husband team of Kathy Guest Shadrack and Michael Shadrack of Hamburg has written The Book of Little Hostas: 200 Small, Very Small and Mini Varieties, which is scheduled to be released Nov. 24. 

“Little hostas are very, very popular at the moment, and their popularity is ascending,” Mike said.

“They have a cult following,” Kathy added. “People collect them like tea cups or Hummel figurines.”

The Book of Little Hostas is the first published on these increasingly popular plants.little hostas in window box by Michael Shadrack

One reason little hostas are becoming so popular is that our yards are getting smaller. Many people have only a patio or balcony for gardening and they want something suitable for the space. Many people also find they less time or money to spend on gardening.

Little hostas can be used on their own or with companion plants to make charming displays on the patio, porch or even windowsill. As you can see in the photo above right, you don’t even need a window to display little hostas in a window box.

little hostas on deck by Mike ShadrackYou can fit many little hostas in a small space. At left, 100 little hostas fit easily on a deck that’s 15 by 10 feet.

Ten years ago there may have been 10 varieties of little hostas, Mike said, and now there are about 300.

There are so many varieties because hostas tend to “sport;” that is, a new plant may be slightly different than the original plant, Kathy explained. A keen hybridizer will take advantage of this to produce a new and interesting line of little hostas. A sampling of little hostas can be seen in the photo below right.

“People grow them as collectibles,” Kathy said.

In their book, the Shadracks included only hostas that were 12 inches or less in height. There are hostas as small as 2 inches, and many are just 5 or 6 inches tall.little hostas by Michael Shadrack of Hamburg

The word “little” is an umbrella term the Shadracks use to encompass the varieties classified as miniature, small and very small.

Some are better garden plants than others, and the book showcases the best of the new introductions. Photographs of the hostas in garden settings show how they can be displayed imaginatively in  a wide range of situations including waterside, woodland and rock gardens.

In 2004, Mike, a photographer, illustrated the Color Encyclopedia of Hostas, written by Diana Grenfell, which has been renamed in a second edition to The New Encyclopedia of Hostas. The pair also created the Timber Press Pocket Guide to Hostas.

Trough of little hostas against stone wall
Trough of little hostas against stone wall

When it came time to write The Book of Little Hostas, Kathy, who has written articles for gardening magazines, was asked if she’d like to take on the task.

“I think we’re the only husband-wife team,” Mike said.

It was gardening that brought Mike and Kathy together.

Kathy had been serving on the board of the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens when it was celebrating its 100th anniversary. They wanted to do a signature trip, so they decided to go to the Chelsea Flower Show in London. She had heard Mike speak and hired him as tour guide.  The trip was so successful, the Botanical Gardens planned a trip to Europe the following year. It was on that trip in 2001 that Mike and Kathy fell in love.

“It was improbable,” Kathy said. “He was English, and had a home in England. I’m American, and had a home in America. But we decided you only live once, so let’s go for it!”

When she’s not gardening or writing about gardening, Kathy is executive assistant in the foundation office at Mercy Hospital. She has gardened passionately in Western New York for over 25 years and has maintained collections of hostas, irises and daylilies. A former secretary of the American Iris Society, she is currently the secretary of the American Hosta Society.

little hostas in shade garden by Mike Shadrack
“Octupus’ Garden in the Shade”: rock garden with little hostas

Mike is retired from London’s Metropolitan Police. He is an active member of the British Hosta and Hemerocallis Society and the American Hosta Society, and has assumed leadership roles in both organizations. Mike has more than 6,000 images of hostas in his library.

He and Kathy are available to speak to local organizations about little hostas. You can make arrangements by e-mailing Kathy at irisborer@aol.com.

The Book of Little Hostas: 200 Small, Very Small and Mini Varieties will be available on Amazon, but signed copies are available from the Shadracks themselves. Contact Kathy at irisborer@aol.com.


Next week we’ll tell you more about growing little hostas.

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3 Comments on “Hamburg authors write first book ever published on popular “little” hostas

  1. OMG! I’ve got to have this book! How great to have a resource on miniature plants that not only have a wide variety of leaf shapes and colors but flowers as well! This fits the bill for those interested in current frenzy for sustainable (green) gardening.
    And what a cute couple they make!!

  2. Janet, thanks for your comment. The book is well done, and I’m sure gardeners will find it valuable. Kathy and Mike are quite charming! We’re lucky to have them in our community.

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