There are days that are meant for working in the garden, there are days that are meant for reading a good book indoors, and there are days that are meant for… driving to the ends of the earth in search of the perfect hosta.
To say that Mason Hollow Nursery is located off the beaten path is to imply that there is an actual path to the nursery, beaten or otherwise. It is located in Mason, New Hampshire and, if there is a physical town, we have never found it. Were there a town, it would be located about ten miles over the Massachusetts border above Fitchburg, except that we did not start our expedition from Fitchburg but, rather, from The Fells, fifty miles north in Newbury. But I digress.
We made the journey because their website lists among their collection, a hosta called ‘Hanky Panky’. As the accompanying photos show (double-click on them to get larger versions), this is not your grandmother’s, or even Tommy James and the Shondells’ hosta. ‘Hanky Panky’ has leaves in three tones: a dark green surrounded by gold border with a narrow, cream-colored thread between the two patterns. Moreover, as the season progresses, the yellow edge changes to white with an unusual light green overlay. How did it get the name ‘Hanky Panky’? Because it’s a sport of ‘Striptease’. (And, just to show that breeders who name hostas have a wonderful sense of humor, there’s another ‘Striptease’ sport called ‘Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’.)
We live in a time when, all too often, we go places because they are convenient: the McDonalds is just off the exit ramp and the Barnes and Noble is at the mall. All Big Macs taste exactly alike and B&N will reliably have the new Martha Grimes at a discount. When it comes to gardening, though, identical isn’t necessarily better and knowledge counts for a lot. Mason Hollow features extensive and intelligently designed hosta gardens showing their offerings at maturity. The staff understood what we were looking for and where to find it. If they didn’t have it, they could recommend something very close.
Service like that is worth a lot. Even a very long drive in the country.