I don’t particularly like Hostas. They just scream ordinariness. Their leaves, arguably their main feature, display a profusion of ordinarily-shaped leaves in a spectrum of ordinary leaf colors. I’m sure there are interesting and unique varieties out there, as there are with other popular plants, but I simply don’t get their appeal. When they do flower, the flowers are tiny, pale things whose delicate proportions are dwarfed by the plant’s bulky foliage. That is, until you see them without the other 90% of the plant.
“I wanted a Fakahatchee ghost orchid, in full bloom, maybe attached to a gnarled piece of custard apple tree, and I wanted its roots to spread as broad as my hand and each root to be only as wide as a toothpick. I wanted the bloom to be snow-white, white as sugar, white as lather, white as teeth. I knew its shape by heart, the peaked face with the droopy mustache of petals, the albino toad with its springy legs. It would not be the biggest or the showiest or the rarest or the finest flower here, except to me, because I wanted it.” Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief
These delicate, trumpet-shaped flowers are peculiar. They droop downward, hidden from view. But, when I sat down on a porch step the other day, I looked up at a single flower, and I had a change of heart. My view unsullied by the rest of the plant, I saw only watery strokes of lavender on filmy, white petals. The cool light filtering through the tree leaves above accentuated this pale, airy bloom. From this perspective, it seemed to float in midair, presenting itself with the kind of detached nonchalance that escapes detection under a cursory glance. A hosta’s beauty is in the details, and that beauty deeply satisfies a probing eye with a ferocious appetite for the unusual. It’s the kind of beauty that motivates desirous botanists everywhere, and brings me back to the themes that filled Susan Orlean’s beautiful book, The Orchid Thief, with a fresh understanding.