It is very common for people in horticulture to refer to varieties as 'sports' of other varieties without explain just what a 'sport' is, we are guilty of this ourselves. As a specialist grower, we have customers who are self confessed hosta geeks but we also have customer who are beginners so it is up to us to help everyone understand the terms we use.
So, what is a hosta sport?
Put in the simplest way, a sport is when a variety mutates and displays different traits to it's original form. An obvious example of this would be if a variety that is one solid colour develops a margin that is a different colour. Sports generally maintain traits from the origin plant such a approximate size, flower colour and flower fragrance. These mutations are random and can be rare, especially if you're growing a small amount of plants. Here at the nursery we grow thousands of plants every year, so the chances of finding a variety that differs from the others is higher.
Is it useful to know where a variety came from?
Although it can seem unnecessary and maybe even a little over the top to know what varieties are in the same group, it can actually really help when it comes to selecting new varieties to grow. You may find certain variety groups grow particularly well in your garden and as most sports maintain similar growing habits, it is a fair bet that others in the same group will also grow well.
Know what varieties are related can also help when you are looking for certain attributes such as fragrant flowers. Knowledge of how well groups grow can also help you to avoid varieties that don't do well or you have found don't like your garden.
How do I know if I've found a new sport?
So, you think you've found a new hosta sport? Firstly it's important to understand that the sport you have found may not be stable, so you may want to observe it over a couple of growing seasons to see if it returns to it's old form. Rushing to register a new variety or announce it to everyone, only to have that variety cease to exist the next growing season can be a real shame. The next thing to do is to research whether what you have found is a new variety or one that has already been discovered. To do this you can contact a specialist grower and ask their opinion or look into it yourself. Make sure you are sure before registering a new variety to avoid duplicating an existing plant.
Once all of this is done, you are ready to register your new variety. If you think you have anything new and wish to introduce it to the market, please feel free to contact us and we may be able to help.