Hostas Article - Delaware County Tourism



Hostas Article - Delaware County Tourism
Eastern Iowa Shopping News - Spring Lawn & Garden — April 2, 2013 - Page 2
Colesburg’s hosta-holics
The Hackbarths’s athome hobby is one of breed of Hosta. He spent years
the Midwest’s premier cross pollinating and tracking
hosta destinations
several generations and plant
Staff Writer •
[email protected]
Interested gardeners can
find virtually any Hosta plant
fathomable — blade-leafs,
round-leafs, small-leafs and
plants that grow to be six feet
in diameter. And the locals
won’t have to look very hard;
they can find over 500 varieties in Colesburg.
But one major advantage
The Hosta Leaf offers is that
it’s the only nursery in the
world where the Colesburg
Blue breed can be found.
Leave it to owners Bob and
Julie Hackbarth, known to
travel throughout the Midwest for Hosta conventions,
to grow a successful small
business out of life-long passion. The Hackbarths founded
The Hosta Leaf in 2000 with 50
customers in its first year.
Today, Julie’s mailing list
is over 1,800 with customers
in 15 different states. Meanwhile, Bob is planning to retire in April to focus full-time
on the enterprise. The couple
has won national awards for
creating unique breeds, like
the Colesburg Blue, a process
that takes about five years and
requires an extensive documentation process.
Through years of experimenting, Bob has created
what is essentially a patented
chromosomes until finally a
new species was born.
“What happens is there’s a
chromosome that changes in
the plant,” he said. Gardeners look for variations in their
plants demonstrating chromosomal changes. “What you
can do is go in and cut that
out. They call that a sport it’s
when the plant mutates.”
The Hackbarths are both
Delaware County master
gardeners, and Bob said he
has even put off registering
30 other only-in-Colesburg
breeds he created. A self-described “Hosta-holic,” the
man advertises his addiction
with a Hosta tattoo on his
right bicep.
“When you’ve got, essentially, two full-time jobs, it’s
hard to find the time,” he said.
“You could say this business is
something that’s ‘grown like
While the couple admitted
their hobby is more an obsession, the Hackbarths said
you don’t have to be addicted to find advantages to the
plant. Hostas, they said, are
perfect for rock gardens, and
they come in such a variety
that gardeners can find any
size and shape to fill a desired
“The thing people like
about Hostas is they’re pretty
much maintenance free,” Bob
said. “It’s just endless what
you can do with them.”
Customers who visit The Hosta Leaf in Colesburg will be treated to the Hackbarths’ 3.5 acres of display gardens, some of which feature the couple’s very own registered Hosta plants. Bob Hackbarth estimated he has 30
one-of-a-kind plants of his creation yet to be registered.
He even consults on garden
designs and is routinely asked
to lecture at local gardening
Customers who walk
through The Hosta Leaf gate,
located at 3016 115th Street,
will have the opportunity to
browse 3.5 acres of display
gardens. Julie said the nurs-
ery has become somewhat of
a “destination” for tour groups
and other garden enthusiasts.
It’s not uncommon for visitors
to simply walk the forest-like
setting. The space has even
hosted weddings, something
the Hackbarths said they’re
open to expanding.
This year, the couple is
rounding out the business
by offering hand-made lawn
ornaments. The Hackbarths
purchased an Iowa City business last year, meaning Bob in
his new found free time will be
molding concrete creations to
be sold in the gift shop.
The Hosta Leaf products
can only be found in Colesburg, giving locals a leg up.
The business opens annually
in May and closes in August.
Julie said this is because the
plants require a “dormant”
season to grow. Most Hostas
are perennials, meaning they
only need to be planted once
and will grow year after year.
Prices range from $5-$50
per plant, with 10-15 new varieties offered each year. The
business is open 10 a.m. to 5
p.m. on Fridays and Satur-
days. With Bob’s upcoming retirement, the couple believes
the business will eventually
expand its schedule to include
Thursdays and Fridays.
The Hackbarths also host
an annual open house. This
year’s will be June 1-2 at regular store hours. Visitors that
weekend will receive 10 percent off all plants.
For more information, visit The Hosta Leaf’s Facebook
page or call the Hackbarths at
“We’ve got new varieties
every year,” Julie said, adding
the couple gives customers a
list of products that they get
to take with them. “People can
look at our price list from year
to year and say, ‘Okay, I want
this one for next year.’”
Page 3 - April 2, 2013 — Eastern Iowa Shopping News - Spring Lawn & Garden
Bob, left, and Julie Hackbarth own The Hosta Leaf — a specialty nursery that’s found just off Highway 3 in Colesburg. The couple sells over 500 varieties of Hosta
plants on the weekends, May through August.
After buying out an Iowa
City business in 2012, the
Hackbarths will begin
selling homemade concrete lawn ornaments
when The Hosta Leaf reopens in May.