Get to know Josh from Iowa’s In the Country Garden and Gifts

In the Country Garden and Gifts is one of our favorite nurseries. Not only do they carry great unique hostas (my favorite shade plant) but they’re also located in Eastern Iowa where Ryan and I grew up. Josh specializes in both hostas and water gardens and his family nursery both delivers on plants as well as teaching gardeners of all ages and abilities.

Welcoming you to In the Country Garden and Gifts

When did you start In the Country Garden and Gifts?

We started the business the year I graduated from high school in 1998.

How does your location outside Independence, Iowa influence your nursery and what you grow?

We are rural. We’re actually located on the family farm on a gravel road! The biggest challenge this proves is some difficulty for our local customers to find us.  Most people don’t mind, though, and a trip to In The Country actually becomes a whole fun experience.  A completely different atmosphere and setting than a visit to an every-day garden center.  In addition to the nursery, our personal garden acts as a display garden that customers are welcome to explore.

A water garden at In the Country Garden and Gifts

We began getting serious about mail order about 3 years ago.  We have a loyal local customer base, but the very specialized nature of our business (hostas, water plants, and a handful of misc. uncommon annuals & perennials) captures the interest of a very specialized gardener. Mail order offers a huge market and has grown tremendously for us each year.  Mail order also helps level out some of the seasonal nature of the nursery business…die-hard hosta collectors order the latest and greatest new hostas all winter long for delivery in the spring!

Of course, running a local and mail order nursery brings many challenges, which we continue to figure out along the way!

How many hostas do you carry currently,  and how did your interest in hostas begin?
We currently carry around 350 different varieties.

My interest in hostas began when I was around 10 or 12 and my grandmother began buying hostas for her shaded yard…often buying duplicates for me. Within a few years I had accumulated a modest collection and there was no turning back! My personal hosta collection has grown to over 900 varieties and my brother-in-law and I have started to experiment with hybridizing.  My hosta addiction has resulted in a number of my articles being published in The Hosta Journal (the official publication of the American Hosta Society) and lead me to serve on the American Hosta Society Board of Directors as the Website Editor since 2008.

Bright Lights and Blue Angel hostas at In the Country Garden and Gifts
Currently, what are your favorite hosta cultivars?

My standard answer to this question is “it depends on the day!”  My short list of favorites will always include ‘June’ and ‘Sagae’….both proven performers.  Among the multitude of new introductions, ‘Rhino Hide‘ and ‘Curly Fries‘ are at the top of my mind.  I also think ‘Ripple Effect‘ and ‘Goodness Gracious’ are going to be fantastic hostas. See…it goes on and on!!

Do you have any advice for gardeners with lots of shade in their yards?

Work with it…don’t fight it!  In addition to hostas, there is a huge and fascinating array of shade tollerant perennials out there.  Sure you may have to do some digging to find the nurseries that carry them and they may be a bit more expensive than the standard selection of perennials, but they are out there.  Do your research!

To help do your research, check out The Hostapedia: The Hosta Encyclopedia by Mark R. Zillis.  It’s the most definitive work on hostas in print and is a must for every collector, nurseryman and gardener. The book contains:

  • Over 7400 hostas  listed from A-Z
  • Over 1800 color photos
  • 1120 pages filled with descriptions, facts and stories
  • Complete index of hosta names