About Hosta College

Each year during March, the Great Lakes Region (GLR) of the American Hosta Society hosts a garden symposium of approximately 350 enthusiastic gardeners from the Midwest and other parts of the US, Canada, and even Europe. This garden symposium is called Hosta College, and it takes place at Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua, Ohio.

Hosta College begins on Friday night with several different activities from which participants can choose. The vending area offers a large selection of plants (even though it may be snowing outside!), garden accessories, tools, and other garden-related merchandise for shoppers. The Bookstore features gardening books at fantastic discounts and A.M.Leonard gardening tools. The auditorium and other areas provide slide presentations, talks by gardening experts, and opportunities to socialize with new and old friends from Hosta College. An auction of rare and unusual plants will be held on Friday evening. On Saturday, following a brief period for shopping in the Vending or Bookstore, classes begin at 8:40 a.m. Students attend 5 classes they have chosen from a program of over 60 classes taught by a faculty of approximately 50 volunteers. Mid-day each student has lunch from a delicious buffet included in the registration fee. At the end of the day students take a brief break and then return for an optional banquet and talk that concludes the Hosta College experience.

Hosta College Wall of Past Presidents



Sandy Wilkins has provided the following brief history of Hosta College:

"The country was divided up into regions in the late eighties, but many of them were large and none actually functioned as a region. 

I was appointed regional director in June of 1992. Upon consent of the AHS board, this new region, 4, was comprised of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky. The idea was to have a region with similar growing zones and be close enough together that we could meet at least once a year.

I had the first board meeting in my home in Carmel, Indiana in October 1992. Each society in the region sent delegates based on the size of the membership of the club.  INDIANAPOLIS HOSTA SOCIETY, Bob Whitmore, Randy Goodwin, Sally Murphy.  MICHIGAN HOSTA SOCIETY, Jim Wilkins, Clarence Owens, Jim Dishon, John Kulpa. HOSTAS OF KENTUCKIANA, Kathy Lowrey. GREATER CINCINNATI HOSTA AND DAYLILY  SOCIETY, Gila Hawk.  We only had four active societies at that time.

 We decided to have a Regional Meeting in March. We would be at a Days Inn in Dayton.  The theme was Shakespeare on Hostas and run like other events, with attendees staying in one room and listening to different speakers.

The next October, at our second meeting, I suggested the name Hosta College and everyone jumped on board, adding their own creative touches.  Every year it seems to get better and better."*

The first Hosta College was held the next year, 1993, in Dayton, Ohio at the Comfort Inn.  It was attended by 68 students.  Five teachers taught classes in the same large room.  Our second year, fifteen classes were offered.  Students could choose three classes to attend.  For several years, students received a "Hosta College diploma" for attending.

In an effort to find a place large enough to accommodate a growing number of students, Marcia Niswonger found the Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua, Ohio.  In 1995 Hosta College held classes at Upper Valley for the first time. With all the new space available, Hosta College grew in student population and class offerings.

By 1996, there were 150 attendees at Hosta College.  Vending and a seedling contest were added, a first, "First Look" if you will.  The following year "Park A Plant" was added and gave people the opportunity to store their treasures in a secure location for a nominal donation.  This was a great idea and probably encouraged more vending sales.  The growing success of Hosta College led to two lunch periods in 1997.  There were too many people to be seated in the dining area at one time.

As the years passed, our "mentors" aged.  In 1999, Herb and Dorothy Benedict attended Hosta College for their last time.  For the "millennial" year, 2000, it was decided by the Great Lakes Board to give attendees for the first time a hosta.  The first gift hosta was H. Great Lakes Gold.  That began a tradition of giving gift hostas each year to attendees of Hosta College.  It seems only fitting since hosta is "the friendship plant."  Many of us have made several new friends with our fellow students throughout the years.

"In 2013, almost 400 students attended Hosta College, with seventy classes to choose from and over fifity knowledgeable teachers graciously volunteering their time and energy.  Although attendance has declined from a high of around five hundred attendees in the "middle years" (there were years when people were turned away due to space limitations), Hosta College is still going strong and shows no sign of additional decline.  Here's to twenty more years of Hosta College!**

* Sandy Wilkins

**Libby Greanya (as told to her by Sandy Wilkins and excerpts from an article Libby wrote for  the "Hosta Journal" )


More History of Hosta College

By Marcia Niswonger

From a presentation to the Miami Valley Hosta Society in Sept 2017


I want to take a little sidestep here to talk about Hosta College.  It is such an important part of each and every Hosta Society in the Region.  It certainly helped shape our society as we went along because I was on the GLR Board for 12 years.  Actually at the exact same time Rita and I were trying to put our  society together, Hosta College was in the works.  It was an enormous undertaking to start the planning of this.  The name Hosta College was the brain child of Sandy Wilkins. She was the Director of the Great Lakes Region Hosta Society at the time.  And her idea was that the Great Lakes Region would sponsor an event where all the Great Lakes Regions five states would come together to attend classes on hostas and various other subjects.  She wanted a bookstore...offering great books at reduced prices.  She had vending in mind so people could see and purchase the latest hostas and hostas you don't find at your typical garden center.

We established the idea of a "hosta auction" with the latest and best hostas offered from some of the best hybridizers.  And lastly, Sandy's idea was that every teacher, every one involved, would freely donate their time, expertise and abilities.  There was never a fee offered to teachers or anyone else.  The only fee involved was for registration of attendees that covered a lunch and a banquet dinner on Saturday.

It was in 1993 at Sandy's home that Rita and I had an invitation to come to the very first planning meeting to discuss the idea of Hosta College.  Two members from each society in the region came together and it was an amazing meeting with incredible minds and talent coming together in one room.  The bottom line...it was through the genius mind of Sandy Wilkins that the Great Lakes Region Hosta College was made into a reality. Sandy is truly a neat gal, a great friend and she and her husband Dr. Jim Wilkins have worked tiressly for the Genus Hosta.  I believe the Hosta world owes them a debt of graditude for their commitment on the local level, the regional level and on the national level.  They are amazing people.

The very first Hosta College took place in Dayton but the location was not ideal so after the second year they asked me to look for something in my area. I went first to Edison State College in Piqua and they told me there was a substantial charge for each room we would have to rent.  They were talking up to a thousand dollars.  Well...that was not feasible


But they suggested that I go right next door to the JVS.  Can you imagine my elation when JVS told me that there would be absolutely NO CHARGE to use the facility?  I could barely take that in and I know that I couldn't wipe the smile off my face.  And as I walked away from that meeting, I knew, I knew we had found the place where the next Great Lakes Region Hosta College would take place.  As it turned out, we have had a fantastic relationship with that school and it has put Piqua, Ohio on the map in the Hosta world.

Any of you who have attened Hosta College in our own little city of Piqua have had first hand knowledge of how unique it is.  It heralds spring for us every year and people from many states and overseas come together to renew friendships and attend classes and see the latest offering of hostas.  Mike Shadrack came from England regularly to attend and speak.  He is more than a little well known in the hosta world and Rita and I both claim him as a friend.

So here's a little plug for Hosta College...It is a literal shopping paradise...especially for the novice hosta grower.  Rita's brother-in-law and sister-in-lae Fred and Rhonda Williams, whom some of you might know, actually sell Earth Worm Castings for composting in the vending area.  The sales area has garden art, unique plant material, pottery and a myriad of other offerings.  In addition, the College can certainly boast on its great teachers and classes and it's a place where wonderful friendships are renewed and made.

If you've not been there...come next March and see what all the buzz is about.

Enrollment Figures

2005    2007    2008    2009    2010    2011    2012    2013    2014    2015    

 411      400      433      371      368      381      357      360      369      354      



2/08/16  257 are registered the first weekend
2/13/16  284 members registered before opening to non-members
2/19/16  316 are registered first weekend opened to non-members



2/05/17  250 are registered the first weekend
2/11/17  276 are registered before opening to non-members
2/12/17  304 are registered after first weekend opened to non-members


2/04/18  224 are registered after the first weekend
2/09/18  247 are registered before opening to non-members
2/18/18  319 are registered at end of first week of non-members

1/28/19  207 are registered after the first weekend
2/01/19  227 are registered before opening to non-members
2/08/19  238 are registered after first week of non-members

2/03/20  221 are registered after the first weekend
2/07/20  238 are registered before opening non-members
2/15/20  300 are registered after first week of non-members


3/20/21  Hosta College was a  virtual via Zoom Webinar Format.