What is a Hosta and Why Should I Grow Hostas?

The easy answer to this question is that they are the most popular, bestselling perennial in the world. That being said, let me give my two cents into why this is true.

Hostas are shade tolerant perennials that are extremely hardy and require very little maintenance. They are shade tolerant, not shade loving. Most hostas prefer a bright east facing area with a few hours of direct morning sun. Hostas do very well in a filtered light situation under the canopies of trees and shrubs and not in a dark area with little light. They do not like to be placed in a heavily rooted area, especially with a lot of surface roots from trees where they will fight for moisture and nutrients. Some hosta cultivars depending on their lineage can handle quite a bit of sun. Fragrant hostas are good for sunnier locations because they have the species Hosta plantagenea in their genes. If you want to grow hostas in a mostly sunny location then you should amend the soil with compost and peat moss and supply adequate moisture for best results. We recommend amending the soil with compost and peat wherever you plant them as they love a nice fertile soil to thrive and achieve their true potential.

SONY DSC

One of our hosta gardens

My favorite part of growing hostas in a shaded area is the absence of noxious weeds. I have shade gardens that I might weed three times a season and sunnier gardens that need it weekly. I love walking through the shade gardens or sitting in a chair in the shade gardens on a nice summer day where the shade keeps you cool from the hot summer sun. A major pet peeve of mine or maybe just more of a disappointment is driving by a house with a large shaded area that is either barren or just mulched. This is a perfect area for hostas and companion plants. With a little bit of work you will be rewarded with a mass of reliable color and texture instead of weeds, leaves or just plain bark mulch. The goal should be to have people stop in front of your house to see the colors and textures of a beautiful hosta garden.

Sherri-Garden-Pic

Garden picture from our employee Sherri’s yard

Hostas are incredibly versatile plants as previously noted above but also because of the large range of colors and leaf shapes they offer. Hostas come in multiple variations of blue, green, gold, white and even red. Clump sizes can be as small as 2-3 inches tall and as tall as 4 feet. Hosta leaves come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and forms. Just look at the amount of adjectives used to describe hosta leaves and clumps on our website. From giant to miniature, cupped, flat, heart-shaped, lance-shaped, vase-shaped, corrugated, deeply veined, folded, rippled, glaucous, misted, streaked and twisted to name a few. A good hosta garden has a never ending array of colors and attributes. I love when you talk to someone about hostas and their reply is, “Oh, those green and white things?”. These people have no idea of the magnitude to what the species of hosta is capable of!

Bringing Bluebirds and Tree Swallows Into Your Hosta Gardens

For those that are struggling to develop thriving tree swallow and bluebird populations in their hosta gardens and yards, I have some thoughts on how to reverse this problem. This is certainly not the final solution, but the answer to why you need to help them to be successful in today’s environment.

Prior to the settling 4-22-16-bluebirds-nesting-239of the colonists, the beavers were making dams, killing off the trees behind the dams, and providing perfect nesting areas for hole-dwelling birds like the tree swallow or bluebird. Protection from predators was given by the water surrounding a tree, which acted as a moat that kept them from reaching the nests. For those of you who have seen the recent expansion of the beavers, you will see this happening in its natural process.

So what does this mean for homeowners, who obviously do not have beaver dams on their properties? The protective living situation that these birds existed within must be mimicked in order to prevent the predator from climbing your birdhouse bearing pole or tree. Installing an obstruction of your choice will provide this protection. There are physical obstructions like cones, sticky feet, and a myriad of other barriers and deterrents that can be used.

These options can be further explored by doing some of your own research. Find a method that works for you to prevent mostly nocturnal predators from climbing the pole to eat the eggs or the babies; or, in the case of squirrels, to occupy the nest box for themselves.

Hosta Pest Control: Deer Deterrent Strategy 102

I would like to share a refined strategy on how to protect your hosta garden from deer. This is an accumulated strategy, built from research and experience. Using deer deterrents successfully can be somewhat of a challenge, but I have applied this strategy within my own hosta gardens with great results.

You have to understand and accept a few principles guiding the behavior of the individual deer and the herd. There are many variables that can play a role in the behavior of the deer. These variables include but are by no means limited to weather conditions, herd size, available food, and time of year.

The individual deer appears to have a great memory. It will recognize that it is April, and the hosta are emerging from your garden. Or perhaps it is January with heavy snow cover; that same deer remembers that the yews and arborvitae in the garden are still tasty. If the deer is hungry enough, it will eat right at your front door.deer_garden

The fact that the individual deer bears this strong memory is troublesome enough,  but the doe brings her offspring into your gardens to feed as well. As a result, the entire herd retains the memory of your location. Even if something happens to the mother doe, her offspring  will remember where she took them on any given week.

Due to the factors listed above and the deer’s ability to remember feeding locations, it is my opinion that a multi-faceted approach is key to protecting your hosta from them.

It is important when combating deer to have a less desirable yard than your neighbors. Like the old joke about the two campers who run into a bear on their trip, “I don’t have to outrun the bear—I just have to outrun you!” As long as the deer are more attracted to your neighbor’s yard, you will not have them in your gardens.

While I will not explain in detail how to utilize various deterrents due to the wide array of products and tactics available, I will mention some that have worked well for me. It is recommended that you do some research and experimentation in order to find which products or tactics will work best for your situation.

A dog that is free to roam your yard and urinate randomly is a great deterrent. If this is an option for you, then it is a great place to start; however, I understand that most homeowners are not in the position to make this work. I am fortunate enough to be able to do this. Abby and the other dogs that have roamed freely during working hours and urinated as they pleased have kept the deer completely out of our gardens despite the heavy population of deer in the area.

SONY DSC

If a free-roaming dog is not an option, there are still plenty of tactics to implement. Regardless of which ones you decide to use, I suggest that you use three different deterrents at any given time. I also strongly recommend mixing up tactics from year to year. As said before, the deer are smart and carry a great memory. Changing tactics up will keep them from outsmarting your efforts. Using the canine urine, the soaps, the motion makers and other approaches in a combined rotation will certainly put up a strong fight against the deer in your hosta gardens.

Hosta Sports and Reversions

What is wrong with my hosta? Why does some of the clump look different from the rest? What is a sport? What is a reversion?

Here is a technical definition of both a sport and a reversion.

  • Sport: An individual arising from the result of mutation, chimeral rearrangement, or mitotic recombination that is genotypically or phenotypically different from the original individual.
  • Reversion: (in Hosta) The change of a variegated sport back to its original solid color predecessor.

So what does that mean in layman’s terms?

A sport is a leaf bud in a clump of hosta that grows differently than the rest of the clump.

See the green growing in the clump of ‘Guacamole’ in the picture to the right. DSC031912The green is not a reversion because ‘Guacamole’ is actually a sport of ‘Fragrant Bouquet’. There are different types of sports as noted below.

  • Mutation: A genetic change of DNA of an individual.
  • Chimeral Rearrangement: (in Hosta) Changing position of the cells between different tissue layers in an individual, i.e., a gold-margined hosta producing a gold-centered, all-green, or all-gold division.
  • Mitotic Recombination: A change in the genetic make-up or physical appearance.

A reversion is a leaf bud in a clump of hosta that goes back to the original mother plant. DSC031921See the one dark green center of ‘Sum of All’ in the picture to the left.  The remaining leaves of the plant have reverted back to the gold of ‘Sum and Substance.’

So What Do We Do With a Sport or Reversion?

Both should be removed by using a knife and cutting the bud off of the clump. The best way to do this would be to lift the whole hosta and separate all the unwanted divisions, then reset the original hosta.

These sports and reversions can be kept if they are wanted and grown somewhere else in the garden.

The Subtle Beauty of Epimediums

The following is wikiHow’s definition of subtle beauty.

“Subtle beauty is almost indefinable and makes a woman seem special; achieving it requires modesty and self-awareness. A person may desire to exhibit subtle beauty rather than being exhibitionist and objectifying the body. Those with subtle beauty don’t scream for attention, but instead are happy with who they are without having to manipulate others through using their physical beauty to feel that way.”

Epimedium x rubrum

Epimedium x rubrum

This is how I would describe the presence of Epimediums in a shade garden.  They are not going to scream out to you from across the lawn ‘come look at me’. But when you come across them mixed into a shade garden they are going to make a memorable impression on you with their subtle beauty.

I feel that companion plants improve any hosta garden by accenting the shapes and colors of hosta. Epimedium plants are an easy to grow deer resistant companion plant that prefers moist but well drained soil and once established is somewhat drought  tolerant. The more vigorous cultivars may be used under the spread of  maple trees.  During the growing season they exhibit a beautiful canopy of foliage in addition to a prolonged period of spring flowering.  Leaves emerge green in the spring but many have a beautiful bronzy coloration.

Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’

Once well established they form a weed inhibiting ground cover with their dense canopy.  They are a rhizomatous plant that spreads and fills in with time.  They are not an overly aggressive perennial that becomes a nuisance.

If you are trying Epimediums for the first time I would highly suggest one of the vigorous cultivars.

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphurium’ is a vigorous yellow blooming cultivar with dark green foliage that emerges initially with chocolate colored foliage.

Epimedium grandaflorum 'Dark Beauty'

Epimedium grandaflorum ‘Dark Beauty’

The grandiflorums are also easy to cultivate.  Epimedium grandiforum ‘Dark Beauty’  exhibits large purple and white flowers  in April and May.  Epimedium  grandiforum  ‘Rose Queen’ offers bright pink flowers in late spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epimedium x versicolor 'Cherry Tart'

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Cherry Tart’

For those of you looking to take a walk on the wild side, why not try Epimedium  x versicolor ‘Cherry Tart’?  It is slower growing but the striking  pink and cherry red flowers may be just the thing to spice up your garden.

Deer resistant, winter hardy, easy to grow, ground cover flowering perennials. What’s not to love?

We’re Excited to See These Beauties!

This time of year we are always dreaming of seeing all the hostas emerge. We all have our favorites but there are some that you just get excited to see again.

Montana Aureomarginata Hosta

montana ‘Aureomarginata’ is always the first hosta to show itself and let us know the season has begun.

Dawns Early Light Hosta

We love when ‘Dawn’s Early Light’ unfurls and displays those neon yellow leaves!

Autumn Frost Hosta

The bright yellow margins with nice blue centers on ‘Autumn Frost’ are outstanding in spring.

Jetstream Hosta

I really fell in love with ‘Jetstream’ last year and can’t wait to see how blue it is this spring.

Final Summation Hosta

If you grow ‘Final Summation’ you can’t wait to see it bigger this year. If you don’t have it, click add to cart now!

Guardian Angel Hosta

‘Guardian Angel’ puts on a show in spring with bright white-centered leaves.

Liberty Hosta

‘Liberty’ shines in the shade garden with those wide gold margins. A real beauty!

Our Favorite Cute Small Hostas

These small hostas are perfect as border perennial plants or when you need to fill that small space in your rock garden. These small hostas also make great container plants for a deck or poor soil area in the garden. We like these cuties for their vibrant colors and garden performance.

Appletini Hosta, small hostaCherry Tart Hosta, a small hostaCorkscrew Hosta, a small hostaCurley Fries Hosta, a small hostaFrosted Mouse Ears Hosta, a mini hostaHideout Hosta, a small hostaHoly Mouse Ears Hosta, a miniature hostaLittle Treasure Hosta, a small hostaMighty Mouse Hosta, a miniature hostaMini Skirt Hosta, a small hostaMouse Trap Hosta, a miniature hostaRainbow's End Hosta, a small hostaSilver Threads & Golden Needles Hosta, a small hostaSlim and Trim Hosta, a small hostaTick Tock Hosta, a miniature hosta

Our Favorite Blue Hostas

Did you know that blue is the rarest color in a garden? Our blue hosta plants will give your garden true blue colors! From deep blue hostas to soft power blue hosta plants, intense blues and fragrant blues, these shade perennials are sure to delight! We like these blues for their good blue color and excellent garden performance.  Here’s our favorites!

Blue Tooth HostaBlueberry Muffin Hosta

Camelot Hosta, a Blue HostaGemstone Hosta, a Blue Hosta

Jetstream Hosta, a Blue HostaPewterware Hosta, a Blue HosaPrairie Sky Hosta, a Blue HosaRock and Roll Hosta, a Blue HostaSkylight Hosta, a Blue Hosta

Our Favorite Big Hostas

We often get asked what hostas we would recommend and, of course, our answer is “All of Them!”  We hope you have a really big yard. It is always a hard question to answer as everyone’s opinions are different. We tend to lean towards the dependable growers that grab our attention in the garden. Here are a few (or more) hostas that we think everyone should have in their shade garden.

If you want big, then our favorites are:

Blueberry Waffles Hosta, a Giant HostaBridal Falls Hosta, a Giant HostaBrother Stefan Hosta, a Giant HostaDevil's Advocate Hosta, a Giant HostaEmpress Wu Hosta, a Giant hostaFinal Summation Hosta, a Giant HostaBlue Legend Hosta, a Giant HostaFrost Giant Hosta, a Giant Hosta Gentle Giant Hosta, a Giant HostaKey West Hosta, a Giant HostaLiberty Hosta, a Giant HostaParhelion Hosta, a Giant HostaSimply Sharon Hosta, a Giant Hosta

Benefits Of Buying From a Reputable Hosta Nursery!

Well, we can answer this in one sentence. You are guaranteed to receive a correctly labelled plant that is not diseased! This is not to say that we are perfect but we stand behind our plants and will fix any problems you may have with your order! Of course we will go into greater detail with a description of this statement but that is the short of it.

Guaranteed True to Name!

We have seen numerous posts on multiple forums from unaware people posting hostas with the wrong name. This is not the consumers fault as most hosta growers don’t know the difference between all the hosta cultivars. You assume that if the label was in that plant container then that is what it is. The problem with this is that almost no one working in a local nursery or a big box store could identify hostas by name. They are all hostas to them and they all look alike. If a customer takes the label out and does not replace it or puts it back in the wrong container then the chances of this getting fixed are slim to none.

Hostas are notorious for mutating (sporting) as well and we see this happen here often. These plants should never be sold as the plant they are labelled as. An all green ‘Guacamole’ is not ‘Guacamole’. It’s not that anyone is at fault for this but when someone orders a ‘Guacamole’ they should feel comfortable that they received what they bought. Although there are some interesting and new sports to be found the majority of them are less valuable than the actual hosta for sale. If one of these plants are being sold at a garden center or box store it will never be corrected and someone is bound to buy it mistakenly.

New Hampshire Hostas guarantees that you will receive a true to name hosta and will fix any problems you may have with your order.

What’s Wrong With My Hosta?

As we mentioned in the opening statement, we guarantee that our plants are not diseased. There are a few viruses that hostas are susceptible of being infected with.

The most well-known and feared virus is Hosta Virus X (HVX).

This virus affects the appearance of the hosta usually with green blotching and spotting. This virus is transmitted primarily through cutting the plants. Contact of the infected plant’s sap with sap of a healthy plant will infect the new plant. This can happen whenever cuts are made and the instruments or hands are not disinfected afterwards. Dividing hostas, removing bloom scapes, removing leaves, stepping on them, even accidentally running the lawnmower over them can and will spread this virus. It survives only in living plant tissue and dies without a host. Plants in pots may be simply disposed of or burned. Plants in the ground should be dug carefully as to get as many roots as possible, and the spot should not be replanted until any remaining roots have died and rotted away.

We took this photo from a hosta forum in which an aware consumer noticed these affected ‘Sum and Substance’ being sold in a box store.

Hosta'Sum and Substance' with HVX

Hosta’Sum and Substance’ with HVX

Here lies the biggest problem with this virus. Most nurseries and box stores are not aware of the virus and therefore just sell them. Even worse is their suppliers do know of the virus but making their quota is more important than remedying the issue. Even if the hostas next to an affected hosta don’t show symptoms you can assume that the virus is there and just not showing it yet. If you see affected plants do not buy these hostas and more importantly let someone working there know so we can stop the spread of this virus.

New Hampshire Hostas and other hosta nurseries are very aware of this virus and only buy stock from reputable suppliers that offer clean unaffected stock.

A Healthy Hosta 'Sum & Substance' Growing in Our Garden.

A Healthy Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ Growing in Our Garden.

We soak all propagated divisions in a hydrogen peroxide bath when we do our dividing. This kills any fungus, is a good overall cleanser and stimulates the roots. We clean all of our propagating and pruning tools in a bleach solution after every use. There is very little chance for the spread of diseases with our stock.

So hopefully you can see the importance of supporting the hosta nurseries and the tireless work they do to produce clean, true to name hostas for their customers.

Yes, you can get cheap hostas at other local nurseries and box stores, but do you really know what you’re getting? There is a reason for the low costs of these plants. Reputable hosta nurseries can justify a slightly higher cost of their plants because you are guaranteed to receive a true to name plant that is not diseased.