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.

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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 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.

Growing White-Centered Hostas!

White Centered Hostas

Let’s face it, most of us are gravitated to white-centered hostas as the leaf contrast in usually very striking. We all think of hostas as the indestructible, easy, no care plant. The problem with the white-centered hostas is that there is no chlorophyll in the white tissue. The white part of the hosta cannot produce food for the roots and needs to be supported by the green parts of the leaf.

Hosta 'White Christmas'

Hosta ‘White Christmas’

With that said you can imagine that the more white tissue in the leaf then the harder the plant is to grow. The fact is that these hostas don’t always perform as well as intended and sometimes they don’t survive. This does not mean that you should just give up on trying them but you need to understand that there are multiple factors that can aid you in your quest to grow them. The white-centered hostas will demand more light than other hostas but it wants to be indirect sun. What we mean by this is that morning sun is not as direct and hot as mid-day sun. If these hostas are sited in a bright morning sun location it helps the plant produce energy for the roots. A bright filtered sun during the day is also a good location. Too much direct sun can burn the white part of the leaf. If you have a mostly shaded location then white-centered hostas might not be what you want to plant there although there are exceptions. White-centered hostas with thicker leaves perform great in the shade garden. Examples for us are ‘American Sweetheart’, ‘Ann Kulpa’, ‘Lakeside Spellbinder’ and ‘Night Before Christmas’.

Hosta 'American Sweetheart'

Hosta ‘American Sweetheart’

The white-centered hostas also want an adequate amount of water to help them perform. The only way some of the white-centered hostas will reach their potential size is if they receive a sufficient amount of sun and water in a location with good fertile soil. New Hampshire Hostas always lists the largest size each hosta could possibly reach at maturity, but this is very dependent on location and more important with the white-centered hostas. White-centered hostas will generally be much smaller than the listed sizes because of the the factors listed above.

For the casual gardener these hostas can be quite a disappointment if not sited correctly but for the avid hosta grower these are treasured plants that we try multiple times in multiple locations until we get it right. We have noticed with a few white-centered hostas that patience is a virtue. We stopped selling ‘Lakeside Love Affaire’ and ‘My Child Insook’ because they performed so badly in the container and in the garden. They did not die in the ground but also did not perform well enough to demand a location in the garden. We decided to leave them in the garden and gave them extra care (water and fertilizer), by the fourth year both of them performed pretty well. The ‘Lakeside Love Affaire’ was so nice that we have brought it back into production. This picture is from our garden this year (2014).

Hosta 'Lakeside Love Affaire'

Hosta ‘Lakeside Love Affaire’

Another type of white-centered hostas that perform well are viridescent types. These hostas emerge with white but will add more green in the leaf as the season progresses which helps the plant perform better. Hostas that are viridescent are ‘Allegan Fog’, ‘Dancing Stars’, ‘Guardian Angel’, ‘Midnight at the Oasis’, ‘Whirlwind’, ‘White Christmas’, ‘White Elephant’ and ‘Zebra Stripes’.

Hosta 'Guardian Angel'

Hosta ‘Guardian Angel’

In closing, we don’t want you to be discouraged if you were thinking about growing white-centered hostas but rather be educated on what you can do to have better success. You might get a little frustrated and you might have to try multiple times but everyone should own a successful clump of Hosta ‘Andrew’!

Hosta 'Andrew'

Hosta ‘Andrew’