Is There Something Wrong With My Hosta?


20170806_131212Hostas are wonderful shade and even occasionally sun plants–bone hardy in the cold, increasing in size every year so that you can divide them and either spread them around your garden, share them with friends, or have plants to sell at your garden club’s plant sale (but do be aware of those patented varieties!)

But what happens if you notice a hosta that’s not behaving like that?



Well, first thing first, take a closer look. Might you have a pesky underground rodent like a vole nibbling on the roots?

Are deer or rabbits nibbling at it from above? Is a woodchuck eating it from both sides?


If none of those things seems to be occurring, take an even closer look at the leaves. Do they exhibit anything out of the ordinary? If so, you may have a hosta infected with hosta mosaic virus, otherwise known as hosta virus X (HSX).

How does this  virus manifest itself? It can appear any number of ways. The leaves can appear puckered or stippled or stunted. The color can appear broken–in fact, when the virus first appeared, many breeders thought they had new unique variations among hostas on their hands before the virus was recognized.

This fact sheet from the University of Wisconsin not only has some great information about the virus, but has some great photos of infected leaves.

HSX has been around since 1996 but I know when I was working in retail gardening (from 2001-2008) it was only beginning to be recognized as an issue so that tells you how long it took to catch on, even in the trade.

Thee is no cure for HSX. Infected plants need to be removed–carefully–from your garden and destroyed. Do not compost them! And now, after re-acquainting myself with these photos for this post, I need to go out to take a hard look at a couple of my own hostas!





A Little Certainty Please


You may remember this photo from a few weeks ago.  It was in the post about the composed flowers. At the time,  I was using the photo to illustrate various types of composite flowers, like the cone flowers shown.

Today, I am going to use those 2 same cone flowers to talk about epic failures in plant breeding, and why it is important for plants to be around awhile before you put them in your garden if you are attempting any type of longevity.

I suspect anyone who has planted any of the yellow cone flowers over the years knows exactly where I am going with this.

Needless to say,  I  didn’t plant either of these two cone flowers. I would never plant a white one–I don’t like them.

I might once have planted a purple one, but not in this garden. In this garden, I only planted yellow and harvest type colors. And you see what remains: purple and white.

I can tell you exactly what has happened.  The same breeder that is dumping out all the strains of heuchera that are dying on you left and right is also dumping out poor seed quality cone flowers that revert to their parentage.

That breeder shall remain nameless.  The plant world thinks he’s a big deal. I am not fooled.

Bonsai As I Have Never Seen It


A few decades ago, I used to practice (and I do mean practice in the most rudimentary sense of the word) the art of bonsai. I had several–mostly tropicals, but a few evergreen types like satsuki azaleas and even a few nursery specimens that I had turned into bonsai myself. I was fairly proud of those.

(And no, that is not one of my bonsai. All of the images in this post are from the bonsai show at Elizabeth Park in Hartford July 8-9 of this year.)


What happened? One exceptionally bad house sitter. I came home and found–despite extremely careful watering instructions, and plants grouped together by watering needs–over 33 of my plants dead. Returning from a lovely vacation is difficult enough. Returning to a massive plant die-off is devastating.


So that was the point at which I decided that either my bonsai hobby had to go or I had to stop traveling. So I no longer practice bonsai with the exception of a couple of ridiculously hardy plants which I am not particularly attached to.

The photos I am including in this post are photos of perennials–an alpine strawberry,  a true geranium (pelargonium species) and three hosta, all of which are done in bonsai style called mame.  It’s bonsai in smaller pots, or miniature bonsai.


What’s interesting about this is that I don’t remember any of this when I belonged to a bonsai club several years ago. But I absolutely love it!


I am still not necessarily willing to attempt it on any sort of large scale. But if I find a hosta seedling, I might just begin training it. What have I got to lose?

Oh, Hail!

I can count on one hand the number of hail storms that I remember.  My particular part of the state and the country is blessed not to receive such weather.  Hip deep snows, yes, on a regular basis.  Hail, not so much.

So a couple of weeks ago when it started hailing,  my immediate worry was the plants.  Everyone else worries,  naturally enough,  about their cars. I figure that my car is insured. But I am not going to make an insurance claim for my plants, most of which are annuals or vegetables.  The perennials will recover and grow back. The house plants too, eventually.

But this presumes that you don’t need all those containers that are planted for a lecture any time soon–as I do. And even I am not crazy enough to go running out into a thunderstorm with hail to try to save them. If need be, I will find–or plant–something else.

So, after a hailstorm,  how do you distinguish hail damage from insect damage?  I guess it depends on the size of your hail.

Back in 2009, our last significant hail storm, there was no doubt.  Everything was shredded.

But this time, we had small hail.


Here it is in one of my pots. At best, I would call this “pea” sized. But don’t be deceived.  It can still do a lot of damage.


This hosta leaf survived pretty well because it was under a Japanese maple. The force of the hail was broken.


Contrast the hosta leaf with this begonia grandis which was out in the open (just above the pot full of hail, in fact).


These violet leaves are showing both hail damage  (the leaf to the far right of the photo) and insects chewing  (the top leaf in the photo). Contrast the way the leaf is chewed irregularly, and down to the ribs of the leaf, with the small circular holes caused by the hail.


Here’s more insect damage,  this time on some small bean shoots. They are the plants nearest the bamboo stake–there are a few plants in the photo.

The bean leaf nearest the parsley has clearly been chewed. Do I know by what? I haven’t a clue. Since I am not seeing slug slime trails and I am seeing lots of earwigs, I will guess that it’s earwigs, but it’s just a guess. It also could be slugs.

I will watch closely just in case it turns out to be bean beetles but I have seen no evidence of those either and they are a daytime pest, so I should be seeing those.

In any event,  it’s only two leaves. It’s hardly a crisis.

But at all times, it is important to be watchful in the garden,  to know what’s causing plant damage,  and to take action,  if necessary.

Found Plants


If you have been following me for a long time,  you know how much I love these plants. I am talking about the grey, tall, felty spikes that you see sort of evenly spaced along this otherwise weedy edge of the garden.  (And, yes, I know some of you think that these plants are weeds!)

I don’t happen to think of them that way. I think of them as native plants.


Here’s another spot they popped up.  They are bi-enniels so I knew last year that they were growing. I had nice low felty rosettes.

Their proper name is verbascum, but they have lots of common names like miner’s candle, common mullein and big taper.

I just really like them and the bumblebees do too. I’ll let them set seed so that ideally the cycle will continue again next year with more rosettes.


In The Pink


It struck me a few days ago how many different shades of pink there are in my garden.


Many of these are roses, and many of the roses are similar shades of pink. This is a new version of one of the OSO Easy roses.


And here’s the original Knockout rose, probably a good 20 years older–and yet, a similar shade. Does it keep me from wanting–or acquiring each? Of course not.


Then there are the more old-fashioned looking roses. Although this cluster of roses looks for all the world like an old-world rose, if you spy the catmint flower poking its head up in the background, you realize how tiny these roses actually are. This is one of the Drift roses. Another–a single form–is right next to it.


This is a totally different look–but no less charming.


This is supposed to be the “red” version of the Fairy rose. It’s “red” only if you know how pink the original Fairy rose is.


And here’s that tropical house plant that was in bud in my window earlier this spring. It certainly has lived up to its promise of glorious flowers.


Even begonias can have wildly differently “pink” flowers. This one doesn’t look so pink–until you contrast it with the one below which is almost salmon-y by comparison!


Even the dipladenia, shown below, screams out a shocking fuchsia hue after the salmon-y hue of the above begonia!


So let’s end with some true pink, shall we, of a miniature pelargonium in a trough garden. Hope you enjoyed the “pink tour!”


It’s Pollinator Week–What About Plants?

On Monday I talked about the importance of native plants. I said that if you had a choice, and if you liked native plants,  you should choose them because wildlife will always seek out native plants.

For all of you who don’t have natives in your yard (& I include myself in that group because a large portion of my yard is planted with ornamental plants) I will refer you to Douglas Tallamay’s still excellent  book Bringing Nature Home. It was there that I  learned about the true importance of native plants, and that an native  oak tree will feed several hundred different types of creatures whereas some of our imported ornamentals feed none. They’re lovely to look at but absolutely barren in terms of value to wildlife.

But that doesn’t mean that all our ornamentals have no value to wildlife.  Anyone who has watched bees on Japanese pieris early in the spring knows that that shrub, imported ornamental that it is, is quite valuable to the early emerging bumble bees in my region.

Similarly, hydrangeas of all sorts are usually covered in pollinators  (at least in my yard). I have seen several different types of bees, a couple of different types of wasps,  and a few different types of flies all on my hydrangeas (yes, I have a lot of hydrangeas).


Another non-native ornamental,  roses, also attract bees. This Oso Easy rose was full of several different kinds of bees,  none of which obligingly posed for me. I saw several smaller bees, plus honeybees and bumblebees all on this large shrub.


Catnip (nepeta) and lavender are two more perennials that are always covered in bees of all sorts. You can see a bumble bees on the nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ in the above photo.

And speaking of herbs, we are told to plant various sorts of herbs to assist different types of pollinators: parsley,  dill, anything with an umbel flower. None of those are “natives.”


In the heat last week,  some of my leaf lettuce went to seed. But the smaller bees are loving the flowers so I am letting those stay as well.

So if you are feeling a little inferior,  perhaps,  because you don’t have native plants, or enough native plants, or the right kind of native plants, fear not! You can still garden for pollinators and they’ll love you!