editoria

How could I have lost all my hostas?

Alisande
9 months ago

This is such an odd year. When spring arrived I noticed several unexpected changes on the property. One of these was the disappearance of the hostas that grew along the base of the east side of my ice house. Some of them had been there for decades (with division when necessary), and some were only about five or six years old. I'd say six or seven varieties were represented. All were gone. Just gone. At first I thought they were late to come up, but they never emerged. Instead, lots of weeds, a couple of them not normally here, took their place.

The only other hostas I have are a Paradigm under one tree and a Drinking Gourd under another. The Paradigm seems fine, but the Drinking Gourd is unrecognizable. The leaves, instead of being large, blue-green, heavily textured and cupped, are small, flat, and dark green. The plant is small too.

I can't imagine what is going on here. Can you?


Comments (53)

  • sjerin
    9 months ago

    Snails ate mine Years ago. Do you have moles or gophers?

  • nickel_kg
    9 months ago

    If it were rabbits or deer, wouldn't you see stems or something? disturbed ground if it were plant thieves?

    I had a patch of common milkweed that failed to emerge this year. I've no idea why an established, long lived perennial would not come back.

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  • Alisande
    Original Author
    9 months ago

    I see the occasional mole, but no gophers. We certainly have deer and rabbits, and I have to spray regularly with Liquid Fence, but I never even got a chance to see the hostas, much less spray them this year. I can't imagine plant thieves around here. Plus it would take the strength of 10 men to dig up the older ones. lol

    Nickel, your milkweed sounds like the same kind of thing that happened here. Another weird event this spring was the disappearance of a large planting of comfrey. Again, it had been there for years. Comfrey is practically indestructible, at least that's what I always thought. When that planting got out of hand I would just roughly dig up some down to their heavy roots and toss them across the road, where they would just take hold and grow. Suddenly this year I'm down to a comfrey here and a comfrey there. Where the large planting stood we now have nothing but the ugliest weeds. I really should ID them. They're impossible to pull out.

  • murraysmom Zone 6a OH
    9 months ago

    Between the hard freeze we had in mid May and the deer around here, mine are unrecognizable too. I hope they will come back strong next year. Our garden experts said not to do anything to them when they took the hit from the freeze. They did come back but look just awful. Of course the deer don't care how they look.

  • nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis
    9 months ago

    just an idea..could they have been sprayed with weedkiller?..

  • Babka NorCal 9b
    9 months ago

    When you dig, are there any roots? When critters eat from the top at least there is still a crown and roots. When critters eat from the bottom, all the roots are gone. and nothing comes up. What is where they used to be???? Anything?


    -Babka

  • maire_cate
    9 months ago

    We have so many voles that we now have to be careful when walking through the yard that we don't accidentally step into a tunnel and fall. This spring I noticed that one of my camellias had fallen over but when we tried to re-plant it noticed that the roots had been chewed. Then a month later the one next to it developed brown leaves and died - the voles were at work.

    Since they don't hibernate in the winter they may have survived on your hosta roots which is a plant they apparently love. Luckily they leave my hellebores alone. DH has declared war on them and before we plant any new shrubs we're going to use hardware cloth. He's thinking about buying a granular product that your sprinkle on the ground and it dissolves into the spoil making the roots unappealing. That just sounds too simple so I wonder if it works.

  • R. Jack
    9 months ago

    the mole/vole repellant that I used actually did work. it was a pelletized castor oil product.

  • Alisande
    Original Author
    9 months ago

    I suppose it's likely we have voles, although in 45 years here I never gave them a thought. If they feed on roots, they might have eaten the comfrey for dessert.

    Babka, I should have dug in there to see what's left, if anything. I'll do that. The area where the hostas used to be is covered with weeds and a few ferns. The ferns were always trying to pop up among the hostas. I should pull those weeds. I was reinfected with bartonella after a tick bite this summer, but I'm feeling better now.

    Nicholsworth, weed killer would have explained it, but I don't use any.

    Thanks, everyone!

  • maire_cate
    9 months ago

    R. Jack - the granular product my husband bought is castor oil. He put it down last week so it's probably too early to see if it's working.

  • Elizabeth
    9 months ago

    They do come up the following year if the deer eat the foliage. I had voles eat a round hole right straight through the trunk of my flowering crab. It died.

  • Mystical Manns
    9 months ago

    I know absolutely NOTHING ... but am just wondering, are the hosta and comfrey patches anywhere near the wellhouse or waterline between the wellhouse and your house? Since there is a concern about the water (from another thread) perhaps it's leaking along the way and affected the plants?

  • Alisande
    Original Author
    9 months ago

    That's an interesting thought, Mystical, but the well is on the other side of the house. It's close to the house. There's no water access on the other side of the house. The hostas were planted alongside the stone ice house. My bean arch and irises are doing fine between the house and the ice house.

  • Mystical Manns
    9 months ago

    Gotcha!

  • nicole___
    9 months ago

    I once ordered 150 Oriental lilies from Jackson & Perkins. They came up, flourished for several years, then vanished. Upon closer inspection, there were a series of tunnels under the area. Voles!

  • steve duggins(Z6a) - Central Ohio
    9 months ago

    Perhaps some type of soil fungus, root rot?

  • socks
    9 months ago

    So sorry, Alisande, you'll miss those beautiful plants. (I gave up on them when I lost the war with slugs.) As you indicated in another post, welcome to 2020. Just doesn't seem to be a great year for anyone.

  • maifleur03
    9 months ago

    If there was a thief that dug them last fall you may not have noticed the disturbed soil. It might have been a burrowing animal you need to look at the soil to see if it is soft as if it has been disturbed or harder as if something ate the hosta's from underneath.

  • krystalmoon2009
    9 months ago

    I have had a vole/voles eat a hosta and pull the whole plant right down in the hole with them. Granted it was a small hosta that i wanted in a particular area, I gave up on the idea of a hosta in this area but I did put down something for moles/voles and planted an elephant ear there and so far no problem.

  • arcy_gw
    9 months ago
    last modified: 9 months ago

    A thief would have left behind some roots and that would have shown up small this year...my vote is a vole. I have had that happen to one in town. It sounds like you had a herd of them!! I was told the freeze/snow cover and how they match up or don't keeps the voles from hibernating but they are still hungry so there goes the hosta! There is a hosta form and those peeps are EXPERTS. Ask over there.

  • marcopolo5
    9 months ago

    Gardening is a contest between you and all critters. They all are watching everyday with their napkins tucked in. Voles , deer and groundhogs ruin most every thing . Voles are very hard to get rid of, we used mouse traps in the runs with a covering over it, like a frizbee. They multiple rapidly, you probably have dozens. We spray invisible fence weekly at great expense for the deer. One hard rain or skip a day and they are into all of the garden. We use electric fence to protect the prize hostas. They figured out ways to get under the edge and eat the border. My hosta beds are now level with the ground, we are watering to try and save the roots . We had the vegetables fenced. Groundhog dug under fence finished off two plantings of stringbeans. They love the young tender plants. We are gardeners for 50 years and the joy is gone from planting and growing plants.

  • liquidfeet Z6 Boston
    9 months ago

    Oh my @marcopolo5 that's horrible. I am so sad for you. I understand your despair.

  • chessey35
    9 months ago

    From experience I can say that deer regard hostas as a salad bar - they will eat them right down as soon as they start to emerge. You might dig around carefuly and see if you have roots and any evidence of plant under the ground. Sorry something got to yours

  • zkathy z7a NC
    9 months ago

    Voles.

  • Alisande
    Original Author
    9 months ago

    Marcopolo, that's so discouraging. I can relate to what you say about Liquid Fence. The manufacturer claims it's effective much longer than it actually is. I have pole beans growing on an unfenced arch on a terrace attached to the side of the house, and I have to get out there with Liquid Fence every other evening without fail or the deer will move right in--which they did when the plants were about 3 feet tall. It was so disheartening! The plants are now at the top of the 8-ft. arch and beyond, and I'm still either spraying or using the Liquid Fence granules on the ground.

  • woodnative
    9 months ago

    I had the same thing happen several years ago. We had strange winter weather, and I believe also an explosion of voles. I lost Hostas in pots and in the ground. Like you some were very old clumps. In some cases a few tiny bit of leftover crown/roots sprouted tiny plants that took years to nurture back. Sometimes adjacent plants were untouched. Never had it happen since (thank God). Dig up the area.......I bet the roots are gone. If it were deer or rabbits you would at least see the stalks emerging

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    9 months ago
    last modified: 9 months ago

    do you still use the ice house ... if it is basically abandoned .. then it would be a great home to all kinds of vermin ...

    if it were me.. i would start by setting traps inside such to find out whats in there ...

    my premise would be.. that such was used to keep ice .. deep into the summer ... but then.. in winter.. when its empty ... isnt it actually warmer than outdoors .. no wind..deeper in the ground.. etc ...isnt the ice stored deep into winter.. when its thick enough to cut huge blocks???

    im thinking you got a winter frat house out there .. lol ...

    i wonder what the base difference is between an ice house.. and a root cellar.. or are they the same.. just used for 2 different purposes over a given year???

    things were so much simpler when your fridge was in ground.. and didnt run on electric ... lol ...

    ken

  • Alisande
    Original Author
    9 months ago

    I'm beginning to dislike voles, and I don't think I've ever thought about them before in my entire life. :-)

    We do use the ice house, Ken. It consists of two unconnected rooms, each with an opening for a door. The room in front has a wooden door, but the room in back does not. The room in front has a window but no glass. We use the front room for gardening supplies, and my cat carriers are stored in there so we're in and out a lot. The back room gets less attention. You could be right about the frat house, although I don't think they've spent much time in the front room as I would have seen evidence. Here's a picture of the ice house, the hostas somewhat visible on the right. It must have been taken some years ago because the arch in the background is my bean arch, which has since been moved to the terrace.



  • Richard (Vero Beach, Florida)
    9 months ago

    I bought a game camera to try verify squirrels were eating my mangoes. (It preferred to eat a little bit of several mangoes rather than eating a whole one and leaving me the rest)

    It wouldn't work for burrowing animals but for above ground animals (including people) it should. (If you aim it properly)

    They're quite reasonable in price now days.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07P9PMSS9/

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    9 months ago

    We do use the ice house


    ===>>> are you in and out of there all WINTER LONG ... when the voles are active eating the roots???? .. thats the key period ... for what happened here ...


    i have always wanted a game camera.. but i dont think it would work for voles and mice ... who tunnel at soil level under snow in winter ...


    ken

  • maire_cate
    9 months ago
    last modified: 9 months ago

    Mike McGrath, the former editor at Rodale's and an organic gardener recommends these tips and products to deter deer.

    https://www.gardensalive.com/product/oh-deer

    I saw a demonstration of the Wireless Deer Fence at the Philadelphia Horticultural Society Flower Show 2 years ago and thought it was interesting.

    We had hosta in our front planting beds for 35 years and the deer never ate them - until one spring they ate just about everything to the ground. As the plant grew again I used Deer Off and that seemed to help, but I also collected hair from my dog and tucked it in and around the base of each plant and that worked well.

    This is his article about moles and voles.

    https://www.gardensalive.com/product/advice-for-dealing-with-moles-and-voles

  • Alisande
    Original Author
    9 months ago

    He's funny, Maire_Cate, and informative, but that was n't encouraging. It does, however, explain why I might have voles this year all of a sudden: I don't have outside cats anymore. I brought Rocky and Scruffy indoors in March. Oh wait--by then the hostas had disappeared already, so the voles would have done their work while the cats were still outdoors.

    I have no idea if we have little holes in the ground. My lawns look like mogul ski runs, but that's because of lots of heavy rain and some areas sinking. Some rocks used to be more submerged, but now they're a hazard for my mower.

    A friend has one of those game cameras and has gotten some cool pictures of a mama bear with her triplets. She was lying down, resting, while the babies were cavorting. I know I have deer . . . lots of deer. It's not unusual to see five at a time in my back yard. And the rabbits are taking full advantage of the cats' absence by hopping around in the bliss of freedom. But I think in this case the vole theory makes the most sense. I never would have thought of them if I hadn't asked here. Thank you!

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    9 months ago

    My lawns look like mogul ski runs, but that's because of lots of heavy rain and some areas sinking.


    ===>>> prima facie evidence of voles ...


    https://duckduckgo.com/?t=ffcm&q=prima+facie&ia=definition


    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=mole+track+in+lawn&t=ffcm&iax=images&ia=images


    deer will hot eat the roots.. so the plants will return ... yours disappeared ...


    yes.. your cats were the solution ... and bringing them in is the problem ...


    ken

  • Alisande
    Original Author
    9 months ago

    No, I'm not in and out of the ice house all winter, but surely I'd see some evidence of critters if they were nesting in there.

    I'm not a skier, so perhaps I used the wrong analogy. My yard doesn't look anything like the photos in the link. It's more of a gentle rolling of large areas. And it's not all that visible; I notice it only when I'm using the riding mower. I have scoliosis, and the uneven ground compresses the C-curve of my spine. Other people in the area are complaining about what the rain has done to their yards too. And I see it in cemeteries where I volunteer as a photographer.

    I'm not saying I don't have voles.

    I poked around a bit where the hostas were, and actually found some hosta leaves in the area where the older plants were. My favorites were the newer plants, but I'm hesitant to look too closely just yet. Years of tick bites and tick-borne infections have made me averse to touching tall weeds.

    I'm a little surprised you thought I needed a definition of prima facie, Ken. :-)

  • Alisande
    Original Author
    9 months ago

    Speaking of deer . . . Although we see young male deer occasionally, our deer visitors are mostly females and their fawns. Yesterday afternoon we had five in the back yard and one in the front. They are so used to us, I worry for their safety during hunting season. This morning at first light I happened to be looking out an upstairs window when three large male deer emerged from the woods into my back yard. Two of them had magnificent racks. What a sight! Unlike the somewhat tame females, they were on high alert. I didn't make a sound, but something else must have because they startled at the same time and ran, oh so gracefully, back into the woods.

  • dallasannie
    9 months ago

    Do you have a vindictive or nasty neighbor?

    I do, and It am throughly convinced that the killed my oregano last year. It sits right within reach of his being able to have access to it. It was there for a number of years and there was nothing untoward in the season weather that should have affected it.

    This past summer I had replanted in a large container that was sitting in the same place and I convinced that he sprayed it with some chemical. He is a nasty, angry and ignorant man. He will go out in the evening and put something on to just smolder so that it drifts into our open door where we are watching TV. One night I smelled something that was an awful chemical smell that he was, likely , spraying around just to be a threat to us. When I went to harvest my oregano a few days later it all smelled just like that and I had to discard it all. He is a loathsome fool, for sure. He has told us that he wants to eliminate us. Yes, I debated about going to a police detective about it, but decided to just store in all of the other awful and unspeakable things that he has uttered over the years, including a threat to take his only child out in the woods and shoot him like a sick dog if he ever found out that he was gay. Which he really appears to be. I know of a couple of folks who have moved just to get away from him.

    Do you have HIM living anywhere around you?

    Sorry, I know that you asked what happened to your hostas. Every growing thing that is within a reach of him on that side of my yard has taken some hit this year and he as a shed full of an arsenal of chemicals and he kills every living thing in his yard including all the squirrels and the birds and any weed. Nasty, nasty man! I can't help but feel that he is to blame for it the demise of my plants. I have moved them out of his reach. He will have to come in to my yard to actually do damage rather that to project a spray. . I had to put up cameras because he was banging on the side our house in the wee hours of the morning before he went to work. It stopped when the cameras went up.

    Did I mention what a trump devotee he is? He broadcasts that right wing radio stuff out into the backyard as if he, himself, is speaking to an audience. He hates everyone and does not care to hide it. He is a real tool and I have no doubt that he sabotaged my plants.

    I am sorry, I don't know what happened to you hostas. Sorry, he enrages me and it angers me. We used to have some rabbits earlier in the spring, but he stands on his upper level deck and picks off the small wildlife with his air gun.

    So, maybe he came to your house? That is my best answer.

  • Alisande
    Original Author
    9 months ago

    Wow, Dallasannie, that's horrible! I can't help thinking there must be something to be done about him. Something legal, that is.

    My only visible neighbor is my son and his family. We are surrounded by a sea of Trump signs, but the owners are mostly kind people. One of them unfriended me on Facebook recently for political reasons, but she explained and said I was a lovely neighbor.

    But I feel for you. We used to have a terrible neighbor, a man as cruel as he was arrogant, and I was happy when the bank took possession of his McMansion. But even he did not produce the kind of daily stress you must be feeling as a result of having your neighbor next door.

  • gardencool
    9 months ago

    Hilarious thread. Squirrel cam caught the varmits eating all the mangoes! Trump supporter murdering neighbor's oregano! Ice house? WdaF has an ice house! All that is missing is a Biden supporter Burn Loot and Murdering (BLM) some racist hostas. Maybe that is what happened??? The mystery deepens.

  • dallasannie
    9 months ago

    Thanks for hearing me out and sorry to all that I vented over missing plants.

    I am afraid that if trump loses this election that he will be out there trying to pick us off with his guns. He has already threatened us with his air rifle. Yeah, really. He is one of those most unhappy men who carries his own anger at himself all balled up within and takes it out on innocent others.

    Sorry all and thanks for listening. I have never been so at odds with anyone ever in my whole life. So supremely uncomfortable. I have always tried to avoid him for the 20 years he has been next door. He was always spewing hate and anger and he was a stay at home drunk all that time. He got sober. He has become vocal and intolerable in the wake of the recent years.

    I will leave it be now. sorry


  • murraysmom Zone 6a OH
    9 months ago

    Dallasannie, I can't imagine the horror of living next door to such a vile person. It would be hard not to retaliate but I know that would never be a solution. Better to do what you are doing and trying to just stay out of his way. All that hatred on his part is such a waste of time and energy. Whether Trump wins or loses, it doesn't sound like anything will get better with this guy. This certainly makes any little annoyances I experience to pale in comparison and I will thank God I don't have to deal with someone this awful. I am so sorry that you have to.

  • dallasannie
    9 months ago

    My host plants used to get eaten down with the deer, all the way to the ground. But, of course you could still see the crowns and roots.

    I had to give up growing anything in the lily family where the deer could get them.

    Maybe the deer and animals are on to something . Maybe they are delicious!!


    My auto correct keeps correcting when I type host or host. It just will not let me type it unless it is capitalized. And you can't argue with it, either. Hosta, or costa, costa ?

  • lindalana 5b Chicago
    9 months ago
    last modified: 9 months ago

    Darn, ok solution for nasty neighbors. Make a voodoo doll of some kind of resemblance to the neighbor. Put needle thru various body parts and leave it to be observed in open space visible to neighbor, if asked pretend ignorance.

  • nicholsworth Z6 Indianapolis
    9 months ago

    lindalana..you made me laugh!..

  • lily316
    9 months ago

    I have no answer but in the recent drought, my hostas looked like limp rags and were turning brown. The tiny bit of rain we got did perk them up.

    That neighbor is a thoroughly horrid human being. I don't know how you can stand living next to him. The house next to me has been vacant for two years and I love it. This is the only close neighbor I have since I live on a corner and I dread who might move in. We had the neighbors from he11 there a long time ago and then decent people for 20 years, so it's a toss of the dice.

  • zkathy z7a NC
    8 months ago

    I’ve been using pelletized castor oil for voles for a few years. It needs to be reapplied every two months. I planted a bunch of castor plants this year to try to get some shade. They’re beautiful and extremely poisonous. I’m hoping some voles ate the castor plant roots.

    I’ve also had good luck with my wireless deer fence..

  • maire_cate
    8 months ago
    last modified: 8 months ago

    DH started using granular castor oil a few weeks ago and so far it does seem to work. We haven't noticed any new tunnels or dead plants either. So far the deer seem to prefer my neighbor's yard and my hosta have been spared without resorting to any sprays. If they decide my yard is appealing I might go the wireless deer fence route too. I saw it demonstrated at the Flower Show a few years ago. https://wirelessdeerfence.com/

  • Northern Gardener (3b west central MN)
    8 months ago

    Does anyone know whether the castor oil granules work against chipmunks?

  • Alisande
    Original Author
    8 months ago

    My daughter-in-law stepped in a hole on their property while mowing this summer, fell, and got a terrible case of poison ivy on her legs. I don't know for sure that it was a vole hole, but something made it.

    Good to know the castor oil granules are working! I'll have to look into that. I'm interested in the wireless deer fence too, for my bean arch. I spend almost that much in a year on Liquid Fence, and this would be a lot less work. Thanks, all!

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