Garden Photo of the Day

Nancy’s garden before it was ravished by voles…..

Magic moment when the spring flowers are still around and the hostas completely unfurl. Photo/Illustration: All photos courtesy of Nancy Bellaire

Today’s photos are from Nancy Bellaire in Maryland, who we’ve visited thrice before (HERE, HERE, and HERE). In the pst we’ve focused on one are in particular, with its quartet of beds with a center pot fountain, and also a visit in fall, but today we get to see a bit more.

Alliums and hostas. 

Nancy says, “I finally got to rake out my shade garden in between snowfalls, and discovered that all of my mature hostas were winter feed for voles and they are GONE. So I am sharing pics of my mature garden as it was, since I will be starting over with the hostas.

Hosta ‘Liberty’, Syneilesis aconitifolia, and Saruma henryi. 

“My big project last year was installing a cobblestone edging to keep my mother and UPS out of the garden (without damaging any vehicles). It was tough to dig out the driveway. Although spring in my shade garden is my favorite time, first with the bulbs and then with the spring flowers of phlox, foam flower, primula, alliums, I value the hostas for keeping the garden lively during summer.”

Hostas ‘Orange Marmalade’, ‘Halycon’, and ‘Fragrant Bouguet’, hakone grass, and the star of the summer flowers–Spigellia marlandica.  

Oh Nancy, I’m so sorry about the hostas. I’ve never experienced voles, but I hear they are maddening with a capital M! But just think of all the new varieties you can try now…. ***Anyone got any planting strategies Nancy can use to keep the new hostas safe?*** Thanks, Nancy! Your garden is, yet again, lovely.

Before new edging. 

****Hey all, I’m not getting many submissions these days! I’ll be eternally grateful if you dig some up and tell us your garden story…. Email me at [email protected]. Thanks! ****

After. Groundcovers next to cobblestones that survive poor drivers.  

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  1. greengenes 03/20/2014

    Looks as though iam the first to comment. Well Nancy I so enjoyed the pics from all the times that you have been posted. Looking back up till the current ones today have really been a thrill! I love the colors and textures you have put together. You can actually smell the freshness of the flowers and feel a warmth that reminds me so much of a new summer day! Oh I can hardly wait! Iam sorry to hear about the voles. They have done a lot of damage here at times, too. Arent hostas a wonderful plant! They bring in such a show of foliage green. I love the plant! Well thanks for sharing with us! Happy spring everyone!!!

  2. Plantstuff 03/20/2014

    Your before and after shots of the edging, WOW it's looks awesome. Sorry about your hostas. It is so disappointing gardening sometimes, you get everything looking nice and then the wildlife decides its time for dinner.
    Your garden always looks so beautiful I am sure you will be out there making it look right as rain as soon as the weather breaks. Thanks for sharing.

  3. flowerladydi 03/20/2014

    Hi Nancy, I am so sorry to hear of your vole problem,,,, I have seen the damage they can do in others yards,,, but have been fairly fortunate here. I do have a cat that helps,,, although I do not know if that alone is sufficient,, and have read about other tips, but can not vouch for their efficacy. Your garden is charming!,,, and I too love hosta's!,,,, but,,, like you, will possibly be starting over this year too, as a HUGE tree that provided my shade was taken down and my hosta's will undoubtedly all burn. So,,, that being said,,, it kind of gives us an excuse to purchase new and different things!,, there is always a positive!
    I am sure you will end up loving your garden again,,, you have such a great foundation!,,, and your cobble stones look great too!,,,, Best of luck!!!

  4. cbctplant 03/20/2014

    Nancy--- I am so sorry about the vole damage. Your garden is so lovely. I grow 1200 varieties of hostas and have found that planting them in wire baskets is the trick. Here is an article that I wrote about it after the national hosta convention attendees visited in 2011. Each photo will enlarge by clicking on it. Just click on the enlargement to get back to the article. Hope this helps!
    For other photos of the garden you caan see them here: You can see baskets at work against voles successfully. Sorry again about the voles. Have fun choosing new ones. cbctplant

  5. Sculpturedale 03/20/2014

    Darn the voles. But maybe they've left just enough root to get the plant re-started...don't give up hope. I have plenty of vole damage (most bulbs) but they haven't bothered the hosta (deer, slugs, and hail have done their things, though). I have had good success keeping hosta in containers, and they multiply yearly. Cold is no problem to them, but the top of pot needs to be covered so water does not get in, or else make the containers small enough to move into any kind of dry shed through the winter. It would make your voles super annoyed to not be able to get at them!

  6. wGardens 03/20/2014

    Beautiful plantings! Your cobblestone edging sure sets them off. Great work. So sorry too, about the vole damage. Best wishes for success with your next plantings. I have a couple cats and have had no vole issues... yet.

  7. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 03/20/2014

    Such beautiful plants and great variety. Garden pests can be so infuriating! Sorry for your losses and best of luck wirh finding a successful solution!

  8. User avater
    meander_michaele 03/20/2014

    Well, darn, Nancy...I can just imagine how your heart went thud at seeing the vole damage to your hosta. Doesn't seem fair...there they were...enjoying their winter's sleep and marshaling their energy so they could burst forth into leafy spring magnificence. Grrr, evil little critters...Disney better not make a flick where a vole is an adorable big eyed hero and get people feeling all soft and mushy about them. I cannot be a fan of anything that destroys a beautiful there!
    Your cobblestone curbing project is very handsome...really finishes things off in a great looking way. What is the ground cover that has such a bright green color and is gently mounding?

  9. GardeningRocks 03/20/2014

    Happy First Day of Spring Everyone!

    Nancy, your gardens are beautiful! The colors and plant varieties work so well together. You are a very talented gardener! The cobblestone edging looks great too. I am no stranger to digging and I know how much work that was, but you will be rewarded for years to come. Bravo!

    I have had problems with voles for years. In my vegetable garden they like to eat the roots off the pole beans just after they flower. It is very frustrating! I have had good luck with Plantskyd. That has kept them out of my vegetables. Two years ago I had problems in a garden bed 20 feet off the side of the house and used the Plantskyd again. It got them out of that garden, but they chose to move to my front foundation gardens instead. It won't kill them, it just makes the area offensive to them as it breaks down into the soil. I am thrilled to read about the baskets from cbctplant. That sounds very effective and I plan to try it. Thank you!

  10. mainer59 03/20/2014

    What a difference the edging makes! Hostas do come up so much later than other plants. Sculpturedale makes a good point.

  11. hummergirl 03/20/2014

    Nancy, your driveway gardens are just beautiful! I love the hucheras and hostas that you have pared together. I too, am hoping for a small piece of root to have survived the vole attack, and to once again rise above the ground for you.

    Ok, I have been away for a few weeks and lost track, but now that I am back, I am wondering where is tntreeman?? I have not seen any posts from him - did I just miss them somehow? I, like so many others,
    look forward to reading his comments every day!

  12. user-664230 03/20/2014

    Very interested in mixing of hostas with other plants that might take more sun. I'll have to do that in my new garden.
    One problem I'm having may be with my web browser is that an enlarged view of a photo has an ad superimposed over part of it so that I cannot see the entire photo. If Fine Gardening can control this, please do!

  13. Quiltingmamma 03/20/2014

    Thank you for sharing your gardens. It does give promise that Spring is actually on its way. It has been a long winter. Maybe that is the reason for the voles? That they have had to move on to our planted smorgasbord as their natural meals are gone? Well, I am allowed to try and rationalize but it seems there is no rhythm or reason.I hope there are still some roots left for new growth.
    I really love the purple and greens of Spring. Thanks for the visual renewal.

  14. tractor1 03/20/2014

    Nancy, your cobblestones look great... but for added protection, especially at night I suggest staking several decorative solar lanterns along both sides of your driveway too. Your hostas are fantastic and I like all your ferns also. It's too bad about the voles but they've been hibernating and they'll be back shortly and enmasse unless you do something to dissuade them now. There are all sorts of toxic chemicals on the market but I don't like to make unintended victims so I use Solar Sonic Stakes:
    Lowe's sells them too, that's where I bought mine. And they definitely work well although they work better in moist topsoil than in dry sandy soil. Voles killed most of my rug junipers and almost killed all my blueberry bushes, took two years before they came back. I tried a few Sonic Stakes and within a week the voles had moved elsewhere. Now I have Sonic Stakes in my vegetable garden and in all my foundation planting beds. I chose the solar version as I didn't want to keep changing batteries... the solar version lasts about five years and although the directions say to remove them in winter in snowy areas I left them all winter by not pushing them into the ground all the way, I left a couple of inches above ground, I don't mow those areas anyway. Some claim they don't work but they work well for me... you need to use enough that they are not spaced so far apart that they leave gaps in the areas they treat... in long narrow areas I placed one every 15', my vegetable garden is 50' X 50' and four Sonic Spikes did the trick. I know the voles moved on because I see their tunnels out in my fields about 500' away. but I don't care if they eat the roots of the brush at the edge of hedgerows. Also my barn cats help a lot with keeping the rodent population down, and out in the fields with no cover the raptors control the rodents too... another reason I don't use toxic materials. Try the Solar Sonic Spikes and let us know how they work for you, Nancy.

  15. bee1nine 03/20/2014

    Seems I'm having a problem too. Posting a comment. It didn't
    go through. Shall try this again!

    Oh yes, winter can certainly bring some devastating results.
    Not that we need it, after having gone through this one!...
    And I as well, so sorry it was voles to be your culprit, Nancy. Fingers crossed- hopefully enough hosta root still intact!
    Once again, I'm enjoying some more of your lovely assortment
    of color themes today! Also a wonderful job you have done re
    constructing using cobblestone to create a nice edge to your
    troublesome driveway. Very nice finishing touch!

    Thanks for another day of your talents, Nancy!!

  16. janeeliz 03/20/2014

    What a bummer about the voles destroying your beautiful hostas! It's so easy to take some of our plants for granted...we think they will be there forever and then with no warning-something happens and they are gone! I love your big clump of spigellia..I had a small group that mysteriously disappeared. The hummingbirds loved them. ..seeing yours reminds me to search for more. The cobblestones look very handsome.

  17. quinquek 03/20/2014

    So sorry to hear about the voles. I've had awful experiences with them too. The cat helps. Looking forward to seeing what you choose as replacements, it will be lovely, I'm sure! (Ahoy Fine Gardening, I'm also having ads superimposing themselves on the enlarged photos.)

  18. MichelleGervais 03/20/2014

    Oooh, that ad thing is annoying! I'm looking into it, everyone. Stay tuned. That is definitely not intentional.

  19. gloriaj 03/20/2014

    I too am sorry that the voles destroyed your beautiful garden. I know you could have just cried, but that's one advantage about gardening, you can always start a new and better garden. Good luck with the new garden. Send pictures when it matures.

  20. GrannyMay 03/20/2014

    Nancy your hostas were beautiful, so sorry that the voles have damaged or destroyed them! Hopefully planting new ones in baskets will take away the worry. I know Plantskyd works well (if temporarily) for keeping a number of critters off the plants.

    Your driveway make-over is well worth all the hard work! Gorgeous! Do let us know how it all works out.

  21. pannonhalma 03/20/2014

    There is a good treatment to keep voles from your plants.
    Mix human hair in the soil where you plant your bulbs or plants. Voles just hate the human hair in the soil and will run away, as far as they can.
    Just try to believe.

  22. annek 03/20/2014

    Ouch!!!! That is so painful. Meander is so on-point..I'm boycotting any cute little cartoons starring voles! In honor of your dear departed hostas.

    Your garden is breathtaking. And I love the edging I'm looking for something 'decorative' that provides a border to grass. I might have to adopt Tntreeman's previous recommendations for plastic or metal border on the grass side and then use your wonderful pavers on the flower side.

    I'm revisiting the stunning contrast of your heucheras in the first photo. nicely done!

  23. GrannyCC 03/20/2014

    Love the Hostas Nancy. So sorry they got eaten by Voles. Ours get nibbled by slugs so they can look quite ragged. On to a new adventure. There are so many different varieties out now. We gardeners have to be optimistic and carry on even though it can be hard on the pocket book. Maybe you could find a friend who would like to give you some divisions. The new edging is great.

  24. sheila_schultz 03/20/2014

    Nancy, don't you just love the wisdom coming from the GPOD gardeners? I'm sure that you will find at least one of the suggestions will work!
    Your spring gardens were so lovely as I'm sure they will be once again. Happy Spring everyone!

  25. GracePeterson 03/20/2014

    I'm really jealous of your Spigelia. Very nice.

  26. User avater
    HelloFromMD 03/20/2014

    Hi All,

    Thank you for your sympathy! It is quite a shock as I haven't lost a hosta to voles in over 10 years. The vole bloc or chicken grit has worked really well for me for bulbs and hostas up till now. I must replenish the barrier, those large hostas must have grown their roots right through it. Oddly, of my many beds that is the only one with vole tunnels. I did rake my beds this fall, but some of my trees hold their leaves till December and I didn't notice how heavy the leaf cover was after the final fall. My cat is old now. All that and the single digit temperatures were my undoing.

    I welcome any suggestions for large upright hostas. Liberty is hard to beat, but it is slow. Took 4 years to look that sumptuous.

  27. User avater
    HelloFromMD 03/20/2014

    Hi again,

    Meander1, the ground cover in the foreground is Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, common names are leadwort and plumbago. Nice blue flower in the fall and foliage reddens. Other ground covers are green and gold, Chrysogonum virginians, with gold flowers in spring and Hypericum (St. John's Wort), Brigadoon, which has lovely gold foliage that is chartreuse in shade. Brigadoon is one of my best new finds, great plant.

    Flowerlady, sorry to hear about your tree. Will you try to create more shade or do a sunny planting instead? Would some tall shrubs work? From hosta sites, it seems folks grow hostas in sun all morning and then rely on afternoon shade. My shade gardens don't get more than an hour or two of early morning light then its all shade.

  28. CJgardens 03/20/2014

    So sorry to hear about your vole damage. Hopefully some did survive or you enjoy making new choices for replacements &/or you find a method to keep them out in the future. I love all your wonderful woodland shade flowers/plants. I appreciate that you named many of them.
    I still have 1- 2 ft of snow in my yard but I looked into the backyard and the rabbits have girdled my 2 year old flowering crab apple tree and did extensive damage to my rhododendron. I was looking forward to the crab apple "taking off" this third year. I have a question for GPODers - It is girdled at the point where the first branches start (it was wrapped below that point), can I transplant it, trim it at the damaged area, and hope it eventually grows new leaders?
    I received my new issue of Fine Gardening and congratulations to Sheila Schultz for winning the 2013 container design contest. Never would've thought of a hyssop in a container. Gorgeous.
    Carol Jean

  29. User avater
    HelloFromMD 03/20/2014

    Hi cbctplant,

    Thanks, Carol, for your article on planting hostas with wire baskets. I will start looking for them at dollar stores. So do the roots grow through the basket into surrounding soil?

    You are the perfect person to ask about upright hostas! So far I have grown Liberty, Sagae, Krurregand, and Regal Splendor.

    I am thinking of replacing with Liberty, Dream Weaver, and Krurregand with Majesty, Glacier Towers, and High Noon. I'm looking for gold or variegated ones to stand out from the woods.

    Thanks again.

  30. User avater
    HelloFromMD 03/20/2014

    don't be jealous, grow it. Great plant. Late to emerge so can plant a spring ephemeral with it. Nice short mound of green foliage 18 to 24'' high. If deadheaded will rebloom! Makes a few babies too. Looks great with autumn fern and heucheras. Blooms best with some morning sun.

  31. WAgardener48 03/20/2014

    I also have voles but have escaped much damage due to my two young cats who seem to compete for Predator of the Month honors. There are times when spots in the lawn begin to feel like quicksand and I know the voles have returned. Thanks to everyone for suggestions on how to battle voles. I am going to follow up on the solar spikes. I already use Mole Away around the perimeter of the yard.

    Good luck with reconstructing your garden with new hostas. The variety of this species is amazing. I always have a June in my garden. A memory plant for me but I am always looking for new stunners. You will recover and thrive. Such a wonderful gardener as you cannot be deterred by voles. Share your new garden when it is reconstructed.

  32. Meelianthus 03/20/2014

    Hello Nancy in MD ~ I looked back on your past garden pics to refresh my visual mind on how lovely your gardens are. So artfully mastered. I too have a great fondness for Hostas (and ferns) they are such a wonderful plant with so many varieties. I guess you will have the fun of discovering new ones but it is still sad when you loose plants that you love. Your gardens look wonderful with your new driveway edging. What a job!
    Thanks for sharing your joy (and sorrow)and I hope some of your hostas might surprise you and pop-up NOT eaten!

  33. priscilla_zone5 03/20/2014

    Happy Spring, everyone! It's 50* today in central New England but it doesn't feel like spring yet, with 12-15" of snow still on the ground. The 2" from last night have already melted though! As so many have already said, your shade beds are beautiful + lush, Nancy. Gotta get me some of those gorgeous spigelias. My sympathies about the vole damage. If you don't know about then check them out. You can drool over their wide variety of hostas to plan your replacements + click on their link to find their "recipe" for a castor oil mix to deter the voles. I have zapped a number of voles with mouse traps/peanut butter set at their holes with a pot over it to keep the birds out. It's almost impossible to get all of them since they have a litter of 6-8 every 3-4 weeks..... yikes! Good luck!

  34. User avater
    HelloFromMD 03/20/2014

    Thank you all for your comments and WAgardener would one of your cats like a new home? Off to a jazz concert. Fun day. Gardeners are lovely people.

  35. cwheat000 03/21/2014

    You have an amazing amount of color in a shade garden. Love those heucheras! I also adore all those unique treasures you are growing; especially the Syneilesis and the Spigellia. Saruma is a new one to me. It looks charming.

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  37. Melanielankoli 03/21/2014

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  38. user-242744 03/25/2014

    If they are voles, you can go to and order bait stations or Google vole traps and see how they are made and make your own. You do need poison, but the bait stations will keep your pets and birds safe.

    I had a vole infestation about 4 years ago, roots were chewed off mature laurels. Then they went after hosta and blue rug juniper holding a hillside in place. It took about 3 seasons to get them all; they don't hibernate but keep reproducing.

    Bernie Halloran Owings MD 20736

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