Initially a hobby, hosta breeding has grown to international proportions for Bob Axmear

Award-winning growth efforts ... The blue-streaked hosta originated by Bob Axmear is adorned with ribbons as the First Look Mildred Seaver Award winner in 2012. The recipient of the award is chosen by attendees of the First Look meeting. In 2010, Axmear also received the Alex J. Summers Distinguished Merit Award from the American Hosta Society for his service to the hosta industry. Submitted photo.

by Brianne Eilers

When he bought his first two hostas several years ago, Waukon resident Bob Axmear didn’t have any idea that his gardening hobby would take him to the levels it has. Axmear began his hosta endeavor by purchasing two plants at chain stores, which he grew and was able to divide and eventually sold to a nursery.
“The hobby kind of grew into its own,” Axmear said. He explained a little bit about the process of crossing the hostas and how it can take three to four years for a new hybrid to stabilize. Axmear says that when crossing hostas, the female plant has to be a streaked plant in order to create variegated hostas.
He has also developed a way to collect and store pollen from hosta flowers, as well as for saving seeds. Axmear has developed several hybrids, a few of which he has named for family members.
In addition to growing hostas, Axmear taught himself how to write code and designed a website,, in order to show what each plant people hybridized was supposed to look like. The website has grown to 17,000 photos of 6,000 plants and now includes a free hosta auction which people use to sell their new plants. It also includes articles and information on growing hostas, several which Axmear has written himself.
Through the website, Axmear has furnished hostas, seed and pollen all over the United States and internationally.
Axmear has been running the hosta library site for over 15 years. He noted that he suffered injuries of a broken back and a broken neck some years ago, and breeding hostas and running the website are ways for him to be able to keep active, despite complications from those injuries.

Axmear has also won awards for his work with hostas. In 2010, he received the Alex J. Summers Distinguished Merit Award from the American Hosta Society for his service to the hosta industry. The award was established in 1982 in honor of one of the founding members of the American Hosta Society.
In 2012, Axmear received the First Look Mildred Seaver Award in the seedling and sport competition, an award that he is especially proud of. “That was the first streaked hosta to win that award,” Axmear noted.
With his accomplishments, Axmear has been able to give advice and growing tips to many people through the hosta library website. In addition to working with hostas, Axmear has also worked with breeding day lilies, oriental lilies and angelfish.
After running the website for so long, he is ready to hand over the reins of the website to a new webmaster, in the hopes of being able to step back and enjoy life a little bit more.