Say Hi To Hydrangeas
After recently coming back from a business trip, I arrived home to the most breathtaking display. My hydrangeas were in full bloom, awaiting my arrival. Hydrangeas, because they bloom from summer all the way through to late fall, are wonderful as a cutting flower and prolific enough for continuous bouquets. (I have 12 varieties and over 40 of these plants, and often have to hand the flowers away by the armload!) Nothing is more striking than an abundant bouquet of any type of hydrangea. Their intense colors are true eye-candy. Plus, because the blooms vary in size and dimension you don't need many to fill a space.
That said, get a hydrangea! But I understand that, with all these different varieties available, you might feel intimidated at first. That's why I recommend the low-maintenance/big-impact ones. The Annabelle and Endless Summer varieties are great ways to start—they're no-fail. Some of my other favorites, discovered by me over the last few years, are the Oak Leaf and Blushing Bride; the latter is a variety of the Endless Summer but different color options. Plus, because they thrive in lots of sun—filtered sun is best—they can be put in areas of the garden where other plants might not do well.
No matter where you begin, you'll quickly learn that one is never enough. They look best and seem to thrive in bunches and planted in clumps. You'll get a big burst of color in your garden, enough to enable even a novice gardener's yard look like that of a pro.
They are also remarkably resilient to pruning and shaping. A great tip that I always share on my garden tours is when to trim them, and where. In June, when the branches start leafing out, look for where the leafy growth seems to stop. For example, on a stalk you may see leaves up to a certain point, but bare stalk beyond it. One inch beyond the last leaf is the best place to trim.
Hydrangeas are fascinating in that, unlike most other plants, the color of their flowers can change dramatically. They often change color on their own when they are planted or transplanted. This is part of how they adjust to the new environment. It is not unusual to see several different colors on one shrub the next year after planting.
But you can also change the colors yourself! The people who have the most control over the color of their hydrangeas are those who grow them in containers. It is much easier to change a hydrangea from pink to blue than it is from blue to pink.
Changing a hydrangea from pink to blue entails adding aluminum to the soil. (Either with aluminum sulphate, compost rich in coffee grounds, fruit and vegetables, or a fertilizer with low phosphorous—look for one reading 25/5/30.) Changing from blue to pink means subtracting aluminum from the soil or taking it out of reach of the hydrangea. (Again, three options: add the supplement dolmic lime, use fertilizer with a high level of phosphorous—look for one reading 25/10/10 - or save yourself some effort by keeping the plant potted instead of in open soil.) Although I admire those who make the effort to reinforce color, the treatments must be kept up throughout the season. So I would rather allow these magnificent plants to bloom the way they want; regardless of their color I am thrilled with their show.
For more information on hydrangea color—and many other fascinating tidbits about this amazing flowering plant—please visit this linked website: www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com. The author, Judith King, is an avid gardener, like me, but also a member of the CSRA Hydrangea Society (GA/SC) and the American Hydrangea Society.
Whether you plant one yourself, consider give one or two as a welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift (or even a host or hostess gift to an avid gardener); no will turn down a hydrangea. And if their yard is full, ask them to drop it off at my house!
And there you have it!