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Thursday, June 20, 2019
Posted By: Rebecca van der Zalm in Shrubs

Hydrangeas are a lovely and diverse genus, many of which have become essential parts of our garden vocabulary.
Hydrangea Group

Most of us are familiar with the "old fashioned hydrangea": hydrangea macrophylla, and mostly with it in its round headed (mob-cap) form. In England, this variety is called "mob-cap" after the rounded cap worn indoors by married women in the late 18th/early 19th century. Here in North America, they are more usually called mop heads. Having grown up in an English tradition, I found this very odd at first!!
Hydrangea Mophead

This shrub has a lot going for it: it flowers for a very long time starting in the summer when few shrubs but roses are in bloom. Unlike the rose it is equally happy in sun and in shade, though it requires more water in full sun. And, also unlike the rose, it needs no deadheading or summer pruning; the round flowers of macrophylla are lovely from the time they first appear, often in strange shades of ivory & green, slowly deepening to their ultimate colours of blue or pink, and then, as fall approaches, evolving into yet stranger colours of violet, burgundy, wine and tan. These flowers dry well, and, if you like, can be sprayed with gold for Christmas decoration!
Lacecap Hydrangea

As well as mobcaps, hydrangea macrophylla has a lacecap form. Like the dogwood, what appears to be a flower is actually a bract surrounding the true flower, which is comparatively insignificant. In the mobcap above, the bulk of the flower is made of infertile bracts. In the lacecap, the centre of the flower is made up of tiny fertile flowers with a surrounding circle of bracts, looking much like a lace doily, or old fashioned lace cap, hence the name. These plants are generally more open and graceful in appearance than the mobcaps, but have many of the same attributes.

Both kinds of hydrangeas serve a good purpose in garden design. They fit very well with rhododendrons, liking the same conditions of soil and sun, and adding garden colour at a time when rhododendrons are long over. The lacecap is particularly nice here, its grace contrasting with the bulkier shape of rhododendrons. They fit equally well with the long blooming summer & fall perennials, adding some restful substance to the border.

Pannicle Hydrangea

In addition to these two forms of H. macrophylla, hydrangea paniculata (Peegee) is a treasured garden plant. Instead of a dome, the flowers form a cone, initially white (or green) deepening to rosy red and ultimately burgundy in a way reminiscent of macrophylla, but more striking because of the size of the flower. The plant too is larger with quite a different garden effect, with strong wands growing upwards. Often grown as a standard (("tree form") it makes a terrific central feature in a frontal bed.

Macrophylla in both its forms and paniculata are those most often encountered in gardens; but there are many others: hydrangea arborescens Annabelle (a very hardy form, blooming on new wood), hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea - very handsome in woodland), hydrangea aspera (extraordinarily shade tolerant) and of course, the climbing hydrangea: hydrangea petiolaris). These are all excellent plants but more suited to a wilder sort of garden than macrophylla and paniculata.

Some well established favourites:
 

Macrophylla : first the mobcaps

Sister Theresa pure white, each flower with a pale blue eye
Nikko Blue very large turquoise, a bit floppy, but gorgeous in acid soil
Glowing Embers reliably red in any soil

Lovely Lacecaps

Blaumeise (Teller Blue) blue turning brilliant pink in basic (alkaline) soil
Kardinal (Teller Red) rich deep pink turning purple in acid soil
Libelle (Teller White) white with deep blue centre which centre turns pink in basic soil

Paniculatas

Paniculata Grandiflora (the original PeeGee) pure white flowers aging rosy pink
Limelight soft green aging to pink
Brussels Lace a rare form with flowers like a lacecap white with no colour change
Quickfire white flowers turning pinkish red
 

For more information about growing Hydrangeas, read the Learn to Grow Hydrangeas Blog Post
If you're interested in any of these beautiful Hydrangeas, drop by the nursery and check out our collection. As always the selection and availability is always changing so call ahead if you're making a special trip


Thursday, June 20, 2019
Posted By: Rebecca van der Zalm in Shrubs

Hydrangeas are a very easy care shrub, especially for us here on the west coast, but good cultivation will bring out their best.

First of all, like most shrubs, they should be planted in fertile (organically rich), well drained soil, but with the additional caution that you must be able to water them easily! Hydrangeas need hydrating!! This is particularly true in sunny sites and in the first while after planting. Never forget that it takes a while for roots to get out into the surrounding soil, so as far as the new plant is concerned, it is still in a pot, and so should be watered thoroughly AT LEAST once a week.

After the plant is established, it will still need watering in times of drought, and will be one of the first plants in your garden to droop by way of letting you know things are getting dry.

Hydrangea Group

Macrophylla hydrangeas (mobcap/mophead & lacecap) produce their blooms from buds formed the summer before (old wood). Therefore, pruning in autumn or too early in spring can inhibit, even prevent, flowers. When the last frosts are over, the old flower heads should be cut back to the first pair of healthy buds below them. Any dead, or spindly branches should be removed at the base, and where there are untidy crossover branches choose the healthiest of these and remove the other. It should be noted that some of the newer cultivars have been bred to bloom on both old & new wood: but the advice of pruning for strength still applies.

Paniculata, on the other hand, blooms on new wood formed in the growing season and is also hardier than macrophylla. It can therefore be pruned in late winter to early spring as needed. An extremely vigorous plant, the shrub form is going to produce much larger flowers if restricted to 7 to 11 vigorous primary shoots. If grown as a standard, the plant will need rigorous pruning to keep it in good shape, but the same general guide of fewer, stronger shoots applies.

For both types, a good mulch in the spring and fall will help keep weeds down and preserve soil moisture. Feeding once a year with a slow release all purpose fertilizer will promote vigorous growth which will in turn provide for more abundant flowers.
Change Hydrangea Flower Colour

How to Change The Colour of Your Hydrangea

 

Most blue or pink Hydrangea macrophylla varieties can change their flower colour based on soil acidity and the presence of aluminum in the soil. If the soil is acidic (a pH of less than 7), the plant is able to absorb aluminum from the soil and turn the flowers more blue. Common soil acidifiers include sulfur, peat moss and various fertilizer products like Rhodo and Azalea fertilizers. The colour transformation happens slowly of the course of 1-2 seasons. If you want your flowers to be more pink, sweeten your soil, that is - make it less acidic - more alkaline, with lime, bonemeal and other similar products. A pH higher than 7 reduces the plants ability to absorb aluminum and turns the flowers more pink. Again this change happens over several seasons.


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