The Life And Times of a Hydrangea……..
All garden owners want plants that give there a garden a lift. Hydrangeas in many ways are that plant, but there requirements, need to be a little better understood. They have the ability to produce a superb colourful display from July to September and later if the weather permits. Its distinctive large Mop-heads of Pinks, Reds my favourite White and even Blue can lift a garden from the regal to the mundane. They were discovered in China in 1767 and since then have been welcomed into millions of gardens.
Things have become a little confusing recently as Hydrangeas also appear as a supposed a “House Plant” forced on by growers, who create the desired effect in indoor conditions, far to early to early in the year. This allows them to produce a colour display ahead of there normal mid summer flowering time. It is not comfortable in this environment and once it gets to a hot dry home, often placed in strong sunlight; it quickly goes into a decline from the exotic to the downtrodden very quickly. This gives the Hydrangea an unfair image of a difficult plant. The key to understanding this plant lies is the Latin origins of its name "Hydra" which intrinsically means water. If planted in an area where water is available, like a damp area of the garden, then it will be off to a good start. This tends to blur some peoples opinion of this plant. A further dilemma created by the "Forced Hydrangeas" is if they are put outdoors, after purchase which is often March/April the cold maybe even frosty evenings of Spring weather forces them into an almost certain terminal decline having been mollycoddled in greenhouses.
In reality correctly grown Hydrangeas that have been grown outdoors can actually manage most soils and nearly all are very hardy, but in many ways they can do a lot better with a little help and understanding. They will manage full sun but as a general rule some shade is far more helpful especially for white hydrangeas as too much sun can turn the blue varieties a pinky colour. There are plenty of Hydrangea species but the majority of the hydrangeas we see in gardens are macrophylla types.
If you cater for there likes and treat them like a VIP (Very Important Plant) they will respond very well indeed. Hydrangeas are Flamboyant Charming shrubs that add grace, stature and depth to mixed borders. Selecting a part of the garden that has a moist well-drained soil in a cool, semi-shady part of the garden will mean Hydrangeas will excel. Avoiding cold winds helps as well as it may damage young spring growth equally avoid dry sunny spots.
If the watering and feeding is handled correctly then growing them in large pots is also an option and allows one to bring a considerable splash of colour once the flowers begin to open. They look especially spectacular on patios. I will be planting a collection of white flowering Hydrangeas this summer in pots on the shady side out of my house where they will thrive and then will return them in the pots to the warmer facing side for the winter months.
The trimming and removal of flowers is critical to getting the best out of Hydrangeas many gardeners often get confused about when and how to prune hydrangeas. The answer is that you should always prune out the old dead flowers in March, when the sap is starting to rise through the stems, and not the previous Autumn. It is best to leave the flowers on the plant over winter to provide some frost protection for the tender growth buds below and then remove the dead flower-heads in early spring, cutting back to the first strong, healthy pair of buds lower down the stem.
Avoid pruning too hard as you could be removing the flower buds for the forthcoming season if left un-pruned the Hydrangea will produce a large number of flower heads the size of a tennis ball, all supported on old thin stems, which bend to the ground as soon as the flowers get wet. When pruned correctly the results are impressive as the number of flower heads is reduced by about a quarter but the flower size is far greater.
The colour of the Hydrangeas can also be influenced by the soil with "Soil Test Kits" they are available in most garden centres and the easy to follow instructions will identify the soil pH factor which is the key to the colour of the Hydrangea. A reading of 7.0 means hydrangea will be pink and in soil with a pH less than 7.0, the blossoms will be blue. There are also various composts and feeds that if applied may help adjust the soil to the required level.
If Blue is your desired colour and the soil is not sufficient, then there is a tonic, that can turn Hydrangeas Blue it contains iron and aluminium sulphate. Hydrangea Colorant unlocks aluminium sulphate in the soil which can then be absorbed through the plant roots, turning pale-pink hydrangeas pale blue and dark-pink hydrangeas a dramatic deep mauve.
Beyond Macrophylia there a number of other styles including Arborescens , Paniculata and Serata. There are in total about 23 species of this family including the climbing variety there are endless options if the Hydrangea Family is your type of plant.
Top Tips Hydrangeas
..1…Don't plant a hydrangea during the hottest part of the summer
..2…Hydrangeas planted under a tree often fail to thrive. This is because trees roots are very aggressive and are drawn to the rich, moist soil usually provided for hydrangeas.
..3…Hydrangea cuttings take only a few weeks or so to root if taken in the summer months.
..4….Plants that compliment Hydrangeas … include Spiraea, Fuchsia Rhododendrons, Astilbes and Phlox and especially with Blue Agapanthus.