GARDENER’S GARDEN – Dynamite times two

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While looking for a big splash of flowers in June, July and August, I “discovered” the many new options available in today’s hydrangeas.  There are ones that have serrated-edge petals, fragrance, bi-color flower heads, “white eyes,” petite form, repeat bloomers, on and on. 
 
Since then, I’ve tucked in about 16 different kinds all around my garden.

Grown and loved worldwide, hydrangeas are gloriously content in Alexandria.    An old-fashioned favorite, hydrangeas have blooms that last from late spring into early fall — providing lots of cut bouquets.  And they require partial shade, a commodity we all probably have an abundance of.
 
Show-stopping color and strong stems make hydrangeas an all-time favorite for cutting.  The color of hydrangeas varies considerably due to your type of soil.  Most hydrangeas (except for the white ones) are at least a little bit pH sensitive.  Acidic soil (less than 6 on the pH scale) will result in blue and purple blooms.  To increase acidity, add aluminum sulfate to your soil. 
 
In neutral or alkaline soils (6 to 7.5 pH), hydrangeas tend to have pink cotton-candy or reddish-color blooms.  Add lime to increase the alkalinity of your soil if you prefer this color family.  Color correction can take months to a year or two to attain the desired change, so be patient.
 
Fall is the best time to plant, the still-warm earth will allow the roots to become well established.  The soil should drain well, and be rich in organic matter, bark and peat moss.  When planting, leave the top of the rootball one inch above the original soil level so there won’t be a depression for water to stand in and rot the roots.  Use a general 10-10-10 fertilizer sparingly twice a year; hydrangeas do better when they are a little “starved”.
 
The more sun your hydrangea gets, the more you will have to water it to maintain the blooms and leaves.  Signs of too much water are brown leaf edges and leaf drop. Signs of insufficient water are droopy leaves that perk up within a half hour of watering.  Too much afternoon sun scorches the leaves.  Hydrangeas are deciduous so they won’t provide any winter screening.
 
Your garden will get more exciting when you add hydrangeas to your landscape.  Be sure to research and select them based on mature size (some reach 10+ feet tall and just as wide!), type of flower (mophead, paniculata, lacecap, climbing, serrated petals, bi-color, etc.), exfoliating bark in the winter, sun/shade preferences.
 
All of our local nurseries carry many types of hydrangeas.  Also use the internet to see specific pictures and growing details.  With over 160 selections, I contacted Hydrangeas Plus at 1.866.433.7896 or www.hydrangeasplus.com.  After viewing all options, ‘Pink or Blue’ may be the easiest decision!
 
Nancy Burns, owner of Garden Ideas, is a Certified Master Gardener; Horticulture Information Director of District 2–Nat’l. Capital Area Garden Clubs; Belle Haven Garden Club President; and Secretary, National Capital Orchid Society.  Please contact [email protected] or 703.329.1899.

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