“Grandmother’s Garden” Hydrangeas: Today’s Fashion Flower

March 22nd, 2011 by
Hydrangeas are enjoying a renaissance in gardens throughout parts of the US. Although some of the old-fashioned varieties are not “zone friendly,” many can be successfully grown to zone 5, and a few even to zone 3. In colder zones, “Endless Summer,” one of the new ever-blooming hydrangeas, can often survive winters. One of the greatest dangers to hydrangea blooms is their eagerness to break dormancy and begin to leaf out in late winter. This is especially true in some southern states, when warm days sometimes appear in late winter. Then, the cold returns and the tender, new growth is destroyed. So, an extremely cold winter, with no warm or mild days, sometimes works best for many varieties of this lovely flowering plant. Consult with your garden-center specialist or your County Extension Agent to learn which of these beauties may be suitable for growing in your area.

Hydrangeas in your garden

(Teriblondeness, California)

Mophead! The French hydrangeas (hydrangea macrophylla), with their large, rounded globes of flowers (mopheads!) in colors ranging from deep blue to lavender, to pure white and pinks and light reds are the ones we recall from our grandmother’s garden. Their nostalgic vision of loveliness is captivating during summer months. The soil pH determines their color: the bluest color comes from an acid soil, the reddest in an alkaline soil. If your soil leans toward the alkaline pH, add aluminum sulfate to the soil in winter for the bluest blue; if you want redder blooms, add lime or superphosphate.

French Hydrangeas in your garden

(Coastal Gardener, Plymouth, MA)

Macrophylla hydrangeas grow easily in rich, porous soil. They will also grow well in clay soils that are not compacted. In warmer climates, they prefer the comfort of shade on hot afternoons. Too much heat and their beautiful flowers will droop sadly, but with the cool of late afternoon, they will again stand at attention, their large, lovely heads swelled to perfection. So, in zones with extremely hot summers, give them the right site—one that gets early morning sun and afternoon shade or partial shade. But keep this in mind: the further north you garden, the more sun these hydrangeas can withstand.

Macrophylla hydrangeas in your garden

(Coastal Gardener, Plymouth, MA)

Lacycaps! Lacecap hydrangeas are of the same family as the mopheads, but they are daintier than their bold cousins. They appear light and airy in clusters above the foliage. Their colors are gentle in contrast to the vivid colors of the mopheads. You’ll often see a ring of water-colored flowers surrounding—or mixed with—sterile flower buds that never open. Quite an interesting composition.

Lacecap hydrangeas in your garden

(Pamela Zuchowski, Wellsboro, PA)

Pruning Hydrangeas You only need to prune to control the plant’s growth, or to shape it. Keep in mind that most hydrangeas—including those in the macrophylla genus—bloom on last year’s wood growth, so DON’T PRUNE IN THE SPRING! Doing so will remove hidden—at this time—flower buds, and you won’t have any summer blooms. If you want to trim your hydrangea bush, do so soon after the plant flowers. The flowers that you remove during this process will make excellent dried arrangements.

Dried Hydrangea arrangements

(Coastal Gardener, Plymouth, MA)