Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Setting up the soil for hydrangea

I envy people with a green thumb -- gardeners like my sister-in-law who can pull a plant out of a hat and get it to grow.  Seriously, from fall mums and Christmas poinsettias to an Easter lily in a bonnet, if it’s living when she gets it, then into the ground it goes.

I’m reminded of her talents every spring when her hydrangeas start to bloom. She rescued two plants from a drooping summer sale a few years ago and they have since become known as “Sue’s hydrangea ginormous.”

I love hydrangea almost as much a lilacs. So a couple of years ago I finally broke down and purchased two varieties similar to Sue’s. We have a flower bed on the east side of our house that gets sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. Since hydrangea — like most sophisticated plants — do not like clay soil, I had to completely dig the bed out. I refilled it with topsoil and organics such as peat moss and soil conditioners. It was quite the chore since all of the bulbs I had planted there also needed to come out.

Both plants had the nicest looking foliage, but no blooms. I took it to heart thinking maybe I had done something wrong. English Garden nursery buyer and gardening expert Darrell Youngquest said there is a variety of hydrangea that only blooms on old wood.

Another reason for a lack of flowers is frost damage or too much shade or nitrogen. I know because of the foliage and the area where it is planted that this is probably not the case. 

So, fingers crossed, this could be the year I see flowers. Whether they are pink or blue, we’ll have to wait and see.

Acid soils give us blue flowers and baser soils cause hydrangea to flower pink. If you don’t like what you see this May: Iron sulfate can be added to the soil for blue and a top dressing of dolomite or drenching the soil with a quick lime solution can increase your chances of seeing pink.

As for new varieties of hydrangea, Youngquest expects to have several, including pistachio and fire and ice hydrangea. The flowers on a fire and ice hydrangea bloom white and then they turn to pink and, finally, to a deep red. The pistachio hydrangea has blooms that are greenish yellow, pink and dark purple. 

Check out some of the other new varieties such as Forever & Ever Fantasia posted by Youngquest at Pinterest

One lifetime is never enough to accomplish one's horticultural goals. If a garden is a site for the imagination, how can we be very far from the beginning?  -- Francis Cabot Lowell

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