Tag Archives: hydrangea

Using Hydrangeas in the Garden

HydrangeaIn a container:
Hydrangeas all enjoy plenty of moisture. If you can’t, or don’t wish to spend time watering the garden but can manage a few containers, fill one or more with hydrangeas. Paired pots of hydrangeas are round in shape, have a formal look and look good placed one each side of a path or entrance. Try the stylish white-flowered Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Black Steel Zebra’ which is around a metre in height and spread, with a floral season that starts in July. For a really compact container plant the 45cm high Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Papillon‘ which has flowers that are pink in alkaline soil and shaped like some begonias. This could be placed with containers of Begonia (Nonstop Series), to intriguing effect and they should both start to flower during July.

In the border:
Hydrangeas can be surprisingly effective as part of a mixed planting in a flower border. The more delicate flowers of the lacecap forms with their domed heads can be interesting.  For pink flowers try with frothy magenta pink Astilbes such as Astilbe chinensis var. tacquetii ‘Superba’, or as a contrast to elegant hardy Lobelias such as Lobelia ‘Compton Pink’. Alternatively the exuberant whorled flowers of Monarda such as pale pink Monarda ‘Fishes’ make good companions.

If you have acidic soil and can grow those elusive blue hydrangeas (for example 1.5 metre high lacecap Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Zorro’, try them with the dark blue columnar flowers of monkshood such as Aconitum napellus, the warm lavender-blue of Phlox paniculata ‘Eventide’, or the stately pale blue spikes of Veronicastrum virginicum. All these border selections enjoy plenty of moisture.
Hydrangea

For something dramatic:
Hydrangea paniculata forms can stand 3 metres or more in height and are at their best from late summer, going through autumn. They develop large heads of conical flowers, often white or pink, and turn pink with age. They are spectacular in flower, yet often overlooked. These need plenty of moisture and acidic or neutral soil. Try 3 metres tall Hydrangea paniculata ‘Brussels Lace’, or for a small garden use modern cultivars at half the height such as Hydrangea paniculata ‘Silver Dollar’. Smaller Hydrangea macrophylla or serrata forms can be grown in front of them. They can also be grown in the company of other stalwart garden favourites with different seasons of interest such as spring flowering Forsythia, the colourful winter stems of dogwoods such as Cornus sanguinea ‘Magic Flame’, or evergreens such as Camellia and Pieris.

For exceptional foliage:
The oak leaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia forms) have large leaves, like those of an oak in their shape. They have rich autumn tints as well as beautiful flowers and can look sumptuous. These come in a range of sizes but at 1.5 metres, with a greater spread, try Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Sikes Dwarf’. These hydrangeas look beautiful when grown with witch hazels such as the pale yellow winter flowers of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ which has fine autumn colour that complements the hydrangea.

For that awkward wall:
Hydrangeas can be the perfect solution. In the mildest parts of the country try Hydrangea serratifolia. For north-facing walls, Hydrangea anomala subsp. Petiolaris with its white lacecap flowers in spring, is a first rate choice.

Enjoy!

This blog post was contributed by Susan A. Tindall

Understanding Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas have showy flowers that last for a long time. Most hydrangeas enjoy part or even full shade, and they come in a large range of sizes, many being suited to growing in containers. They sound like the perfect garden plant. What else do you need to know about them?

Blue and pink
Pink HydrangeaThe flower colour of hydrangeas that aren’t white are in the blue and pink colour ranges. These shades change in response to the acidity or the alkalinity of the soil they are grown in. If you have chalky soil your blue-flowered hydrangea will gradually change to pink. This can be upsetting if you’ve planned a dreamy blue-flowered garden. If you can successfully grow healthy camellias or any rhododendrons in your garden borders, you have acidic soil. If you can grow blueberries, you have very acidic soil. Otherwise, it is likely that your soil is neutral or alkaline. You can grow your hydrangea in a container with acidic compost, and water using rainwater. It is worth the effort for one fabulous blue specimen.

Blue flower treatments
The acid to alkaline measure or the soil’s pH is, like earthquake measurements, increased by ten with each unit. Neutral soil is pH 7, and acidic soil at pH 6 is ten times more acidic than neutral. Although it is possible to ‘blue-up’ your hydrangeas, it only really works if your soil is slightly, rather than extremely acidic. In the old days, piles of nails were put round hydrangeas to release iron into the soil.

Blue HydrangeaThe mineral aluminium is largely responsible for Hydrangea ‘blues’. Alkalinity “locks up” the aluminium so the plant can’t absorb it, the addition of iron to the soil releases the aluminium content to the plant. Nowadays ’treatment’ comes in packets. Sequestrol which contains Iron chelate, can be watered in to the soil. Aluminium sulphate applied at 250 grams to the square metre, puts aluminium into the soil which the plant can absorb. Sulphur applied at 150 grams per square metre, lowers the pH by a useful 0.5. Treatments are likely to be needed annually, and using rainwater rather than the generally alkaline tap water helps when watering. An old party trick is to blue-up just one side of a hydrangea, so you get different flower colours on the same plant!

Mopheads and Lacecaps
Hydrangea flowers, especially in the case of the common garden ‘macrophylla’ form, have two types of flower. The “mophead” (Hortensia) has big, rounded flowerheads packed with individual florets that are sterile, and tiny fertile flowers that are hardly visible. The “lacecap” heads are flattish, and have tiny fertile flowers at their heart and showy infertile ones, often held on short stems, round the edges. Hydrangea macrophylla Early Blue = ‘Hba 202911’ is a mophead, while Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Taube’ (Teller Series) is a lacecap.

From traditional to trendy
The rather stolid image of the hydrangea has changed in recent years. Some of the new varieties are elegant, even dramatic. Hydrangeas have an important role to play in the most modern and stylish garden. One change to modern forms doesn’t involve the flowers at all. Varieties are now available that have shiny black stems, such as Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Black Steel Zebra’. Other varieties have near black foliage and flowers that change colour with age. These, and many more will be covered in next month’s article “Using hydrangeas in the garden”.

Enjoy!
This blog post was contributed by Susan A. Tindall

Shop in spring, think summer too!

It is (nearly!) spring and the garden centre is full of enticing plants; the fresh colours of spring are irresistible. Trolleys are loaded high with plants and expectations. Although it may seem strange, this is the ideal time to cast your thoughts forward to high and late summer, even autumn. Continuity of colour in the garden can be quite hard to achieve and there always seems to be a lull between spring and autumn flowers. The vast majority of shrubs have their floral show in spring. Very few flower later in the season. It is worth keeping a space for these later performers while planting in spring.

Three key types of plant come to mind: Buddlejas, Fuchsias and, of course, Hydrangeas. They may not be available for sale very early in the season, but you can plan ahead and leave a space for them in the garden. Using our Plant Finder http://www.longacres.co.uk/home/longacres_garden_centre_surrey_plant_finder.html you can take a look at the varieties we sell, find one to match your favourite colours and save it to your ‘My Plants’ list for later. Or print out the plant details as a reminder.

Plan for Buddleja: they like sunshine and well drained soil. They can be 2.5 metres high Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’;

http://www.longacres.co.uk/home/longacres_garden_centre_surrey_plant_finder.html?plantid=7081

or a miniature 1.2 metres like Buddleja ‘Buzz Ivory’;

http://www.longacres.co.uk/home/longacres_garden_centre_surrey_plant_finder.html?plantid=36012

They are loved by butterflies and have flowers in shades of white, pink, red and blue to mauve. They make an imposing feature in the garden.

Plan for Fuchsias: they like sun or part-shade and reasonable moisture levels. They are in flower for a couple of months. Most of them are around 50 cm in height and look good in containers. The magellanica forms can be much larger and make handsome specimens, for example Fuchsia magellanica ‘Thompsonii’;

http://www.longacres.co.uk/home/longacres_garden_centre_surrey_plant_finder.html?plantid=1731

Their flowers are generally in the pink, red and purple range.

Plan for Hydrangeas: they generally enjoy a shaded or partially shaded site and some moisture. They too flower for weeks and in many cases their faded flowers are interesting well into the autumn. Many of the older varieties of ‘macrophylla’ hybrids are 1.5 metres high. A range of smaller, showier forms are now becoming available. These may even have shiny black stems that give an exotic twist to their flowers. Hydrangeas have large flowers in shades of white, pink, mauve, red and blue. Their flowers come in two forms, the rounded ‘mopheads’ for example Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Generale Vicomtesse de Vibraye’;

http://www.longacres.co.uk/home/longacres_garden_centre_surrey_plant_finder.html?plantid=1287

and the elegant, rather dome shaped ‘lacecaps’, for example Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Taube’;

http://www.longacres.co.uk/home/longacres_garden_centre_surrey_plant_finder.html?plantid=21690)

They have a strong presence in the garden whilst in flower, and can be a major feature.

Then with your ‘My Plants’ shopping list started, there is an excellent excuse later in the season for another shopping trip to our Garden Centre to buy the plants you’ve chosen. Enjoy.

This Longacres Blog post contributed by Susan A. Tindall