Hydrangeas Call for Tough-Love


The many shades of 'Gertrude Glahn' all on one plant.

Hydrangea m. 'Schenkenberg' does well
in serious shade along with hostas.
It's a good news-bad news kind of thing. Gardeners who don't consistently have blooms on their Hydrangea macrophyllas shouldn't have much to complain about this year. These temperamental beauties have dazzled us with a bounty of bodacious bloomery to a level I cannot recall in my lifetime. But there's a flip side to all of that flowering. Hydrangeas are pretty tough once they start to bloom, but they need lots of water. Especially when it's really, really hot.
If your Hydrangeas go into a mighty wilt in the hottest part of the day (Which, these days, means between 9 am and 6 pm.), just try not to look at them. Give them a good soaking twice a week when temps are in the '90s. Don't water in the middle of the day if you can help it.
Individual flowers of Hydrangea 'Gertrude Glahn' are
nearly twice the size of those on 'Endless Summer'
When 'Endless Summer' came on the scene, and we in Zone 5 and colder figured out how to grow them, it was tempting to imagine there was no need for another variety. Luckily lots of other re-bloomers came on the market, including both lacecaps and mopheads. But the Hydrangea breakthroughs have served to pique my interest. I already knew how much larger the flowers are on H. 'Gertrude Glahn', and have provided it with extra protection that's resulted in between one and six blooms in a good year. This year, Gertrude's sporting more than a dozen awesome heads of pink, purple and blue-toned flowers. They're large and have pinked edges, giving them an added ruffly look.

Hydrangea s. 'Blue Bird'
In my garden, the term "threatened" has an entirely different meaning than usual.  These are plants that haven't lived up to my expectations. I threaten them for a season and sometimes more. The next step is to dig them up and fling them into the woods to become compost.
While some indeed turn into compost, others rally, appearing in subsequent years like the pimply-faced, braces-clad teen who shows up at the 10 year reunion looking like 1000 bucks. When I try to get them back into the garden confines, I realize they're entirely unapproachable, usually owing to the fact that they're draped in poison ivy or flanked by six-foot thistles.

Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Bird'
I've been watching a wonderful Cinderella story unfold this season with Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Bird'. It was several years ago when I pitched it into the woods (Which used to be closer to the garden until I expanded the garden further.) where it was ignored by me and munched by deer. It received no water or fertilizer until last year when I built a garden bed next to it and didn't feel like moving it. 

Which goes to show you: sometimes you have to resort to serious manipulation tactics in order to achieve success. I can pretend I went through all of this to get 'Blue Bird' to bloom, but we all know better. Surprises--good ones, that is--are hard to come by in the real world. You can wait for a desirable plant to pop up out of nowhere in your garden. Or you can can give the surprise Genie a nudge by moving things around, mixing it up from year to year, and sometimes even threatening banishment to the woods.

To see what else is blooming in the world of bloggers, be sure you visit other gardens in the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day connection!

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