|My hydrangeas last summer. |
P.S. I added another one right at the corner of the house. It's still a baby.
Since I have ummmm, ten hydrangeas in my front yard alone, I guess it's safe to say that I kind of like them. ;)
I planted the hydrangeas when we first moved in because the previous owners' landscaping just wasn't cutting it for me. An off-centre cedar and some scraggly vines? Umm, no thanks. I was actually inspired to create a hedge of hydrangeas along the front of the house from a Country Living photo that I saw in a book or magazine. Even though I haven't been able to find the picture since, I can still picture that pretty grey house with it's long row of hydrangeas as clear as day.
While I'm no professional gardener by any means, I thought I would share some tips and tricks that have helped keep my hydrangeas healthy and full of giant, white blooms. (Seriously, one of my neighbours admitted that she almost snuck into our yard one night to clip some flowers for her dining table. Of course we installed an alarm system after that, hahaha.)
Keep in mind that where you plant your hydrangeas and how you care for them will vary depending on where you live, where you plant them, and the variety that you have. My hydrangeas are the 'Annabelle' or hydrangea arborescens variety and they receive dappled shade in the afternoon / evening in Hardiness Zone 3b.
Caring for my hydrangeas started even before they were planted. I removed about a foot of poor quality soil and clay before adding in a combination of peat moss, manure, and garden soil. I also added bone meal to the soil that I used to fill in around the bottom and sides of each plant.
Hydrangeas require a lot of water. Because most of my hydrangeas are in dappled shade and only receive a small amount of afternoon / evening sun I don't have to worry about them drying out too often. Hydrangea leaves will get all withered and droopy when they have been without water for too long. When I do water them I try to do make sure it is in the early morning or early evening (although I've read that morning is always better). I also make sure to water each one deeply rather than just spraying the leaves or lightly watering the soil surface.
In early spring I do a general clean-up and pruning of each hydrangea shrub. I start by trimming off the dead blooms with snips. Next I pull out any dead wood and leaves from the centre of each plant. Once the shrubs are cleaned up a bit I go ahead with some gentle pruning. (Gah! The word pruning is weird.) Most years I bring out one of Alex's measuring tapes and prune back each stem to a specific length. For example in 2011 I cut them all to about 20" long. (I didn't have time to be that particular this year so I just randomly trimmed them all until I got a nice rounded shape to each one.) When trimming the stems, I make sure to snip above the first or second set of buds. I try not to cut off more than that.
For me, gentle pruning has two advantages. By keeping some of the old wood, it helps the stems get nice and thick over the years so that the plant becomes nice and solid. Thick stems are important to help hold up those giant flowers when it rains. I've also read that gentle pruning in early spring generates more blooms. And this girl looooooves hydrangea blooms.
Every once in awhile I will use some Miracle Grow fertilizer when I water but I don't do this very often for no other reason than I am forgetful.
Because my gardens are under the roofline, sometimes the soil around the plants gets washed away over time. Every spring I make sure to add some nice, dark topsoil to cover up any exposed roots.
Here's how my hydrangeas looked a few days ago, Not quite as meticulous as in 2011 but I suppose a kid and a second dog will do that to ya. ;)
So, that's that. I've had really good luck with my hydrangeas so far. Well, except when the freakiest hailstorm ever crushed them all to bits last fall. I cried. For real, I cried. My fingers are crossed that they will bounce back this spring and summer!
If you have any other good tips or if I've left something out, make sure to leave me a note in the comments section.