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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hydrangeas Come Honest!

photo by Suzanne * Spring 2003

'Big Leaf' Hydrangeas...Honestly!

One year I decided I wanted to have some Hydrangeas, just to see if I could keep them and enjoy the large blooms.  So we bought two plants labeled 'Big Leaf' Hydrangeas, somewhere, and put them under the Mulberry tree-with everything else!  Of course, I knew nothing about them, only that they are beautiful, so I set off to nurse the small plants into what you see in this picture.

Of course, I knew NOTHING about hydrangeas, and when it got cold, the leaves turned brown and fell off.  Then, the branches turned brown-what now?  Do I cut the branches back?  I mean, there were small nodes of new growth on these brown stems!  And we didn't want to lose them.  As it got colder, we fluffed some hay around the base and kind of throughout the plants, and when there were threats of frost, we covered them lightly with pillow cases that I cut open.  You could also see new growth at the base of the plants.  Needless to say, the brown branches cratered, and all that was left was the new growth close to the ground.  Well, ok, they're still alive.  And they grew large and healthy...but, we got NO blooms that year.  The plants thrived all summer, here comes fall, and the leaves turned brown-again, and fell off.  Again, new nodes on the brown branches, and nice, new growth at the bottom.  But, we did get some blooms, just not a whole lot.

I noticed, at the bottom of the plants, the new growth was of a floweret type.  I popped one off and put it in a pot.  Lo, and behold, it started growing.  When the weather got cold, I took the pot into the shed for protection, and we kept it lightly watered throughout the winter.  In the spring, I brought it out into the sun, and it continued to grow, eventually to put on a half-dozen beautiful, large, pink blooms!  Sorry, no photos-darn!  At least I knew I could propagate these plants.

But, I worried about the plants in the ground not blooming, and asked the guy who takes care of our plants at my office about them.  He told me if you can't save the stems from the prior year, you may not get blooms in the spring.  Tim said that this particular hydrangea most time will bloom on the previous year's stems.  We did get more blooms for a couple of years, and finally gave up-the plants just weren't producing on a regular basis without a lot of babysitting.  It was a lot of work! 

We still like hydrangeas, and are talking about trying them again, only, this time I will do some more research and find a type that is not so high maintenance. 

This is what the leaf of the 'Big Leaf' Hydrangea looks like
It is very large.

A site that I frequent has a small article regarding the 'Big Leaf' Hydrangea.

This article confirms my findings about this particular hydrangea.
1)  They tend to bloom on the previous season's growth, and the stems usually die back to the ground.  It also says they will produce flowers only in zone 6 and warmer.  In Fort Worth, Texas, we're on the edges of zones 7b and 8a.  And, as you all know, it's QUITE warm!  However, since we planted the hydrangeas under a large tree, they enjoyed some shade, which enabled them to thrive.

2)  And, in conjunction with the article, I always blend peat moss with my planting soil or mix, to add nutrients for healthy plantings.

3)  Our plants produced large, pink blooms.  If you want the blooms to be blue, you must add an acid plant food that will bring your soil to ph5.0.  The pink blooms are produced in a neutral or akaline soil.  The concern about acid plant food, is that it's not good for all plants, if you have neighboring plants in the same flower bed.  So I chose not to use this plant food.  Besides, I prefer the pink blooms.

4)  And, you can propagate hydrangeas easily.  The 'big leaf' hydrangea puts on small green nodes on the stems, and, at the base of the plants.  Let them grow until you can see small flowerets of leaves forming, then carefully POP them off, and plant in a ordinary pot to encourage safe growth.  If it gets cold, you can take the pot in, provide some sunlight and watering.  By could get a slew of plants started for spring plantings!

Below is a photo of my hydrangeas in black and white-why did I do that? Well, at the time, I had black and white film in my Pentax K1000 35mm camera, using, what I believe is called a 2x2 converter lens along with my normal lens.  I didn't purchase a digital camera until 2006. In fact, I want to get some film for my Pentax and take some more landscape and scenic shots.  Anyway, the photo isn't bad, and you can see some of the other plants surrounding the hydrangea.  The ladder was built by Karo and nailed to the tree for the variegated vinca major to climb, which it did.

photo by Suzanne * Spring 2004

And this photo gives a closer look at the size of the blooms and
 the texture of the leaves.
photo by Suzanne * 2004

Tonite, I am thanking:

My husband Karo, for helping me design and build our gardens

And a special thank you to all of my dear blogmates and readers for putting up with my, probably too many details.  I wish a special autumn season for all of you.

AND-I'm happy to say, it's 65° in Fort Worth, Texas tonite!  YAY!!!

Please stop by anytime and say hello!

"A strange black cat on your porch brings prosperity."
  Scottish Superstition