Heavenly hydrangeas – one of my favourite shrubs and flowers and definitely a fabulous follow on to the peony. These are one of my favourite blooms and I adore them in bouquets, arrangements and in my garden. They can flower from April through to October and the foliage can be quite wonderful to in the Autumn months. Here are my top tips with planting, growing and pruning these fantastic shrubs.
Hydrangeas will thrive in most soil types but do remember that the pH of the soil will change the colour of the flowers of some varieties. Some plants that usually produce pink flowers, for example, will appear blue if the soil is acidic. If you prefer a blue flower then there is the beauty of being able to change the colour to blue by feeding it a fertiliser low in phosphorous and high in potassium. How amazing is that? To change a plant from blue to pink is a little trickier as you will need to raise the pH by adding dolomitic lime. I personally have only white hydrangeas (this most probably doesn’t come as a great surprise to anyone!) and these always remain white as it’s not possible to change their colour.
While they do like moist soil, Hydrangeas cannot tolerate being waterlogged and can die very quickly if they do not have adequate drainage.
In terms of where to plant, think about when your borders get the sunshine. Hydrangeas love the warm morning sun, but they dislike the heat of the afternoon. Therefore the best place to plant them is in a sheltered location with sunny mornings and shady afternoons. Also, try to avoid windy areas as high wind can damage their leaves.
The best time to plant a hydrangea is in spring or autumn, so do keep an eye out for them in the Autumn sales and buy, buy, buy. Dig a spacious hole but never plant them deeper than they were in their original containers. The best time to plant is early morning or late afternoon to provide protection against heat. Simply dig the planting hole 2 feet wider than the root ball and keep the depth so your plant sits level with or just higher than the surrounding soil. By creating a slight mound, you will help increase water drainage away from the base of the plant. Give them a good water and keep them well-watered until established.
Looking after them
Water regularly, remembering the key is to keep the soil moist but never waterlogged. Adding a layer of mulch will also help retain the moisture.
You can take softwood cuttings in spring but having seen Monty (Gardeners World) do it last week I’m going to give this a go now. Take the cutting in the morning and look for young, non-flowering shoots that have three sets of leaves. Remove the two sets of lower leaves and shorten the stem of the cutting. Cut just below a node and insert the cuttings into a pot of cutting compost. More than one cutting can be placed in a pot as long as the leaves don’t touch. Water and cover with a clear plastic bag. Ideally, keep in an unheated greenhouse and once you see clear signs of growth pot on plants, keeping them in a shady spot.
In terms of pruning, to avoid frost damage, leave the faded flowerheads on as these will protect the shrub from frost damage. Wait until the Spring before you prune.
If yours get attacked by slugs in the Spring when they start to grow then invest in some copper rings – they have worked a treat for me.
Jobs to do in your cut flower garden
- If you’ve sowed seeds directly into your cut flower beds then hopefully by now you should be seeing some tiny shoots appearing. If you notice any gaps then now and most probably your last opportunity to sow on some further seeds.
- Make sure you keep your cut flower beds weed-free. I use a fork to weed around my tiny seedlings, to help prevent disturbing them or uprooting them.
- Keep sweet peas watered and encourage them to hook onto their supports/netting. Picking sweet peas regularly will encourage more flowers. For the best blooms, remove the curly tendrils as they grow (ps mine are growing but I’m still waiting for them to bloom!).
- To finish off here’s a little picture of my own homegrown roses with some snippets of salvia and lavender thrown in.
With love and stay safe,
Flowers and Lifestyle by Margot – www.instagram.com/flowersandlifestylebymargot/
Find out more about me – www.flowersandlifestylebymargot.co.uk