The wonders of hydrangeas, explored and pictured.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
8:39 am edt
Last year just before Easter I bought a potted hydrangea in a deep gorgeous
shade of blue. I loved that hydrangea and remembered it as Easter was approaching this year. The market where I bought the
blue one always has healthy flowers so I headed there to get an Easter lily and my annual Easter hydrangea.
year they had just got in a batch of beautiful plants so my internal debate about which one was going to join the Easter lily
in my cart took a long time. Should I get the blue one in the tall blue pot? The rich pink one in the matching pink pot? The
white one in the green pot? They all appealed to me. I had them lined up in the top level of my cart as I considered them.
The Easter lily was in the main section behind them. They all looked wonderful together. That settled it. I came home with
not one, not two, but THREE Easter hydrangeas and was glad I did. They gladdened my heart with their beautiful display.
The great thing about potted hydrangeas like these is that they can be planted in the garden later. Not all of them
survive; they tend to be more tender than hydrangeas bred specifically for the garden. But almost every potted hydrangea I've
planted in my garden has not only survived but thrived. I could never just throw them out, not when I know they could provide
many years of viewing pleasure. They are the gift to yourself that keeps on giving.
For advice on caring for your
Easter (or Mother's Day) hydrangea, go to my FAQs page. If you'd like to see pictures of the hydrangeas I found this year,
go to the page devoted to potted hydrangeas. I think you'll agree I made the only possible decision. How could I ever have
chosen one of the three and left the other two behind?
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Spring Pruning of Mopheads and Lacecaps
1:16 pm edt
Pruning questions abound when it comes to hydrangeas. When should I prune? How should I prune? What's all
this about old wood and new wood? Pruning hydrangeas is really very simple once you know the basics and the basics depend
on which species you're talking about. Today I'd like to talk about Hydrangea macrophylla, the mopheads and lacecaps.
Most of them bloom on old wood which just means the stems that grew in the garden last summer. If you cut those stems way
back, either in the fall or in the following spring, you will not get any flowers. Improper pruning is one of the most common
reasons for lack of flowers. If you plan to do any extensive pruning it should be done after flowering. If peak bloom time
for your mopheads and lacecaps is July, you should do extensive pruning by the end of July. Light pruning is easily
and safely done in the spring. Wait until you see fresh green growth. Then it will be easy to see where to prune. I have added
a page on pruning mopheads and lacecaps because I think it's clearer when you can see pictures as well as read the advice.
You can access that page by clicking on the page called "Caring for hydrangeas", and then click on "Pruning".
It doesn't take long to do a good job pruning each shrub. It's well worth doing especially when you consider the months of
pleasure hydrangea flowers give us. Happy pruning!
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
8:35 am edt
One day when I was browsing hydrangea-related websites I came across a video showing
how to decorate cupcakes so that they looked like mophead hydrangeas. It looked easy; even I could do that, I thought. (It
would be accurate to describe me as culinarily challenged.) Off I went to purchase the simple supplies and before
long I was ready to create beautiful hydrangea cupcakes. I was ready and willing. But you know that expression: ready,
willing, and able? I seemed to lack the third requirement. What looked easy on the video turned out to be not easy at
all for me. Here I was with rich and moist chocolate cupcakes and frosting of the perfect consistency colored a lovely periwinkle
shade of blue. All that was needed was the perfect touch to create hydrangeas. I seemed to have the perfect touch to create
something else entirely. If there were a flower called "Blobby Blue" I would have rendered it brilliantly.
Fortunately I got better as I went along, but "better" is a relative term. The last few cupcakes
I decorated looked somewhat like hydrangeas if you looked at them from a distance, and squinted. The blue color helped. So
much for my first experiment in cupcake decorating. Maybe I'll try it again, but I think I'd have to have people around me
who could tell me how to correct what I'm doing wrong.
You might like to try this yourself. If you click on the
"Links" page you'll find links to directions for making hydrangea cupcakes and an amazing hydrangea cake. The latter
had directions for adding leaves made out of white chocolate, colored leaf green. That looks like something I could do! Maybe
I'll become a leaf specialist.
The good news is that no matter how terrible your decorating efforts turn out to
be, the cupcakes are still delicious!
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Years ago when my daughter was in grad school at Durham University in England we planned
a mother/daughter trip around northern England and Scotland as the school year ended. Her field of study was medieval history
and she wanted to visit the sites she'd learned about through seminars and reading. Fine by me, I told her, as long as there
were gardens for me to see along the way.
9:16 am edt
My one specific request was Holehird Gardens in the Lake District. I
had read about their national collection of hydrangeas and felt compelled to go there despite my regrets about the timing;
it was June - too early for the mopheads and lacecaps to be in bloom - but I thought a place with a collection of hydrangeas
would have something of value for me to see.
As it happened, I was rewarded almost as soon as we arrived.
We walked through a massive stone arch on our way to view one of the gardens and for some reason I looked behind us before
we'd make much progress. I was amazed at what I saw. Climbing hydrangeas completely covered the arch, a magnificent display
that was in peak bloom. My daughter, knowing my obsession, was not the least bit surprised that I needed to get some pictures.
Now you have to understand, when we arrived that day there were very few cars in the parking lot. It was a weekday
in early spring; we practically had the gardens to ourselves. It would be easy to get a clear shot of the hydrangea-
covered arch without people in the picture. That's what I thought, anyway. But as soon as I focused the camera,
a man pushing a wheelbarrow appeared right in the middle of the scene. Oh well, I thought, I'll just wait for him to
trundle along and then I'll get the picture. He moved off to the left, out of sight, and once more I focused but - what's
this? - three women entered the area and paused for a long - very long in my mind - discussion about how they would
proceed. They finally moved off and again I focused, only to see a young mother pushing a baby carriage urging the toddler
behind her to "come along, we've plenty to see." The toddler was reluctant. The photographer glanced ruefully
at her daughter who understood the frustration completely. "I'll get it as soon as they move along," I said hopefully,
but the hope was dashed when a husband and wife went strolling by and, of course, stopped right in the middle of the
arch to have a little chat. It was as if all the world was a stage and the stage was the small space just on the other
side of that magnificent arch and all of England decided to have a bit part that day. By this time my daughter and I were
getting silly. One of us may have ventured a guess as to what people might appear next: a cricket team?; a busload of
tourists?; the entire royal family? We were laughing so hard that I worried about holding the camera steady when I finally found
myself with a brief window of opportunity and got the picture.
You can see the picture if you
click on the page for climbing hydrangeas. It will look like a peaceful setting. But I can't look at the picture without
smiling, remembering the parade of humanity that caused my daughter and me to dissolve in laughter on that beautiful
As a postscript, I did get back to Holehird Gardens several years later, when the macrophyllas
were in full bloom. I looked at my old pal, the climbing hydrangea, with great affection. The flowers had gone by, of
course, and now it was just a mass of green, but I remembered clearly how stunning it was. It caused me to fall
irrevocably in love with climbing hydrangeas.