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The wonders of hydrangeas, explored and pictured.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cape Cod Mist

It took me two days this past week to drive back to Cape Cod from my daughter’s house in South Carolina. My route took me through North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island before I reached Massachusetts. If this were Europe, I would have traveled through eleven countries in those two days and, indeed, it could have been different countries with the climate changes I saw. My trip started in South Carolina where the temperatures had been in the 90s for a while. All spring flowers had gone by and now roses, gardenias, and hydrangeas (yay!) were in full bloom. On Cape Cod we don’t see hydrangeas in flower until mid-June at the earliest, so this was a real treat.

Four hours into the trip on the first day I was in the mountains of North Carolina approaching an exit for Mount Airy which I knew was where Andy Griffith was from. How could I miss the chance to see the original Mayberry? I couldn’t. Eight miles off the interstate and feeling as if I’d traveled back in time, I was sitting in Barney’s Café enjoying a full breakfast that cost all of four dollars. Back in time, indeed! I mention this side trip just to make clear that I can be interested in things that have nothing to do with hydrangeas. I was very amused that just as I’d taken a picture of Floyd’s Barber Shop (“Two chairs. No waiting.”) a squad car pulled up and I spotted a cheerful Sheriff Taylor looking out at me. The picture of Andy was attached to the window on the passenger side and instantly reminded me of all the episodes of The Andy Griffith Show I enjoyed over the years.At the Visitor’s Center a cheerful employee told me to “help yourself to the jail at the back.” What a great line! As I walked to the back of the building and let myself into the jail, I contemplated how one could help oneself to a jail. Lock myself into one of the dingy cells? Bang on the bars with a tin cup? Plead to be released, promising to go straight? My visit to Mount Airy was brief but the best was yet to come. As I drove out of town I noticed a house with a front yard filled with a profusion of blue hydrangeas. Ah, thought I, Mayberry really is perfect. Maybe Andy Griffith himself noticed those hydrangeas in the years he lived here. Maybe he said, “Whoo-wee! Those hydrangeas look goo-ood!” I certainly can’t imagine what else he would have said.

By the end of the second day, approaching Cape Cod, the warmth and sunshine disappeared and I found myself back in Cape Cod mist. It’s no wonder hydrangeas love it here, I thought. Plants, like people, have their own favorite climate conditions. Hydrangeas and I prefer cooler misty days to hot sunshine. I felt I’d returned to my natural habitat and looked forward to seeing the beautiful flowers that were yet to emerge. I had traveled back in time, from summer back into spring. I’m happy to see the hydrangeas in my garden filled with buds. It won’t be long before hydrangeas will make their presence known all over the Cape and islands. And I, for one, will be very happy.
9:06 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

'Little Honey' is a honey of an oakleaf

Last week I got a chance to check out the lovely plants at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, North Carolina. I'm always interested to notice what plants catch my eye; they vary all the time depending on the garden and the season. During this visit it was definitely Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey'. I first noticed it lighting up a dark corner against a fence. With its vibrant chartreuse leaves it just glowed in its location. When I got closer to read the plant label I appreciated the beauty of the leaves. Even though the flowers were just emerging, the plant was stunning. It's always nice to find a plant you can love for the foliage alone. I felt the same way about a variegated lacecap hydrangea in my Portland garden many years ago. Hydrangea macrophylla 'Mariesii variegata' had few flowers and the flowers that were present were of very little distinction, but I loved the foliage.

After taking pictures of 'Little Honey' I wandered some more, enjoying the peaceful spring day in the lovely spot. Before I left I came upon another plant that caught my attention. Now what is this one, I wondered. I got closer and read the label: Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey'. Talk about getting confirmation about really liking one particular plant! I'm sold! 'Little Honey' must be added to my garden.

To see pictures of H.q. 'Little Honey' click on the oakleaf hydrangeas page and scroll down. My guess is that you might decide you need 'Little Honey' in your garden too.
5:58 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Usually at this time of year I am in Massachusetts where spring is still in the early stage. Not this year. Because of the recent birth of my granddaughter, I am in South Carolina where I was surprised and delighted to see hydrangeas in bloom. A bonus! What a wonderful year; my granddaughter is born and my hydrangea season is extended. Life is good.
6:59 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pretty in Pink

Last week I experienced the joy of welcoming a beautiful granddaughter into the world and have been floating on a cloud of happiness ever since. She was born during the week before Mother’s Day. When I went to a local market a few days after the birth I was drawn to a Mother's Day display of hydrangeas, the star performers (in my opinion) amid roses, carnations, and calla lilies. My eye is usually drawn first to blue hydrangeas but this time, inspired I’m sure by the new baby girl in my life, I was dazzled by the beauty of one particular pink hydrangea.
In honor of her birth, a pink hydrangea will soon be planted in the garden of their home.

I took pictures of the flowers and liked one photo so much I had it made into a greeting card with an appropriate title: “Pretty in Pink”. If you would like to see this gorgeous pink hydrangea, click on the photo art page and scroll down until you find it.

Now I must get back to admiring my beautiful little granddaughter who is, of course, exceptionally pretty in pink.   
8:53 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Twenty-Five Cent Hydrangeas

A few weeks after Easter a few years ago as I was passing through the garden section of a big box store, I spotted a sign that at first didn’t make sense. Hydrangeas for twenty-five cents? How could this be? Needless to say, I had to check it out. Once I saw the hydrangeas I understood what was going on. These were the small potted hydrangeas for Easter that had not been purchased. Now they were very sad looking. The flowers were shriveled up or gone completely, the leaves were droopy, and the pots were light, indicating a lack of water. Clearly management had decided they were a loss; those that didn’t sell for twenty-five cents would be thrown out. My reaction, I’m sure, was much the same as that of an animal lover at a rescue operation for dogs or cats. They had to be rescued! I had to help! I hated the thought of any hydrangea being discarded. On the other hand it was a bad time for me to be rescuing them. In less than a week I would be traveling from North Carolina, my winter home, to Cape Cod where I live during the summer. I did a quick mental assessment of everything I already planned to cram into my car and there was little space left, certainly not enough space for the approximately three dozen plants in front of me. I had to be realistic, though it pained me. I loaded a cart with twelve of the plants knowing getting that many plants in my car when the car was packed for travel was going to be a challenge. As soon as I got them home I began the resuscitation effort. I lifted each plant out of its plastic pot, untangled the tight roots, and replanted them into good quality potting soil. I trimmed off the worst of the dead or dying flowers and leaves and watered them well. As the outdoor temperatures at the time were moderate, I set them outside in the shade, watering them as needed over the few days before it was time to pack them up for the trip. Cape Cod is known for its long cool springs. I had to baby the plants in the garage before it warmed up enough to plant them outside. My attitude is that there’s always room for another hydrangea in the garden but finding the right places for twelve at the same time was not easy. A Kousa dogwood tree in the front yard is centered in a bed where I usually plant impatiens. The bed is a long oval shape, parallel to the street. I considered planting a row of hydrangeas along the back edge of the flower bed picturing a nice arrangement of impatiens in the foreground, hydrangeas in the background and the dogwood in the middle. I knew the hydrangeas would get enough sun for flowering, but would be protected from the afternoon sun. In that sense the location was ideal. On the other hand, the plants were tender and that location got the full blast of the northeast wind in the winter. I knew I would be heading south before the time when winter protection would normally be applied. So there was the quandary. Should I risk a location that was perfect in the summer but dangerous in the winter? I hated to think of all of them being killed off during a New England nor’easter. I decided to risk it. By this time I was sold on the marvelous effect this row of hydrangeas would present, if they survived, thrived and grew to maturity. I planted seven of them there, knowing they were a little too close together but anticipating some losses. As they grow, I thought, I will move them around to a pleasing arrangement. I am always moving plants around so this didn’t deter me. I tucked the remaining five plants in various places in the yard, in more protected settings. These would be my back up plants for any losses in the front lines of winter’s battle with the elements. Then it became a waiting game. I did my part; the plants were watered and fed at appropriate intervals. I mulched around them for moisture retention and weed control. I murmured words of encouragement to them from time to time. They seemed to settle in nicely and looked healthy. In the fall as I was getting ready to leave, I broke the news to them that they were on their own. I wished them luck. I thought about them often during the winter, especially when I heard about nor’easters and freezing temperatures. I had to be realistic; all of them might die during the winter. I was resigned to this distinct possibility and had already planned to replace them with hydrangeas specifically bred for the garden and not for the potted trade. Winter ended. I returned to the Cape. One of the first things I did was to check on the plants under the Kousa dogwood. Every one of them was showing fresh green growth. I had steeled myself for some losses so to see that all of them had survived was pure delight. I had the added pleasure of seeing the actual flowers for the first time during that summer. Some were mopheads and some were lacecaps. All were beautiful. I decided to leave them in place for at least another season before determining which of the seven should remain, and in what arrangement.I have seen advice to people wondering if they should plant Easter or Mother’s Day hydrangeas in the garden that the plants are tender and they shouldn’t bother. Yes, the plants are tender, but why not give them a fighting chance? They might reward you, as my twenty-five cent hydrangeas continue to reward me. For the huge investment of three dollars, my garden is filled with hydrangeas that give me enormous pleasure. A successful rescue operation? Yes!  
5:16 am edt          Comments

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