Dear Hydrangea Enthusiasts,

Welcome to the April 2006 edition of Hydrangeas Plus® newsletter.  The season is picking up after a long cold winter.  We've still been getting frosts here in the willamette Valley and we all have cabin fever.  The sun is finally shining today but rain is in the forecast.  Nursery is slowly waking up.  The 18 degrees in February is having some lingering affects but everything looks like it is in fine shape.  We've still got the plastic on the houses for fear of another frost.  This gives us some added protection from the elements.

Yes, I'm finally early with the newsletter.  Don't anyone fall over in your chair please.

A winter tip – Pruning
If you forgot to prune your hydrangeas last fall, don’t worry, you can still prune them in the spring.  Unlike many of your other flowering bushes (roses & buddleia), hydrangeas should not be harshly pruned in the spring.  Most mophead and lacecap hydrangea varieties bloom on old wood and if you cut too much, you won’t get any blooms.  Once your plant starts to leaf out, you can see the leaf nodes beginning to form.  Count back from the end of the plant such that you have at least three fat and healthy leaf nodes forming.  Prune right above the third one.  That is, after the pruning, you'll have three of the fattest leaf nodes remaining.  Be sure that you leave nice plump buds.  Wait until leaves are starting to show before you prune your macrophyllas so you don’t prune too much.

When in doubt, just cut off the dried bloom heads from last year.  The new leaves will grow around these old heads even if you don't cut them.  But, each cut you do will give you two branches and two future blooms.

The Paniculata and Arborescens varieties bloom on new wood so you may cut them for size every year, spring or fall, what ever is most convenient for you.  Cut these for size.  These varieties will put on one foot to three feet of growth in one year depending on the amount of sun.

A spring tip – Fertilizing
It’s almost time to start fertilizing those hydrangeas.  My rule of thumb is when the leaves start showing through the leaf nodes, it’s time for an application of time release fertilizer. 

What do your hydrangeas need in terms of fertilizing?  The three essential components of fertilizer are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the N-P-K numbers on any fertilizer.  Nitrogen is for healthy green growth by helping the plant to grow chlorophyll.  Fertilizers high in nitrogen like 25-10-10, is great for greening up your lawn.  Phosphorus helps a plant grow good roots and stems in the early growth season then in flower production.  A mix like 10-30-10 is great for flowers on your annuals and perennials.  The Potassium (K) helps your plants generate and process nutrients.  Other important elements in fertilizers are calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, and sulfur.  Organic fertilizers are usually very low in these trace elements.

Hydrangeas like a balanced fertilizer.  We prefer the granular time-released kind that delivers nutrients to the plant over a 3 or 4 month period.  Water will break down the outside coating of the fertilizer slowly and nutrients won’t dwindle out in the active spring growth season.  Be sure that the soil is slightly moist when applying the granulated variety and keep the fertilizer off the foliage to prevent burn.

For blue hydrangeas, a low phosphorus element (the ‘P’) is important as too much will limit the plant’s ability to absorb aluminum.  The amounts of sulfur (lowers pH) and calcium (raises pH) are important to keep the blue color.  A good soil test from you local garden center can tell you what elements are missing from your soil.

Another spring tip - Slugs
It's that time of year that slugs begin to emerge from their dark dens.  There are many things you can do to keep these criters away from your beautiful hydrangeas. We've found that certain varieties are more prone to slug and snail damage.  The Annabelle is one of their favorite.  It must be the thinner leaves.  Slugs come out at night and early morning to avoid the hottest parts of the day.

Here are some of the methods we use to combat slugs around our home and in the nursery...

Turn an empty 2 liter soda bottle or water bottle on it's side.  Cut of the bottle's neck and flip it around such that the nose and neck are in inside the bottle.  You can pour slug bait or beer into the bottle.  When the trap is full, remove the nose/neck piece and dump the snail and bait.  Add more bait and catch more slugs.  We like this method around the house because it keeps the birds, kids and pets out of the bait.

Add frogs and toads to your garden - they love to munch of the little slugs.  Ducks and geese like them too ,but they can be messy.

Commercial slug bait - Sluggo, WorryFree are both safe to use around pets, birds and kids but often degrade quickly.  Deadline is also a good product that doesn't degrade as quickly but shouldn't be used around pets or kids.

Broken egg shells spread around the hydrangeas - the sharp edges cut their bellies and so they avoid the area

Copper bands around plants- snails slimy trail chemically reacts to the copper and they don't like it.

There are some new brands of slug killer on the market that are made with iron phosphate that actually help plants grow but beware that it may affect the color of your blooms. 

Memorial for Penny McHenry
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is honoring Penny by naming the new hydrangea collection in Penny's memory, Penny McHenry Hydrangea Collection.   Please indicate on your check that your donation is in memory of Penny McHenry and send it to the Penny McHenry Hydrangea Collection. 

Please mail your donation to:

Atlanta Botanical Garden
1345 Piedmont Ave.
Atlanta, GA  30309

Happenings around Oregon

We will be at Fir Point Farms in Aurora, Oregon at Gardenpalooza Saturday, April 1st (no fooling) from 8am to 4pm.  Come visit us at Fir Point on Arndt Road.  I'll pick some special varieties just for the occasion.  Especially Penny Mac, in honor of Penny McHenry. and follow the links to the Gardenpalooza page.

Annual ‘Overstocks’ spring sale is April 28th-May 13th, 8am to 5pm everyday here at the nursery.  Directions at
No presales are allowed.  

Northwest Hydrangea Society (Washington & Oregon but anyone welcome)
June - date depending on blooms - here at Hydrangeas Plus

Special offer until April 30th ONLY
Free Shipping!!!  For orders over $200, you will not be charged for shipping.  Sorry, this special only applicable to online orders and is not applicable with any other offers.  Remember, this is only for until April 30th so get those orders in soon.  We're starting to run out of plants so hurry!!  Just type in 'FREE SHIP' in the coupon code section on the order form once your order for plants exceeds $200.  For those of you in colder zones, please note you can specify a later ship date and still get this Free Shipping offer.  

Hydrangea news - upcoming gatherings for Hydrangea Lovers around the country

American Hydrangea Society
(Atlanta, Georgia) - see for membership information
June 10th - Annual Garden Tour in Atlanta - see for more information

Mid-South Hydrangea Society (Memphis, Tennessee) -  Membership/Newsletter Caroline Brown 683-9766 or at
April 10th - Dr. Dirr presentation  - Doors open at 5:30pm  questions -
April 21st - 23rd - Memphis Botanical Garden plant sale
June 17th - 2nd annual Garden Tour

Blue Ridge Hydrangea Society (Western North Carolina)  -  President/Founder: Linda Shapiro  (828) 890-0880 (Linda's email is down, please be patient)
Saturday, April 29, 2006 - Guest Speaker: Dick Bir  Topic: “What Works…Hydrangeas That Survive and Thrive in WNC”., 1:00 P.M., NC Arboretum  (828) 665-2492
$6.00 parking charge per car if you are not a member of the NC Arboretum.
late July/early August - Hydrangea Tour - Cindy Hudgins of “A Touch of the Mountains”, will give us a tour of her working hydrangea field in bloom. Directions will follow
September, dates to be announced via WNC Agricultural Center NC State Flower and Garden Show- 2 weeks of hydrangea lectures.  WNC Agricultural Center at (828) 687-1414 Ext.210.
Saturday, October 28, 2006 - Guest Speaker: Mal Condon of Nantucket Hydrangea Farm Nursery     Topic: “Got Hydrangeas”?Place: NC Arboretum Time: 1:00 P.M.

CSRA Hydrangea Society (Aiken, South Carolina and Augusta, GA areas) - Membership questions - Bill Hayes (803)641-1077 at
Thursday: May 18, "The Hydrangeas Garden" Pendleton King Park in Augusta, GA - Members/Guests will tour garden
June 3, 2006, in Aiken SC - contact President Annette Ferris at for more information
June 10, 2006, in Augusta, GA - contact President Annette Ferris at for more information
Thursday: August 17, "Shady Characters with Hydrangeas". Guest Speakers: Everett and Karen Jones, owners Shady Characters Nursery, Location: Aiken Technical College.
November meeting: To be Determined

Birmingham Hydrangea Society of Alabama (Birmingham, Alabama) - President is Philip Sarris
May 17th - Speaker: Elizabeth Dean of Wilkerson Mill Nursery, Aldridge Botanical Gardens located in Hoover Alabama

Heronswood (Kingston, Washington)
Hydrangea Daze - Friday and Saturday, July 21 and 22, 2006 - 9:30 am to 3:30 pm each day

Do you know of other gatherings where HYDRANGEAS are the topic?  Please let us know.  We'll publish in our newsletter and get the word out!  Please, just Hydrangea gatherings.  Contact me if you need some information about Hydrangeas.  We provide FREE information.  Hydrangea Lovers, unite!

AOL Update
We aren't the only ones upset about the AOL development.

Remember last month - We may soon lose some our valued newsletter subscribers.  AOL and Yahoo have announced that they will soon begin CHARGING us to send our newsletter to you.  Even though we are an "OPT IN" (that means you sign up and we don't buy email addresses) sender, they will soon require the use of an e-mail verification service imposing a per subscriber charge for every email we send.  I am a huge fan of AOL and what they have done for internet access but this latest development is simply too much for a small business like ours to get on board with.  I don't know the specifics but from what I've read, we will be subject to this charge because of the number of subscribers we have with AOL and Yahoo addresses.   We have had trouble with AOL in the past when they blocked us as 'SPAM' (in spite of our OPT IN policy).  I'm not sure what can be done about this but if you are an AOL or Yahoo customer and want to keep receiving our monthly email newsletters, please also subscribe with another email address.  We don't want to lose you. Alternatively, you might want to consider contacting either of these providers directly and expressing your displeasure with this policy.

Please go to this website and let them know you're not happy with the recent development.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q:  I would like to purchase one of the tree hydrangeas. Can you tell me which ones can take a sunny spot, if any. Also, I note that the height that they grow is between 4 and 5 feet. What is the normal width of the tree? Thank you.

A:  They all like sunny spots.
Right now, the trees are between 4 and 5 feet.  They will grow beyond that height.  They are somewhat slow growers.  I just talked to a customer who is replacing one that was 30 feet tall so they can get quite large.  She thought it was over 60 years old, however.  It was her grandmother's home and a wind storm uprooted the tree and it couldn't be saved.

The trees should be pruned every year down to the first leaf node.  I do the tree pruning in the spring but because the paniculata varieties bloom on new wood (all but Pracox), you may also prune in the fall.  Trees can grow 1 foot to 5 feet per year, depending on how happy they are and how old they may be.
Thank you for your question.  My favorite variety is the Pink Diamond but the most popular are the full blooms of the Paniculata Grandiflora (nicknamed PeeGee)

Q:   I tried to subscribe to newsletter, you said I am already subscribed...i do not receive. when you sell plant, it has 1-2-3- years, so does that mean they only live that long? thanks for your attention to this matter.
A:  Check you spam filter for the newsletter.  Until you allow it to come to your mailbox, most email servers will block us because we send it to over 8000 people.  If you missed it, check out our website - we have all the old newsletters online.  Also, AOL and Yahoo have been blocking some of our emails, including order receipts.  I'm not sure what can be done about this but if you are an AOL or Yahoo customer and want to keep receiving our monthly email newsletters, please also subscribe with another email address.  You might want to consider contacting either of these providers directly and expressing your displeasure with this policy.  We have an OPT IN policy for our newsletter and don't buy email addresses but these providers may still be blocking the newsletter.
Our one year plants/three year plants are just how long they have been in containers.  The one year plants are really TWO years old total.  They spent their first year as rooted cuttings and little pots.  The three year plants are actually three years old.  They were rooted cuttings and little plants for the first year, in one gallon containers for the second year, and are now growing in three gallon containers.   Hydrangeas should last forever and ever.
Q:  I was wondering when the best time was to take off the winter protection that I have put on my hydrangeas. I put burlap around them and then put leaves inside the burlap. It's starting to get warm here (zone 6) but the cold weather isn't gone for good yet, it's too early. Should I take off the covering and just watch out for frosts or is it just too early yet?
A:   Great question!  I haven't answered this one yet this winter.
Don't let the warm weather fool you but the sooner you can get the wraps off the plants, the better for the plants.  Unwrap one and look at the stage of leaf.  If you can see leaf edges (not just leaf buds) it's a good time to take off the covering.
If you get severely cold weather (20s), you'll need to wrap and mulch them up really well again.  Definitely watch out for frosty nights (30 to 35 degrees) and cover the plants for the night.  The reason it's so critical is you don't want to lose the blooms due to the hard frost.  You shouldn't lose the plant but blooms will be much more sparse if you get a hard frost.
I'm referring to the macrophylla type hydrangeas here.  Paniculatas, Serrata, Oakleaf, deciduous climbers should all be still mostly dormant and these varieties are much more frost damage resistant.

Q:  I have no experience with hydrangeas but I want to put a beautiful specimen plant in front of my house. Before I buy plants I would like to know what is meant by 1-year and 3-year hydrangeas? Also, I greatly admire hydrangeas that are a faded purply-blue color. Is there some way to acheive a color that is not too blue, yet not pink? Thank you.
A:  Hydrangeas are a very simple plant to grow.  Prune, water, fertilize and you're done.  They tend to like more acidic soil, too.
The one year plants are TWO years old and are growing in a one gallon container. We don't ship the container so we don't want to mislead anyone about what they get. The size of the plant (right now) is anywhere between 5" - 12" depending on the variety. The three year plants are three years old and have three times as many branches as the one year plants. They are growing in three gallon containers but again, we don't ship the container. These plants are about 8" - 12" depending on variety but could be as much as 24".
Most mail order companies offer just one size (usually grown in a 4" starter pot and significantly smaller than our one year plants) so we like to give you more choices.
The advantage of the one year plants is cost.  
In terms of color, hydrangea bloom color (macrophylla mopheads & lacecaps) depends on the pH of the soil.  In more acidic soil, hydrangeas will be blue/purple.  In more neutral soil, they will be pink/red.  White ones will be white no matter what.  Get a pH test on your soil to be sure.  Or look around your neighborhood.  If your neighbors have blue/purple ones in the ground, you probably have acidic soil.  Or, do Azaleas, Camelias, Rhodies grow well in your area?  If you answered yes, you probably have acidic soil.

Q:  Two years ago we purchased 2 of your Katherine Hepburn hydrangeas. Last fall, we let the flowers go to seed and have done no pruning for the coming season. Spring is just around the corner here in Connecticut and we want to make sure we do the right thing to keep them healthy. Will you please advise how we prune them now, what fertilizers so we add, what to do for color and any other tips you may have? Thank you in advance for your guidance.
A:  Since you didn't prune them after bloom, wait until after your last hard frost (March for zone 8, April for zone 7 and May for zone 6) and you begin to see leaf nodes peaking out.  Cut off the dried flowers just above a healthy, symmetric leaf node.  That could be one, two or three leaf nodes down.  You don't want to cut too much too late, however.  Miss Hepburn blooms on old wood and the more you prune, the fewer blooms you'll have.
Fertilize about the same time with something balanced like 10-10-10.  I recommend a time release product like Osmocote.
Did you like the color last year?  If so, don't worry about doing anything to the plant.  If you'd like it blue-er, add something to lower the pH (aluminum sulfate, sulfur products).  If you had blue and you want more purple, add some garden lime to raise the pH or super-phosphate fertilizer to stop some of the absorption of aluminum.
Hydrangeas are really easy to grow and typically very resistant to bugs and other diseases.  If you have deer, they do like hydrangeas when they are peaking out in the spring so cover or spray to protect them.  Some hydrangeas are susceptible to slugs so you may need to apply slug bait, too.  The Miss Hepburn isn't one of their favorites though.
I can't think of much else to do but to wait for those gorgeous blooms.  Please let me know if you need further assistance.  Thank you for your question.
Q:  I have very light green leaves, almost yellow, on two of my hydrangeas. Is there anything I can give them to darken the leaves to normal color?
A:  It is probably a combination of things causing this (high pH, poor absorption of iron, in need of nitrogen).
I usually don't recommend a name product but I use MirAcid - miracle gro for Acid loving plants.  Any other quick acting fertilizer will do that has high nitrogen.
I suspect you have high pH in your area and so you can either lower pH and fertilize occasionally or fertilize frequently.  In higher pH soil, nutrients aren't absorbed as efficiently as in lower pH soils.  It is typically safe to apply fertilizer and acidifiers at the same time but read the directions on the package just to be sure.
Also, some varieties just have paler green leaves.  Often when hydrangeas are starting to set buds or are in the process of setting buds, leaves yellow.  We have the same trouble in June when our hydrangeas begin to bloom.  You're in California and your plants are probably starting to set buds already.

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Kristin VanHoose
Hydrangeas Plus®