Dear Hydrangea Enthusiasts,

Welcome!
Welcome to the April 2007 edition of Hydrangeas Plus® newsletter.  We're getting busy here at Hydrangeas Plus®.  Orders just keep on coming.

Our on-site retail sales was great.  Not bad for my first attempt.  Sorry it was a little crowded in there with the plants. I'll do better next time.  Our next sale with be the Annual Overstock sale starting April 27th.  See below for times.  Also, we've joined the self-guided LeTour De Plants for September.  I've got lots of exciting things planned this year.  I just hope I get them all done.

Weather here has been pretty chilly.  We've had several frosts this week in the Willamette Valley.  A weather alert came last week talking about a hard frost this weekend but I think we're safe for now.  Plants are growing very nicely.  I'm even seeing some early blooms on some.  Serrata varieties have wonderful buds forming - a bit ahead of schedule.  We have had some beautiful spring days, however.

The one-year plants are weeks away from being ready.  These are our new size growing in a 3.5" plastic pot.  I will have most varieties available but there were a few I didn't quite get ready in time.  I will make these available as soon as they are ready to ship.  I suspect it will be April 16th for some and April 30th for the others.

Blushing Bride are here but we haven't had the warm temperatures to get them to show good leaf and get nice and rooted.  Also, I forgot to fertilize when they came in until a week ago.  Totally my fault.  These should be ready at the end of the month as well.

New Website feature
I've added some pages to illustrate Hydrangea happenings across the country.  It's in the help box, bottom left hand side of the website.  I will keep up to date (with the help of the wonderful hydrangea societies) the meeting schedules.  Several of the societies are meeting this month so take a look.  The title is 'Society Mtgs'.  

I have also added a RETAIL HOURS!! for our retail events at the nursery.  Check back regularly for updates.

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.

Happenings around Oregon
We will be at Fir Point Farms in Aurora, Oregon at the 5th Annual Gardenpalooza Saturday, April 7th from 8am to 4pm.  Come visit us at Fir Point on Arndt Road.  I'll pick some special varieties just for the occasion.  There will be 40 nurseries there selling their plants and other goodies.    http://www.GardenTime.tv and follow the links to the Gardenpalooza page.

Annual ‘Overstocks’ spring sale is April 27th-May 12th, 8am to 5pm everyday here at the nursery.  Directions at http://www.hydrangeasplus.com/directions.html
No presales are allowed.  I'm not sure what I'll have left over but if you want a specific variety, order online

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.  This offer applies to orders shipped anytime this through June 15th.

If you have trouble with the coupon I will change your order to reflect the free shipping.  This is only available to plants available now.  No pre orders for hydrangeas that aren't ready for shipping this month.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q:  I would like to order today several hydrangeas suitable for our climate. I particularly like the lavender and blue ones. I know this is the last free day for shipping so if you can get back to me with suggestions, I will place my order today. Thanks so much..........
Memphis TN
A:  Your challenge will be the tendency for late frosts after mild winters.  The best varieties for your area are the ones that have remontant qualities (bloom generating on current growth).  Here are some suggestions...
Bodensee
Bouquet Rose
Kluis Superba
General Vicomtesse
Nikko Blue
 
Serrata family of hydrangea is also very successful in your area.  These are mostly lacecap blooms and will bloom even after a late frost.
 
We have a colleague that has done some DNA studies for us (as part of a bigger study) and has grouped these above plants from our nursery into a group that has tendency to be remontant.
 
The more vivid varieties are a little more tender and a hard frost could damage flower buds.
 
I hope that helps a little.  There are a great bunch of ladies (and gentlemen I'm sure) that started the Mid South Hydrangea Society several years ago.  Membership chair is Caroline Brown at ckbrown@fedex.com if you're interested.  The next meeting is April 9th at the Memphis Botanical Garden.

Q:   I live in northern Illinois and would like a hydrangeas that we live and bloom in an area that gets full sun that blooms from May until frost. I have tried Nikko blue with poor results. I always covered the base with mulch before winter and tried to care for the hydrangeas according to the instructions. Is the annabelle variety a good choice?
A:  I think Annabelle would be fabulous for your requirements.  It blooms early and keeps blooming.
 
Other hardy choices are Paniculata cultivars but they won't bloom until later.
 
Thank you for your question.
 
Q:  From last year (2006)  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:  Will hydrangeas grow in black clay "gumbo" like soil in Houston Texas? I live in southeast Houston - USDA zone 9a. Full sun is pretty brutal here. How about oak leaf hydrangeas? Please recommend varieties. Thanks!
A:  We've had pretty good response from the Oakleaf but try to avoid the full sun.  Some sun or bright shade is recommended.
 
The trick is water, water, water.  They are typically a bit needy-er in poor soil in terms of nutrients.  The hydrangeas like 'good' soil.  I know that varies greatly by opinion but they really don't like clay that holds waters.  Well draining media incorporated with some organic stuff with your existing clay would go a long way for the hydrangeas.  They like water but don't like their roots sitting in water.  Clay soil tends to hold moisture too close to the root systems. 
 
The Serrata family (Japanese origin) are really good for hot areas, too.
 
Thank you for your question.  Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q:  How can I tell what kind of soil that I have the Acidic soil or the neutral soil /no aluminum?

A:  To see if you have acidic soil, get a pH test.  There are kits you can buy or send a soil sample to a lab.  Our agriculture college extension office will do soil tests for $12.  It will tell you not only pH but other components as well.  Most soil does have naturally occurring aluminum but the pH of the soil must be acidic for the plant to absorb the aluminum and realize the pigment change.
 
Kits are about $15 here in Oregon and there are several kits available on the market.  Each brand will have several test papers in the kit.  These are not as advanced but it will be close for your purposes.  Remember, below 7.0, hydrangeas will be more blue & purple.  Ideal pH for hydrangeas is about 5.5 to 6.0.
 
Q:  What do I need to make my hydrangeas bloom? I've had them for three years and they have never bloomed. The foliage is very healthy and prolific. What's wrong here?  (PA)
A:  There are several possible reasons.
 
The reasons why hydrangeas don't bloom are usually (1) too much pruning (2) improper pruning time (3) weather - too cold or transition to winter/summer too drastic (4) too much shade (5) too much fertilizer.
 
The most common reason is too much pruning.  And, because you're growing hydrangeas in PA, it could be weather related. 
 
What varieties do you have?  Pruning is a little different for each variety.  Most bloom on old wood so you need to prune carefully.  Sever pruning can be done in the summer or just after bloom.
 
Hydrangeas need some sun to bloom.  They like shade but some varieties need more sun or at least some brightness.
 
Finally, don't overfeed your hydrangeas.  Too much nitrogen in the fertilizer and you grow great leaf! but fewer blooms.
 
I hope that helps!  Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.



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Sincerely,

Kristin VanHoose
Hydrangeas Plus®
http://www.hydrangeasplus.com