Dear Hydrangea Enthusiasts,
Welcome to the July/August 2006 edition of the Hydrangeas Plus® e-mail newsletter.   Yes, I basically missed July.  I started writing at the beginning of July but one thing after another, I just never got done.  In this heat, I just want to sit in the air conditioning!  August is a really busy month for us here at the nursery so expect the next newsletter in September.

We've had some really hot weather here so we've been extra busy cutting and watering, moving the emergency sprinklers.  Did anyone tell you that that irrigation pipe is heavy!  Or, that bats really are scary looking?  We've had some interesting other critters here too.  We saw a Blue Heron flying by last week, deer just walk up our driveway and a family of raccoons munch on something (I don't want to know) right in front of the office. Plus the geese, snakes, skunks and peacocks we usually see.  You must love country living!

July is prime hydrangea month - when it's not 100 degrees.  Are your hydrangeas blooming?  We hope you're enjoying those wonderful blooms.  Thank you to all the customers for emailing us about their thriving hydrangeas and the pictures.  The heat in the east and the west isn't good for those hydrangea blooms so water well in the late evening or early morning.  I've been hearing about all sorts of contraptions used to shade hydrangeas here in the Northwest.  We don't really like the heat here, can you tell?  Triple digits in the Straight of Juan de Fuca (test your geography time).  I grew up in the desert area of Washington State and I really was used to the heat back then - played softball every weekend somewhere hot.  But, in the 15 + years I've been in Oregon, I have become a wimp in the heat.

I recently spoke at Joy Creek nursery for a hydrangea seminar and if you haven't been there (or visited their website) please do so.  Fabulous and run by some pretty serious plant people.  Walking around their display gardens and cutting area for hydrangeas, I was very surprised to find that many of those varieties "that don't turn blue" were actually turning blue.  I'm not sure what the pH is up there in Scappose, Oregon or what kind of water they have but I'm a little embarrassed to say that Forever Pink was not staying forever pink.  It was a gorgeous blue!  I'll have to re-write my catalog and online descriptions now.  Darn you Maurice Horn, but thank you as well! Maurice is one of the founders of this lovely niche nursery.  Not only do they grow many hydrangeas but he is one of our leading Clematis experts in the Northwest and their collection is extensive.  Please visit Maurice (pronounced Morris) and his crew of plant lovers at Joy Creek Nursery.  Education is their specialty - they have Sunday seminar series in the spring, summer & fall.

I'm in such a dilemma!  I'm working on the new catalog and I've got so many new varieties to offer.  what to do!!!  Our mail order catalog has grown to 40 pages and I must cut someplace.  How am I going to decide what to offer next year??  We are now growing over 220 varieties of hydrangeas and relatives.  But, we can never have too many hydrangeas, right?  There is always room for just one more.

Summer Tip - Fertilize those hydrangeas
When hydrangeas begin to bloom, they begin absorbing nutrients and minerals at a very quick pace.  Are you beginning to see yellowing leaves on the inside leaves?  That's the first signs of deficiency.  It is usually a nitrogen and an iron deficiency that affect the inner leaves.  Fertilize!!  Use an instant fertilizer that will be quick acting.  I recommend a liquid fertilizer if you've got it but don't run out and buy anything special.  Anything with a good amount of Nitrogen (the first number in the N-P-K designation for fertilizers).  Use something like 16-16-16 or 20-10-10.  The more fast acting the fertilizer, the faster the leaves will green.

Past Newsletters online
Did you miss a newsletter?  We have put all the newsletters on the website.  It's on the left side of the website.

Hydrangeas are coming back in stock!
I'm out in the nursery every week checking on the progress on these babies.  We're growing them as fast as we can!  We propagate a majority of our plants ourselves using the nursery stock too so we're in the middle filling our cutting houses.  I've added back some varieties but the majority of those sold out won't be back in stock until late August or early September.  Sign up for email notification for that special variety you've been waiting for!!  

Red Hydrangeas
You can always tell when some magazine writes an article about hydrangeas and details the red ones!  I always tell them that fresh "red" blooming hydrangeas are not typically fire engine red, more reddish pink.  It's the dried colors that can be a fabulous fiery red!  Here are some of my favorites reddish plants (but many are pH sensitive):  Leuchtfeuer, Kardinal, Rotdrossel, Glowing Embers, Brunette (coming in Spring!!), Ami Pasquier, Bottstein, Masja, Miss Belgium, Oregon Pride, Red Star, Trophy, Geoffrey Chadburn, Mousmee, Fasan,

My best red (no matter what the soil) is Serrata Preziosa.  It doesn't start red but it does have the most intense red as the bloom fades.  Some of the deep pigmented varieties will also dry red (again, depending on the pH and the environment) - Mathilda Gutges, Altona, Gertrude Glahn, Hamburg, Europa, just to name a few.

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

Hydrangea news - upcoming gatherings for Hydrangea Lovers around the country

American Hydrangea Society
(Atlanta, Georgia) - see for membership information
nothing on website

Blue Ridge Hydrangea Society (Western North Carolina)  -  President/Founder: Linda Shapiro  (828) 890-0880
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: August 17, "Shady Characters with Hydrangeas". Guest Speakers: Everett and Karen Jones, owners Shady Characters Nursery, Location: Aiken Technical College.
November meeting: Sid Morris (former agriculture extension agent) "Hydrangeas - Day to Day"

Mid-South Hydrangea Society
(Memphis, Tennessee) -  Membership/Newsletter Caroline Brown 683-9766 or at
nothing planned

Birmingham Hydrangea Society of Alabama (Birmingham, Alabama) - President is Philip Sarris
nothing planned

Aldrige Botanical Garden (Hoover, Alabama) -
Nothing planned specifically for hydrangeas but don't miss this garden.  Eddie Aldridge is the founder of the Snowflake Quercifolia hydrangea, recently named the official flower of Hoover.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q:  I've had my hydrangea for 4 years, when first planted it was loaded with blooms, now the last two years it just doesn't bloom. Any suggestions?

A:  Do you know what variety and cultivar it is?
The most common reason why macrophylla (mophead and lacecap) hydrangeas don't bloom is improper pruning. Most hydrangeas bloom on old growth or last year's wood. If you cut too much of that old wood off when you prune or you cut that wood too late, you won't get blooms. See our pruning tips for more info.

The second most common reason why hydrangeas don't bloom is due to cold weather. This may be your issue. The Macrophylla hydrangeas are hardy to about zone 6 or between –10 degrees and zero degrees on the Fahrenheit scale for your Winter low temperatures. Some varieties are hardy to zone 5. If your Winter temperatures fall between these temperatures for long periods of time, it would be advisable to protect the hydrangeas to ensure blooms. Again, the old wood of the hydrangea must survive in order to get blooms the following Summer. If your hydrangea is dying to the ground every year, consider a hardier hydrangea.

In addition, unseasonably low temperatures after a mild Winter also cause a lack of blooming on hydrangeas. Again, most macrophylla hydrangeas bloom on old wood and if the leafed out plant is actively growing and hit by late Spring frost or an early Winter frost, the buds freeze and the hydrangea won't bloom.

Fertilizing too much can also stunt your blooms. Too much nitrogen and you get a healthy plant with beautiful foliage, but no blooms. Use a balanced fertilizer, time release like Osmocote just a few times a year - Spring and early fall. See our info about fertilizing hydrangeas on the website, too.

Finally, hydrangeas need some sun to bloom. I think a few hours of sun is perfect.

I hope that helps. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q:  I had bought a hydrangea tree from you a few years ago, and I love it. I'm not sure if something is wrong with it though. The tree looks great except that some os the leaves are turning yellow and falling off. Could you tell me if I have a problem on my hands. I really love this tree. Please help!!! Thank You

A:  The leaves turning yellow is something that happens occasionally when the plants are setting bloom buds but if the leaves are falling off, something is definitely wrong.  Leaf trouble is usually a sign of root trouble.  Dig up the tree and inspect the root system (do this on a cool day).  There may be something impeding the growth.  Dig the hole bigger and add some more potting mix to your soil to help with drainage.  Water, water, water!  I think I saw that NJ is getting lots of rain so hopefully that will help.  If the root system isn't allowed the room to grow, the leaves can't get moisture and nutrients.
The other thing it could be is  chemical damage.  Hydrangeas are very sensitive to herbicides and some pesticides.  Did you happen to have someone spray near the tree?
I hope that helps.  If you'd like, send me a picture and I'll take a look and see if I recognize anything else.  Or, take a fallen leaf to your local extension agriculture office or garden center.  It may be something happening in your area that they will recognize.
Q:  I LOVED your website, I just received a Merritt's Supreme Hydrangea and is just beautiful, I checked on-line for further this is the first time I will be planting a Hydrangea.  You indicate that some are 1 year or 3 year. What does this mean? As I am thinking of purchasing more for my garden... Please advise. Thank you

A:  Our one year plants have been in a one gallon container for about one year.   They are approximately 2 years old and range in height from 6" to 18".  The three year plants have been in a 3 gallon container for at least one year and are about 3 years old.  They range in height from 10" to 24" right now.  The three year plants have three times as many branches as the one year plants.  They should bloom this year but we are propagating (we grow all our own) and they may have already been cut back.  If so, they may not bloom this year.

Q:  need to find low growing compact/dwarf hydrangea plants to border both sides of wide stone steps down to stone patio---live in new york--just north of new york city---path gets direct sun most of day.....which plants can i use and what is availability? thank you for prompt response

A:  My availability isn't great right now.  Pia and Hornli are the smallest mopheads but I'm sold out until fall.  These are 2 to 3 feet at maturity.
I also recommend two serratas that stay very compact, like 3 feet or so.  Diadem & Blue Billow are great in the sun and bloom with paler colored lacecaps but the leaves will get burgundy red as the season progresses.  By fall, these plants are almost completely burgundy.  I think I'm sold out of these until fall as well.
There are lots of hydrangeas in the 3 to 4 foot range - is that too big? 

2 to 3 feet
Serrata Blue Billow
Serrata Diadem

3 to 4 feet
Serrata Beni Gaku
Blue Danube
Merritt's Supreme
Miss Belgium
Ami Pasquier
Serrata Blue Deckle

Q:   I live in Big Rapids Michigan (zone 5) and would like to inquire about what variety (blue blooms) would be good for this zone

A:  It would be best for you to stick with the new wood blooming varieties (like All Summer Beauty).  You may also order the other old wood blooming (like Brestenburg) if you're willing to cover them securely each winter and protect the old wood.  I think it's important in your area to cover the first year anyway but especially if you select the zone 6 varieties.
Okay, now for the blue part.  To get blue hydrangeas, your pH needs to be less than 6.0 preferable closer to 5.5.  Also, Aluminum (the metal) needs to be present in your soil for the actual chemical reaction to occur to change the pigments from pink to blue.  Do a pH test on your soil and if possible, have the local garden center or agricultural extension office test for the aluminum, too.  You need both of these components to get blue.  If you don't have one or the other, you can amend the soil and adjust but it's a good idea to get a gauge to how far you need to amend.  There are natural ways to adjust pH but not many natural ways to add aluminum.  However, aluminum does occur naturally in most soil.
Thank you for your question.  Here are few more varieties
historically new wood bloomers - All summer Beauty, Penny Mac, Dooley
occasional new wood bloomers - Nikko Blue, General Vicomtesse, Kluis Superba, Blauer Prince, Bodensee, Bouquet Rose
old wood bloomers that have bloomed well for us - Souvenior de Presidente, Brestenburg, Ami Pasquier, Alpengluhen, Frillibet

Privacy Notice
We respect your privacy and want to be sure this is sent to those customers who subscribed to the Hydrangeas Plus newsletter.  Please click the link below if you received this in error or no longer wish to subscribe to our newsletter.  We apologize if you have asked before and we've neglected to take your name and e-mail account off our list.


Kristin VanHoose
Hydrangeas Plus®