Dear Hydrangea Enthusiasts,

Happy New Year!  

Welcome to the first edition of 2008 for our Hydrangeas Plus® newsletter.  We here at Hydrangeas Plus hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday season.  It was crazy here, of course.

No surprise here but yes, it's raining.  Flooding, wind and rain coming down from the sky.  I'm not sure what it's called when the rain is coming down in sheets of water or when it somehow comes horizontally.  Our summer visitors often wonder how everything stays so green in Oregon but they've never been here in the winter months when our rainfall exceeds the average temperature.  Okay that may be a bit of an exaggeration but multiply monthly rainfall by 10 and you're pretty close to our average temperature.

Shipping will start at the end of January or beginning of February.  With the warmer weather (above 32 degrees) we've been having, late January will be just perfect but mother nature will dictate whether I'm brave enough to stand out there and pack your plants.

We're getting tons of orders already for the new varieties and I don't even have all the pictures uploaded on the computer yet.  This is a great sign for 2008!!  Get your orders in early.  You can always add to your order.  Just email me with your order number and I'll amend your order.

Yard, Garden & Patio Show in Portland, Oregon at the Convention Center

Unfortunately, we are not participating in this wonderful show.   But, that's no reason not to enjoy it. The show is February 15th, 16th & 17th at the Oregon Convention Center.  Hours are 10 am – 9 pm Friday & Saturday then 10 am – 6 pm on Sunday.  Watch for $2 off admission coupons online soon.  Admission is $11, free to kids 12 and under.  Join us at Portland's True Garden Event.  That's the Oregon Convention Center.  Remember, this is the show that is developed, marketed and presented by the Oregon Association of Nurseries.  It's largest consumer gardening event in the US that is exclusively produced by a state association and volunteers.  Come out and support your local green ware companies.

The New Catalog is coming, LAST CHANCE FOR A FREE COPY!!
Yes, we're still working on the catalog but the final version is going to the printer any day now.  We are making our last effort to get your address updated in our mailing list.  

Deadline is January 12th to sign up for FREE.  After that, the price goes back to $4.75.

Please keep us up-to-date on any address changes.  We'll be addressing the catalogs on January 15th.  Again, if you haven't ordered in the last few year, you may not be signed up to receive a free catalog. Sign up NOW!  Just send me your name, address, phone number and I'll sign you up.  or Go to 'Order catalog' and sign up for the 2008 catalog now!  Did I mention it was free?

New varieties for 2008
I've put them all on the website.  You're going to love these!!
Hydrangea Macrophylla Sol - Sol for your soul
Hydrangea Macrophylla Sabrina - White sepals and red edges form a delectable mophead
Hydrangea Macrophylla Sharona - My Sharona
Hydrangea Macrophylla Stella - Stella!! this large bloom screams for attention

Hydrangea Macrophylla Floralia - Very early blooming specimen
Hydrangea Macrophylla MontForte Pearl - Strong and sturdy dwarf with deep coloration
Hydrangea Macrophylla Regula - The Great White
Hydrangea Macrophylla Schnadendorf Pearl - Outstanding performer, great color changes for fall

Hydrangea Serrata Kiyosumi - Two tone bloom with dynamite foliage

Winter tip - Getting ready for hydrangea planting
It may be a little early for some parts of the country but I saw that many of us are experiencing warmer than usual temperatures.  The rain and wind may prohibit some of our spring preparation but the sooner your ground is ready for hydrangeas (and new shrubs in general), the sooner you can get them in the ground and growing.   Hydrangeas and most shrubs like well draining soil.  This allows the roots to grow and reach for and absorb vital nutrients.  Compact soil typically results in stunted top growth and poor absorption of nutrients for hydrangeas.  It can also lead to the roots drowning if soil doesn't allow water to drain.  Just digging a hole and putting a shrub in the landscape won't guarantee success.

What can you do about compact soil?  Amend, amend and amend.  Amend with composted material that is clean and has aged well.  Pay special attention to salt and nitrogen content of manures and other homemade mixes.  

Check the pH of your soil.  Absorption of chemicals is optimized with slightly to moderately acidic soil.  That means, less applications of fertilizers and amendments if the pH is corrected.

All clay soil is not created equal.  My first gardening class was a true eye opener.  There are several different types of clay and not everything breaks it down the same.  Breakdown salty clay with gypsum, a mineral amendment that replaces salt with calcium.

Amend soil three or four times the size the anticipated root ball size.  The bigger the better.  Give your plant a great start by giving it's root system lots of room to grow.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: Hi, I have been trying to find the water proofed felt blankets you mentioned putting around some of the more tender hydrangeas, but have had no luck here in the Louisville area. Any idea for a source for these? Many thanks and happy holidays

A:  I think the error I made was saying it had to be water proof.  Water resistant is more appropriate.  I should have corrected that in the newsletter.
If you use frost cloth for your vegetable, it can be used for the hydrangeas and other shrubs as well.
I looked online and there really isn't one universal brand of frost blanket.  Of course there are tons!  Several online stores are selling it but I'm sorry I don't have a good recommendation for one of those sites.  I use Amazon all the time but there was an interesting company called Planket that had covers that were green - a little more pleasing to the eye than gray or dirt colored.

Q:  Which hydrangeas do you recommend for the seaside that can tolerate a little exposure to the ocean side? I am in Malibu. I always see tons growing in Britany, France and they seem to love being close to the sea. On the sea side of the house there is not much shade, I do have shade on the other side of the house and they are very protected there. I would love to find some to put on the sea side....

Hydrangeas on your beach won't be able to take a lot of sun.  The protected side would be much better for the macrophylla (mopheads and lacecaps).  The serratas and Paniculatas and possibly the Oakleaf varieties can take more sun than the macrophylla types.  And, these types will do better in your sandy soil.  Macrophylla really need more acidic soil to grow and thrive.  You can always amend the soil or put the macrophylla in containers - just keep them watered in your hot months.
Some of my favorites for containers
Blue Danube
Merritt's supreme
For sandy soil
Serrata Blue Deckle
Serrata Preziosa
Paniculata Burgundy Lace
Oakleaf (Quercifolia) PeeWee
Thank you for your questions.

Q:  Well, I believe that the weather is following last years course. Hopefully, not as bad as last year. We had a week of cold weather, down to about 25 degrees then last week it was in the 70's for a few days. That was enough for some of the buds to open up. Then it got cold again this week, gradually down to about 15 degrees. My question is "If the buds open, just a little with some green leaves peeking out, will they be totally lost for next season (i.e. will there be any flower heads)?". I am speaking about mophead hydrangeas. I can protect them in the spring from the cold but can't protect them from late fall warm weather. Or can I? Thank you for your time and expertise,

Yes, the changes in winter temperatures can be just as dangerous to the blooms as the spring temperatures.  It's hard to tell by visual inspection if it will damage the blooms for next year.  In my experience, sudden temperature swings in the fall typically delay the blooming and rarely does it totally leave the plant bloomless.  You mention the gradual change in temperature which is the best possible scenario.  it allows the plant to slowly go to sleep.
What strange weather patterns over there.  I think you should be all right.  In the spring when the plant starts to leaf out, you'll be able to see where new buds are forming and where they are not.  At that time, you may be able to remove those damaged by the temperatures.
I hope that helps.  Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Q:  Hi. I received a potted hydrangea as a gift in December. Shortly afterwards, the flowers went totally brown- I've tried everything and I'm not sure what is the problem! Sometimes it gets a little better, sometimes a lot worse. I have it in diffused sunlight/light, I've tried watering it all different ways- more water, less water, tried to dry it out a little because sometimes it seems too wet. It is in a plastic pot and then inside a more decorative organic glasslike pot. The leaves are crunchy and dried out a bit. There are a FEW flowers that are in better condition. What do you suggest now?

A:  The trouble that you describe is common with forced hydrangeas.  The roots have outgrown the pot and if you overwater, the roots start to drown.  Even the slightest overwatering will cause the decline.  Move it into a larger (that's the most important point) container that has good drainage at the bottom.
Here's a write-up I have about Forced hydrangeas.  I hope this helps.
The forced varieties are really similar to the outdoor varieties and can grow like those eventually.  We're really not experts on growing hydrangeas indoor.  However, I'm addicted to the grocery store varieties during the winter but they are usually moved outdoors within the year.  We're always on the lookout for something different.  Sometimes the forced flower growers are the first to find the new varieties – but they are very hesitant to share the name and cultural information.

 We've found that forced hydrangeas aren't as healthy as naturally grown hydrangeas.  Hydrangeas grow better if they are allowed to have a dormant period and a growth period.  Most varieties grow very quickly and may not be healthy if grown inside without moving the plant to a larger pot.  When your forced hydrangea blooms begin to decline and cannot be revived with water or moving to a larger pot, it is time to cut off the blooms at the lowest healthy leaf node.  Instant fertilizer for acid loving plants is great for these forced hydrangeas that start to look peaked.

Hydrangeas like slightly acidic soil.  In the artificial media that most of these forced plants are grown, you'll need to keep the acidity level up (i.e., the pH level down) using tea leaves, coffee grounds or aluminum sulfate. 

If you do move these plants outside, be sure that you don't move them until the last chance of cold weather has passed and there is no chance of any frost.  Our general rule of thumb is don't move the forced hydrangea outside until the outside hydrangeas are at the same stage of leaf.  That can be April, May or June, depending on your area.  Protect this sensitive plant for the first few winters.  The process that growers go through to get them to bloom is very tough on the health of the plant.  The chemicals and environmental controls have made the hydrangeas a bit more delicate to the elements.

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Kristin VanHoose
Hydrangeas Plus®