Dear Hydrangea Enthusiasts,

Welcome to the June 2005 edition of the Hydrangeas Plus® e-mail newsletter.  We hope that our summer newsletter finds you and your family healthy and happy and ready to enjoy your hydrangeas for another summer season.

I can't believe all the blooms here.  Our warmer than normal spring has turned into cool weather - except for a few days of 90 degrees that burned some leaves.  We are already poised to take new pictures this year for our 2006 offerings.  Many varieties are already blooming and full of color.  It's going to be a wonderful hydrangea year.

May Hydrangea conference

There is so much share from this wonderful conference.  The CANR (Center for Applied Nursery Research), University of Georgia students, McCorkle Nurseries and countless volunteers put on a great conference.  I was so impressed with the growing operations and the cordial hospitality of Georgia.  I met many customers that I've only spoke with via phone and email and made some great friends in the process.  

Our trip began with a tour of the University of Georgia's Horticulture Farm, Shade Garden and Greenhouses in and around Athens.  Dr. Michael Dirr, his research technician Vicki Waters and Ph.D. student Josh Kardos were our faithful guides at these research facilities.  Unfortunately, the heat of spring wasn't enough to push most hydrangeas into bloom but we still had a wonderful time oooh-ing and aaaw-ing at the variety of macrophylla, paniculata, serrata, arborescens and other varieties of hydrangeas.  Most of the horticulture program efforts this year are focuses on controlled breeding of macrophylla type hydrangeas.  Expect new mildew resistant, remontent, dwarf (and other pleasing characteristic) cultivars to be released in the next few years.  Some open pollinated seedlings bred in 2001 and 2002 are expected to be released on a limited basis next year.  The enthusiastic work Dr. Dirr and his crew is revolutionary.  Breeding hydrangeas is a time and space consuming task.  There are not many facilities in the United States or the world that are doing the breeding these days.

The day ended with a tour and reception at Coach Vince Dooley's home in Athens.  For all you collegiate sport fanatics - yes, Vince Dooley, the renowned head football coach and former athletic director for the University of Georgia.  Unfortunately, Coach Dooley and his family were out of the country but the estate was fantastic.  Another animated Dr. Dirr hosted tour of the property revealed that Coach Dooley developed an obsession for plants while at U of Ga.  Coach Dooley actually took classes from Dr. Dirr to increase his knowledge and obvious passion for plants.  His garden was full of unusual evergreen, shrubs and beautiful container plants.  Our group got a good giggle when we looked at a label from one of the container items and it say - Dirr - throw away - meaning it was one of the plants that Dr. Dirr dismissed from further development and mysteriously appeared in Coach Dooley's garden.

The next day and a half, we spent listening to hydrangea experts and renown horticulturists discuss hydrangeas, history, companion plants (what doesn't go well with hydrangeas), and the future of hydrangeas.

Eddie Aldridge of Aldridge Gardens in Hoover, AL spoke about the new Botanical Garden his family foundation began.  The Aldridge family is famous for their Oakleaf hydrangeas and are the founders of the Snowflake hydrangea.  Mr. Aldridge showed us pictures of the Botanical Garden and the many hydrangea species growing there.  Mal Condon of the Hydrangea Farm Nursery in Nantucket, MA spoke about Paniculatas.  I found Mr. Condon's presentation fantastic and he didn't leave out a bit of information about pruning, propagating, planting of these marvelous plants.  Much attention goes to the mopheads and lacecaps and we often overlook the beauty and reliability of Paniculata hydrangeas.  By the way, Paniculata is often pronounced pan-ik-u-lay-ta.  It's wonderful to see other cultivars and introductions from Europe and the efforts going into developing new varieties.  Elizabeth Dean of the Wilkerson Mill Gardens in Palmetto, GA spoke about selling hydrangeas to the public and how you never know what will be the favorite.  Elizabeth and her husband Gene Griffith operate a wonderful nursery just outside of Atlanta.  My traveling group visited them before the conference and they showed us lots of new varieties we don't have out here yet.  Although they are our competitors, they were gracious enough to share information about care, variety and cultivation of hydrangeas.  We thought we were obsessed with hydrangeas.

The most comical speaker at the conference was our own NW resident Dan Hinkley of Heronswood Nursery in Kingston, WA.  This was my first experience listening to Mr. Hinkley and I guarantee, I won't miss another.  Mr. Hinkley is the definition of a plant-a-holic.  He has climbed mountains to find new varieties of plants to introduce to the world.  He even climbed one twice to get another cutting after the first one didn't survive.  Mr. Hinkley spoke about the combinations of other plants, flowers and leaves that compliment hydrangeas and the many under-utilized cousins of hydrangeas.  His nursery has the most vast collection of rare and unusual plants.

Hayes Jackson, plantsman and Urban Agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, showed pictures from his garden and illustrated the vast variety of plants that compliment the hydrangeas in a woodland garden.  Hayes is most known to us for his name sake seedling of Arborescens called Hayes' Starburst.  We have just a few in our garden and it continues to thrive and bloom for us every year. Judith King of shared with us some methods of drying, coloring and decorating with hydrangeas.  Judith developed her passion for hydrangeas while working at a world renowned nursery in South Carolina.  She moved to Virginia but kept the passion alive with a wonderful informational website where she shares pictures, tips and shopping links.  Penny McHenry, the founder of the American Hydrangea Society and matriarch of the hydrangea craze spoke about her hydrangea garden.  Tara Dillard, current president of the American Hydrangea Society showed us slides from her garden haven and emphasized you can never have too many hydrangeas.  Ted Stephens of the Nurseries Caroliniana from North Augusta, South Carolina spoke of his trip to Japan and the wonderful exotic plants that he found along the way.

Other speakers were Jonathan Pedersen of Bailey Nurseries talking about the making of the marketing blitz for the Endless Summer hydrangea.  Sandra Reed of the US National Arboretum in McMinnville TN talking about the process of breeding hydrangeas and keeping track of all the generations.

Needless to say, I walked away thrilled and energized from the conference.  We made some good contacts, friends and new customers.  We hope that one of the relationships will allow us to offer Dr. Dirr's hydrangea introductions in the coming years.

Summer Tip - propagating hydrangeas

You may propagate by layering long droopy branches directly onto the soil or by hardwood cuttings, but our most successful method is soft- or semi softwood cuttings.  June and July is the best time for the soft cuttings.  Here's how:

Using sharp clean clippers, cut just above the third leaf node from the end of the stem.  You'll have two full leaf nodes for your cutting.  Cut off the leaves from this cutting at the node closest to the bottom.  Cut in half the next set of leaves.  Place the whole stem in well draining potting mix.  Keep the cuttings warm, out of direct sunlight and moist but NOT wet.  In about two to four weeks, roots should begin to grow and you can transplant into a container.

This works on most Macrophylla type hydrangeas.  The harder stemmed varieties - Petiolaris, Aspera, Involucrata, Oakleaf and Paniculata may require some rooting hormone to root.

Hydrangeas produce seeds in November and December and can be used once the hard outer shell is removed. We do not grow from seed as varieties do not consistently reproduce themselves this way.  All varieties have some fertile seeds.  Some are harder to find especially on the mopheads.  The covering on the seed may be very hard, too.  You'll have to break that seed cover in order for it germinate and grow.

Past Newsletters online

Did you miss a newsletter?  We have put all the 2005 newsletters on the website.  It's on the left side of the website.

Common question – Drainage

We always talk about the importance of good soil for hydrangeas and its ability to drain well.  Most areas don’t have perfect soil but there are lots of things you can do to improve your soil and grow better hydrangeas.  It is espeically important to give your hydrangea a good start, too.  Good soil is important for root growth and supplying water to the hydrangeas leaf and stem structure but most importantly, the flowers.  Here are a few tests to see what kind of soil you have in your garden.

Dig a hole about 6 inches deep and one foot wide and fill it entirely with water.  Let the water drain out of the hole completely.  Fill the hole again and record the time it takes to drain the second time.

If the water drains in three hours or less, your soil is most likely draining too quickly.  Chances are your soil is somewhat sandy.  Incorporate some mulch and good potting mix into your hydrangea beds.

If the water drains in four to six hours, your soil is draining just perfectly.  You have rich, great soil for hydrangeas.

If the water drains in eight hours or more, the soil has poor drainage typically common with clay-like soil.  Again, incorporate mulch and good potting mix in those areas you’d like to plant hydrangeas.

Even we, the hydrangea grower, have trouble with this aspect of hydrangeas.  We have lost a many hydrangea to poor draining soil.  Sometimes, it's as simple as a broken sprinkler head that keeps drenching the roots.  Hydrangeas that have too much water often have similar symptons to those with not enough water.  Common symptons for TOO MUCH WATER are...
droopy leaves that don't bounce back after watering
leaves with brown edges that just look tired
blooms or buds may form but will apear smaller and dingy in color
roots are brown, not bright white like they should be
new growth is browning and limp

If you hydrangea is looking like this, it's not too late to save it.  Once the leaves fall off, it may be a goner but until that point, there is still a chance.  Replant the hydrangea in a larger hole.  Remove the wet soil and amend it with some potting mix, bark, garden mulch and replant the hydrangea.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q:  I am new to your website and was just wondering when is a good time to order.  I notice that most varities are listed as "sold out".  Thanks for your time

A:  We take orders anytime, but the best time to order for spring delivery is usually winter/early spring and late August/early September for fall delivery.  We'll have most everything coming on for fall crop in late August.  The best way to be notified real-time of plant availability is to click on the plant details link and click on the "keep me updated" link and input your e-mail address.  That way you'll be sent an e-mail notification the moment something has been put back in stock for ordering. Hope this helps and thanks for your interest in Hydrangeas Plus!

Q:  I purchased 3 year Hydrangea Generale Vicomtesse DeVibraye and 3 year Niko Blue varieties this year. They have been in the ground for about a month and are doing great. Some of the first flowers are starting to bloom but are very pale in color. When is it okay to add aluminum conditioner? I purchased your brand when I bought the plants.

A:  Aluminum is toxic to plants and new plants are especially susceptible.  I don't recommend using the full dose on the plants this early in their transplanting life.  Cut the dose in half and be sure to keep the application in the drip line - that is right outside the edge of the hole you dug for the plants.  Don't put the amendment near the base or on the leaves.  Wait a few weeks and see if you got some results. 

Also, blooms usually begin very pale and deepen in color as they age.  They may get darker and darker over time.

Here's the directions;  My general rule for aluminum sulfate is ¼ cup per foot of hydrangea.  This means that for an established 4-foot hydrangea, 1 cup of aluminum sulfate spread around the base of the plant should be adequate.  This assumes a 17% concentration mixture of aluminum sulfate, the most commonly sold concentration.  You may mix the aluminum sulfate in water and dissolve or apply straight to the plant then water in well.  Be sure that the plant has established itself before application.  We don’t recommend aluminum sulfate for new plants.  Apply in the early spring when you see the first leaf.  Apply again six weeks later.  If color isn’t as desired, add a fall application too.

Q:  Do you know anything about the hydrangea "Forever and Ever"?  They are selling it at Lowe's, and I never heard of it.  The information stated it bloomed on new and old wood and it was zone 4 hardy.
A:  I heard that someone is trying to tag along on the Endless Summer name.  Try it and let me know what you think.  I haven't seen it available here but I've been on the lookout.

Q:  Dear Hydrangea lover,  I am interested in Blue Danube, Gertrude Glahn, Pink diamond, Q. Pee Wee, Brussels Lace.  The web says out of stock.  Will you get more sometime this year?

A:  We should have it all back in stock by September 1st.  To be notified, go to each product's page and put in your email address.  As soon as I put them back in stock, our website will send you an email.

Q:  I have a two year old arborescens which I put in last year, it was probably a two or three year old plant and flowered wonderfully.   It is about four feet tall and looked healthy until about a week ago.  I have noticed the leaves are drooping, if it was late summer I would say it wasn't getting enough water but that can't be the problem because lack of water usually means brown edges on the leaves. It has been an extremely wet Spring here, especially the last month.  The ground is a lot wetter than it usually gets but the paniculata right next to it seems to be fine.  Are arborescents more susceptable to wet feet problelms? Do they get root rot or vertacillium wilt (seems a little early for vertacillim wilt). I hate to  loose this plant and would hate to dig it up to look for root rot, but I don't know what else to do and can't seem to find any solutions or suggestions on the web especially since hydrangeas have so few problems. I have some good plant dianostic books, e.g.  Landscape Plante Problems by Washington State Universtiy and Pests & Diseases by American Horticultural Society but they don't have much in Hydrangea problems.
Would you recomend a good web site or book for diagnosing hydrangea problems, one with perhaps pictures of the problems.

Thanks, you have always been such a big help in the past I hope you have a solution this time.

A:  The hydrangeas don't like wet feet.  The Annabelle is especially susceptible.  Dig it up as soon as possible and replant.  Make the hole bigger and put in some dry dirt.  If your weather is anything like ours, we are way above rainfall levels for May.  Last year was fairly dry for the most part for us down here.

Unfortunately, those problem solving books don't include a lot of information about hydrangeas.  I lost an Annabelle a few years ago after six years in the ground.  I lost a few last year due to a broken sprinkler I couldn't see. 

I don't think its vertacillim, just too much water around the roots.  Some of the symptoms are droopy leaves (that don't perk up after watering), browning around the edges of the leaves that may fall off if the plant is in serious trouble.  It really looks like the hydrangea needs more water.  See my discussion above about well draining soil.

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

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®