Dear Hydrangea Enthusiasts,

Welcome to the June 2006 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.  

Got flower buds?  The hydrangeas are growing but not a whole lot of color yet.  Expect for those new wood bloomers.  After a super long and dreery winter and spring here, hydrangeas are finally kickin' into gear.  It might be all the rain we've been having.  We are really low on plants this year.  For the first time, we really had winter trouble with some of the hydrangeas.  First in 20 years!  Many of the most popular varieties were in short supply this year so I apologize to those of you that wanted those that we weren't able to provide.  They will be in short supply again this year so order early.

The hydrangeas are growing and growing and I hope the new crop will be ready in September.  We are planting as fast as we can.  At least when the ancient planting machine isn't broken down.  I really think it's being held together by duct tape, paper clips and a prayer.

We've been playing with the website again.  We're always trying to improve on the shopping cart and information we provide on the website.  If you've had trouble or received an email from us that plants are back in stock, please forgive me.  Directions and manuals are not an option for me.  It must be my personality -  I must try everything, every button and knob to see the results.  That must be why I'm so hesitant to sell new varieties.  I really feel that we should sell those plants that do well and perform.  Other companies may sell the latest fad but if it doesn't grow well, I won't sell it unless I like it and it's somewhat different than what you can find at the local (fill in big box store here).

Our spring sale was a huge hit this year.  If you missed it, mark you calendars for next year.  It's always the two weeks before Mother's Day.  It is really exhausting and I may be a bit grumpy but it's so nice to see the people and hear about your hydrangeas.

Unexpectedly, office hours here are adjusted again - When I Can.  Our two darling daughters are the focus of my life right now so I'm available even less.  Our daycare was closed and I've been unable to find another helping hand until school is out for summer.  Please leave a message and I will call you back.  Or, email me.  I answer them sooner.

Heronswood closed

Yes, it's true and I'm just devasted I wasn't able to go see this mecca.   I have been so behind in my news that I didn't hear about this in a timely matter.  Luckily, a seattle customer called and ordered some plants.  Then filled me in on this latest development.  The Kingston nursery founded by Dan Hinkley and his partner, Robert Jones, was built on blood, sweat and tears.  If you've ever met Dan or heard him speak about his adventures, you can't help but wonder what his nursery looks like - Nirvana, Eden, Crispy Creme of horticulture?.  Well, alas, I will never know.  I've been unable to visit their annual July Hydrangeas Daze.  It was usually a softball tournament or a pregnancy, perhaps high school reunion last year, something that seems so meaningless now.  Would have, should have, could have, etc, I know, cry me a river.  I read in the Seatlle paper online where they refered to Dan as the 'Indiana Jones' of plant seekers.  Now I can't get that picture out of my head.  The catalogs are the BEST in the mail order world and although void of pictures, their words enable you to actual see the plant (and the plant seekers getting their bounty) in your mind.

I wish the best for the employees and Dan & Robert.

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 newsletters on the website.  It's on the left side of the website.

Error in last Newletter
Yes, I did it again.  
In my last newsletter, I stated that you can get a hard frost at 35 degrees.  Not true - water freezes at 32 degrees so a true hard frost occurs at or below 32 degrees.
I do want to point out that a new hydrangea is tender and that temperatures as low as 35 degrees can damage the new growth.

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.

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
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 [email protected]
June 17th - 2nd annual Garden Tour

Blue Ridge Hydrangea Society (Western North Carolina)  -  President/Founder: Linda Shapiro [email protected]  (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 [email protected]
Plant Sale, June 10, 2006, in Augusta, GA - contact President Annette Ferris at [email protected] 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: Sid Morris (former agriculture extension agent) "Hydrangeas - Day to Day"

Birmingham Hydrangea Society of Alabama (Birmingham, Alabama) - President is Philip Sarris
June 10th - Hydrangea tour

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.

Heronswood (Kingston, Washington)
CANCELLED  -  Hydrangea Daze - Friday and Saturday, July 21 and 22, 2006 - 9:30 am to 3:30 pm each day
Burpee has closing this nursery until further notice.  Sad day for hydrangea lovers in the Pacific Northwest.  
Has been moved to farm in Pennsylvanie for July 14th & 15th

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!

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:  How do you prune a hydrangea?  Do you cut it all the way back in the Fall, Spring or just let it be? 
A:  It depends on the variety.  And, whether it blooms on new wood.
Macrophylla (mopheads and lacecaps) generally bloom on old wood.  We recommend pruning in the fall for shaping right after the plant stops blooming.  You can also prune in the spring but don't cut as much.  Younger plants just needs some shaping and pruning just a little to achieve a good shape.
Other varieties bloom on new wood - Paniculata, Arborescens, new wood blooming macrophylla.  Prune any time.  I like to prune these in the spring.  Just because we're so busy in the fall.
We have some more tips on the website and in the catalog.  You'll get different answers from different people.  Trouble is, they may all work just great depending on the variety you have.

Q:  I was reading your Q&A site and it said to use aluminum sulphate to turn hydrangeas blue. I have a Nikko Blue I wanted to be real blue and I went to the garden center to get help. The man there told me to use sulfur to turn hydrangeas blue because it wouldn't burn the hydrangeas like aluminum sulphate would. He sold me a product that is Sulfur 90% -Derived from Elemental Sulfur. I am supposed to use it three times a year. Is this OK to use? In your info it says aluminum turns them blue. I am confused. I just found your website today and I LOVE it as I LOVE hydrangeas and have several and want several more.

A:  It is the aluminum that actually turns the pigments in the blooms blue.  Your garden center is correct that too much aluminum will burn your plant.   There is some naturally occurring aluminum in most soil but the pH must be low enough for the plant to absorb the aluminum.  You really need both components for hydrangeas to be blue.
Is that clear?  I know it's totally confusing to get on the internet and find conflicting information.  We recommend both adding aluminum and sulfur to get the blue hydrangeas in areas like yours where pink is the naturally occurring color.  If you add just the sulfur, you may still have a pink hydrangea - if there isn't enough aluminum in the soil.  You must be very careful with the aluminum because it is toxic in high doses.

Q:  Hi, I am so glad that I found your web site. I am in great need of a red hydrangea. Not pink, red. I saw a few that you did have, but it said that they were out of stock. I would rather have a 3 year old plant or older. If you don'r have any more, could you direct me to someone who does? thank you so much.

A:  The best red that I have are the Bottstein, Ami Pasquier and Leuchtfeuer.  But, these hydrangeas will never be true fire engine red.  They are really just deep pink.  Don't let anyone convince you that you will be able to get that true red color - other than in a dried bloom.
I'm sold out of all those right now.  I should have them available for sale again in the fall.  They are growing just as fast as they can.
PH also has an influence in the ultimate color of the hydrangea.  For red/pink, your pH needs to be more toward the middle of the scale or 7.0.
I do have some Preziosa, Serrata hydrangeas.  My picture doesn't do this plant any justice, however.  The bloom is pink but ages red.  The leaves will be red as well.  It's rated zone 6.

Q:  I'm sorry if this isn't the right place for a plant problem question. I have several mophead hydrangeas that look just terrible as the new leaves emerge. The leaves look stunted somehow and strangely curled or damaged. I see no mold or spotting. Several were transplanted last Fall but not all. This is so upsetting!

A;  Check your pH first.  It may be a nutrition issue.  Low pH is best for absorption of minerals and the Nitrogen.  If you pH is too high, the plant won't absorb that efficiently.
Next, check for insects.  Sometime the little buggers drink the moisture in the leaves and leave them curling.  Check with your local agriculture extension service about bugs in your area.  You have different insects than we do but some of the pests that cause leave damage to hydrangeas are aphids, thrips, mites, slugs, snails.
Finally, check the moisture around the base of the hydrangeas.  You may have some excessive moisture around the roots of the plant causing the roots to rot.  That usually occurs in poor draining soil.
I hope that helps.  If you'd like to send me a picture, I may be able to narrow a down a bit for you.
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Kristin VanHoose
Hydrangeas Plus®