Dear Hydrangea Enthusiasts,

Welcome to the Hydrangeas Plus newsletter for May!

I am determined to get our May newsletter out but so much is happening here at the nursery. We are in the middle of our spring overstock sale and we're right in the middle of the busiest part of the shipping season.  All our midwest and eastern customers are emerging from winter.  Finally.  And ready for the hydrangeas!   We are having a very cool spring here in the Willamette Valley.  We actually had a light frost last Monday night, the latest in over 10 years.  Maybe more.  That's just how long I've lived in Oregon.  Remember, a light frost is all right for most hydrangeas.  It's those heavy frosts (down below 35 degrees) that are especially damaging to the tender hydrangea buds.

What's happening at Hydrangeas Plus«?
On my goodness, what's not happening here at Hydrangeas Plus? 

Our spring sale in happening right now!  We hope that our local customers can find the time to venture to our nursery and find some room for some bargain priced plants.  We bring out those plants that we have over produced or are taking out of production.  We have 50 varieties of hydrangeas in one gallon plants and 47 varieties in the three gallon sizes.  Plus, we grow other plants here at the nursery - Azaleas (looking fabulous this year), barberry, viburnum, heather, hibiscus, ilex, and many others.  These are all at or below wholesale prices, too.  Sorry, these prices are only good for on-site sales through May 13th.  Kristin relaxes and is out of commission for Mother's Day.

Our spring sale is always the two weeks before Mothers Day every year.  We select this time of year for several reasons.  First, it's at the end of our busy wholesale shipping season and second, it's right before planting so that we can ‘clean out the nursery’ of plants that are left over or that we don't want to move into a bigger size.  And make room for the new plants!

Unfortunately, we're not able to accommodate a retail site for purchases on an on-going basis.  We are hoping to do so in the future.  I know I've said this for a few years.  Who knew that kids were so much work?  

We are also hard at work planting new hydrangeas. You've probably noticed that we are very low on hydrangea varieties right now.  We're planting as fast as we can so we can have them ready for fall shipping but some varieties may not be ready until Spring.  If you must have a variety that is out of stock, be sure to sign up for our email notification for that variety.  We will email you as soon as they are big enough to ship out.  It's usually September 1st for the three year plants and September 15th for the one year plants.

I've got some new varieties in the works for next year.  I do like to grow a variety for a year (at least) so that I have some real life experience before we recommend it to our customers.  I'm diligently planning our new catalog for the winter.  Stay tuned.

Spring Tip - Fertilizer

It's 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.  We are now selling fertilizer, aluminum sulfate & garden lime on our website.

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- one that can be used on any shrub or tree.  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.

Many gardeners love the Miracle Gro product for Acid Loving Plants.  It's called MirAcid but there are many other varieties on the market.  This type of fertilizer is almost instant acting.  We use it for emergencies only.  Depending on your area, when the hydrangeas begin to show buds and grow very quickly, the hydrangeas are absorbing nutrients out of the soil at their fastest rate.  If your soil doesn't have enough nutrients, the hydrangeas may get yellow leaves.  We recommend using the instant fertilizer when this occurs.  If  you fertilize too much with this potent nitrogen based fertilizer, you'll get lots of green leaves but the plant will be so focused on growing green instead of blooming.

Cutting Hydrangea Blooms

Now that hydrangeas are starting to bloom, we get the ‘cutting hydrangea blooms’ question often.  I asked my friendly cut flower guys (Thanks, Johnthan and Ray) his tricks of the trade and here are his tips.

Don't cut fresh blooms:  Be sure that the hydrangeas are at least a few weeks old.  The older the bloom, the longer it will last.  Color pigments should be fully developed before cutting.

Cut all the leaves off:  Leaves take moisture away from the flower head so strip the leaves off before cutting.  Long stems are nice for vases but the longer the stem, the less water that reaches the bloom.

Immerse cut blooms immediately in water and soak for two hours:  this may require that you weigh the hydrangeas down in the water.  Cold water that has been boiled works the best.

Some other methods for cuts that eliminate the oxygen bubble in the stem:
Florist gel is expensive, time consuming and can be messy but works
Put the cut ends in boiling water
Smash the cut end with a hammer right after cutting
Cut another inch off the stem underwater

SALE SALE SALE SALE SALE

What to do for Mother's Day?  We've got hydrangeas?  What a wonderful gift for that special Mother in your life.

We are offering hydrangeas for $30 in the three year size!  Check out our website for specific varieties.  Be sure to order by May 7th to be sure your order arrives in time.  We can process gift certificates (great for that mother you know has everything!) until May 12 via email.

The sale of the $30 three year plants is good til May 28th.

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 http://www.americanhydrangeasociety.org for membership information
June 10th - Annual Garden Tour in Atlanta - see http://www.americanhydrangeasociety.org for more information

Mid-South Hydrangea Society (Memphis, Tennessee) -  Membership/Newsletter Caroline Brown 683-9766 or at ckbrown@fedex.com
June 17th - 2nd annual Garden Tour

Blue Ridge Hydrangea Society (Western North Carolina)  -  President/Founder: Linda Shapiro blueflowers@bellsouth.net  (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 billhayes@bellsouth.net
Thursday: May 18, "The Hydrangeas Garden" Pendleton King Park in Augusta, GA - Members/Guests will tour garden
Plant Sale, June 3, 2006, in Aiken SC - contact President Annette Ferris at csrahydr@aol.com for more information
Plant Sale, June 10, 2006, in Augusta, GA - contact President Annette Ferris at csrahydr@aol.com 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
May 17th - Speaker: Elizabeth Dean of Wilkerson Mill Nursery, Aldridge Botanical Gardens located in Hoover Alabama
June 10th - Hydrangea tour

Aldrige Botanical Garden (Hoover, Alabama) - Hydrangea SALE
May 12 & 13 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. More than 60 different varieties will be available, including the Snowflake Hydrangea patented by Gardens founder Eddie Aldridge and most recently designated as the official city flower of Hoover, AL.

Heronswood (Kingston, Washington)
Hydrangea Daze - Friday and Saturday, July 21 and 22, 2006 - 9:30 am to 3:30 pm each day
http://www.heronswood.com

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've heard news reports about Sudden Oak Death.  Does it affect hydrangeas?

A:  No, Sudden Oak Death (SOD) doesn't affect hydrangeas.  The US department of Agriculture has deemed 41 plant families natural hosts for Phytophthora ramorum, the fungus like organism that has been found to cause Sudden Oak Death.  Commonly found hosts are Rhododendron, Pieris and Camellias.  The Oregon Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the USDA, has instigated a thorough inspection process with the nurseries here in Oregon to ensure the spread of the disease is curtailed.  Every registered nursery is surveyed for host and associated plant families and testing for p. ramorum spores is done by an independent laboratory.  We recently received our letter from the testing service stating we are clean of any p. ramorum in the nursery.  We do grow some of the known host plants in our nursery but again, hydrangeas are not a known host of this fungus.

See the USDA website at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/ispm/pramorum/  for more information.

Q:  How much aluminum sulfate do I apply to my hydrangeas?
A:  It really depends on the concentration of the aluminum sulfate.  You don't want to over do it because aluminum is toxic to plants in large doses.  Aluminum occurs naturally in most soil.  If you can get the pH lower, the plant may absorb some on its own.

My general rule is ╝ 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 15% 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 big are your hydrangeas (Nikko Blue) when they are shipped? I know they are about 1 year old, but how big is that?
A:  Most of the one year plants are about 10" tall and 6" wide right now.  The Nikkos are about average size for our hydrangeas right now.  If planted correctly and in a good soil environment, they should triple in size by the end of the year.  We grow them in one gallon containers but don't ship them in the container.  But they aren't bare root either.  We keep the potting mix (bark, mulch, pumice, fertilizer) around the root ball and wrap in a plastic bag.  Then, we wrap the whole plant in newsprint like to a burrito to protect the branches.  Some breakage may occur on the more delicate plants.

The three year plants are approximately 12” – 24” right now with three times as many branches. These are coming from a three gallon container.

We believe that our plants are larger than other mail order companies which send '1 year' plants in a 4 or 6" container.  I know it's hard to know what you're getting from mail order companies.  We try to be consistent from variety to variety and from day to day but plants are not consistent so these sizes we describe are just approximate.  We can't promise a height.  But remember, it's the plant that's important.  A healthy root ball and pruned branches will give you a better plant.

Q:  Your shipping charges are very high.  Why?
A:  This is a constant battle for us.  We are currently using UPS 3 day service to the eastern states.  For smaller orders, we can also use USPS Priority Mail.  Cost of shipping has gone up three times in just 6 months.  Not to mention the fuel surcharge that UPS imposes on every package.  We are doing everything we can to keep prices low without changing the size of the plants we ship.  Our plants are extra large this year and believe it or not, the shipping & handling fees are not covering the cost to ship to most customers.

Q:  I LIVE IN ATLANTA GEORGIA IF I ORDER FROM YOU WHEN WILL THE ORDER BE SHIPPED?  DO YOU FOLKS EVER ANSWER THE PHONE?

A:  For orders placed by Sunday night, we can ship the following Monday or Tuesday.  The order will arrive by week's end.  Sometimes, orders placed Monday morning will go out on Tuesday but it really depends on the work load.  This time of year (spring rush), our volume increases and my fingers can't type fast enough so I apologize if you must wait another week for your order.  The plants are not just sitting ready to go.  We must pull them from the nursery, check water, remove debris, prune if necessary, inspect for bugs, apply moisture lock product and allow to dry.

We are not a plant mill that cranks out poor quality midget plants.  We take great care to provide you the correct variety with great quality.

We answer the phone when we can but when you speak to us, you are speaking to the owners and not some service representative that doesn't know about our plants or operation.  Please leave a message on our call back line (press 4 on the machine).  We try to answer all calls by the next business day but sometimes that may not be possible.  But we will get back to you.  Emails are more easily answered as I can do that any time of the day.  We appreciate your business and we want you to be given the full customer service that our company is known to provide.  But, we're small business owners trying to get it all done in only 24 hours a day. :)
 

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Sincerely,

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