Dear Hydrangea Enthusiasts,

Welcome to the November/December 2007 edition of our Hydrangeas Plus® newsletter.  

Yes, I did it again.  I started writing our November issue of the newsletter and I never got finished.  Where are my priorities?  We had an extremely busy October and November.  Halloween is THE major holiday around here.  Princesses Kaitlyn & Marissa had a wonderful time and got too much candy for even their parents to consume.  Marissa turned 3 in October, too.  These kids are growing up way too fast.  I tell everyone they are growing like hydrangeas, not weeds.

We're staying busy here at the nursery.  We've covered our shade houses with plastic for added winter protection, I've pruned the hydrangeas around the house, so I'm ready for winter.  The Farmer's Almanac is warning us of a cold and wet winter.  It's already cold here.  We're having slightly freezing temperatures already and the hydrangeas are slowly and gracefully descending into dormancy.  I'm almost done with inventory so I'll be updating the website for final counts of the two year and three year hydrangeas.  The one year hydrangea crop will be ready approximately April 2008, depending on our winter of course.

For winter shipping, our last day for shipping will be December 18th.  I will continue to process the gift certificates up until Christmas Eve for you last minute shoppers.

The VanHoose and Gomez families wish you a very Happy Holiday season.

Gift Ideas
Have you finished your Holiday shopping yet?  Well, me either.  Arghh!  Anyway, how about a gift certificate from Hydrangeas Plus for that friend that is flower crazy?  We have online redemption available with our website.  We can email a gift certificate or send one the old fashioned way through the Postal Service (free priority mail service through December 20th).  We can do any amount you specify in multiples of $10, too.  Please let us know if we can help with your gift giving this Holiday season.

New Catalog is getting closer to your mail box

Please keep us up-to-date on any address changes.  We'll be sending the catalog in January so that it doesn't get lost in shuffle of presents and cards.  If you haven't ordered in the last few years, you may not be signed up to receive a catalog.   Just email me and I'll make sure you're on the list.

The Draught in the SouthEast
I have been getting many questions from the draught stricken areas.  You all really had a rough year for the hydrangeas.  FIrst, the Easter Freeze and now, water restrictions.  The best thing to do for these water hungry plants is cut them off.  This will shorten the distance that the water must travel and lower the need for water.  You may lose some blooms next year but it may be better than losing the whole plant.

Winter is coming
Hydrangeas are deciduous and will lose their leaves during the winter months. Warmer zones (like areas in California and Florida) may not experience total leaf loss.  In fact, warmer climates may have hydrangeas that keep their leaves all year long and just discolor and look a little sick.  You may remove those leaves if you don't like the discoloration or wait until warmer days when the new leaves will push the old leaves off the plant.

In most areas (zone 6 and above), cold weather shouldn't harm your macrophylla (mophead and lacecap) hydrangeas.  The Paniculata, Arborescens, climbing Petiolaris and Oakleaf are all much hardier and should be safe to zone 4 without protection down to -20 or -30 degrees.  Severe cold weather after periods of unseasonably warm weather could be a problem and cause your macrophylla cultivars not to bloom the following summer.  

Remember, most macrophyllas bloom on old wood so to ensure blooms the following summer, old growth (this year's current growth) needs to survive the winter to produce buds next year.  Most macrophylla types are bud hardy in the range of 0 degrees to -10 degrees but drastic temperature changes are just as tough on these old wood blooming plants.   New garden products on the market called Anti Transpiration liquids can be applied and will give plants an added 5 to 15 degrees of protection.  We have seen a consumer product available called WiltPruf.   We use a commercial product similar to WiltPruf and have been pleased with the results.  Cover the plants with a thermal blanket (waterproof felt) or tightly woven burlap to protect branches.

Yes, that time again.  We're doing our 10/20/30 sale.  What is that you ask?  Order $100 of plants or amendments and get 10% off.  Order $200 of plants or amendments and get 20% off.  Finally, order $300 of plants or amendments and get 30% off.  This offer is good through 12/31/07.  Sorry, we can't apply the discount to the shipping cost.  No coupon or code is necessary, the discount will come right off your order.  This can applied for plants/amendments shipped this fall or next spring.

Commonly Asked Questions (I've focused on winter care and pruning- most frequently asked this month!!)

Q:  hi there.  can you recommend what I should do to protect my hydrangeas over the winter? 
many thanks--the recent shipment of Oakleaf have grown so much already!  Zone 6

A:   I'm so happy to hear they are doing well.
Once they lose their leaves (pretty soon if not already for you) mulch the bases well.  That will ensure the roots grow a bit more before going dormant.  Branches should be fine as the Oakleaf are hardy down to zone 4b or 5a.
If you'd like, you may wrap the branches with twine (plant will appear column-like) and wrap with burlap or a cut up thick plastic garbage can.  If the plants are small enough, you can just put the garbage can on top of the plants.  I really don't think that's necessary in zone 6, however.  The macrophylla family (mopheads and lacecaps) are more sensitive to the cold and that's what I recommend to new plants of that species just to protect them a bit more and ensure that blooms happen next summer.

Q:  My hydrangeas are planted on the Northwest side of the house against the garage. Without protection, I have lost the old wood every year. This year I would like to take necessary precautions against the weather. I read your helpful hints for protecting hydrangeas through the winter. Instead of a thermal blanket could I use burlap as a substitute?

A thermal blanket is a waterproof blanket often used for growing vegetables.  I have seen ads in the garden magazines.  You may also use a water repellent blanket too.  We use treated thick felt as our protection for staged plants.  It is about 1/4" thick, gray and comes in large sheets.  Tight woven burlap is also a good substitute.  We have seen these blankets and felt sheets at agriculture supply stores.  Also check your local university's agriculture department.  They may have other ideas about protect and may even direct you to stores that carry such supplies.

The Arborescens, Oakleaf, climbing Petiolaris and Paniculata are hardy to zone 4 and most likely won't need protection.  The macrophyllas should be mulched after leaf drop.  If your minimum temperatures (including wind chill) fall below 10 degrees, you may need more protection to ensure the branches come back next spring.

Do your temperatures fall below 10 or 20 degrees?  If so, protecting the branches is the most conservative option.  Once the leaves drop, wrap the stems with twine such that they are pulled together into a cone shape.  Wrap with a tight woven burlap or a thermal blanket (waterproof felt).  Once spring comes and leaves start forming on the trees, remove the burlap and twine.  You may still experience some late spring frosts once the plants begin to leaf out.  On those nights you expect frost in the spring, cover the plants with the burlap, thermal blanket or old bed sheet - just enough protection so that the frost doesn't get to the leaves. 
In your area, it's important to protect the hydrangeas from the cold wind more so than from just the temperature. 

Spring frosts can be very damaging to the new leaves and flower buds, too.  Once the plant leafs out, it has just begun to start forming the flower buds that will be the flowers next summer.  On those nights you expect frosts, cover with the burlap, old bed sheet or thin blanket.  Even just a light covering will help keep the frost away.

Q:  I live in zone 5. When should I cover my hydrangeas with a winter protection so I will have blooms for the next year?

A: Wait until the leaves fall off before you cover them up.  The plant is usually pretty dormant at that stage.
Q:  Last spring I purchased 3 hydrangeas: Mathilda, Kardinal and Preziosa. During the winter months our temperatures occasionally get down near zero (rarely lower). Should I protect the plants in any way -- burlap, plastic, mulch? If so, should I cover the whole plant or just around the roots. Also, our winters are usually pretty dry & we have soil with a lot of clay. Do I need to water during the winter months, and, if so, how often?

A:  Yes.  All of the above.  Protect the branches as well as the base.
Remember that these all bloom on old wood and so the old wood must survive the winter in order for you to get blooms.  In the spring, also protect against late spring frosts.  They can damage the new tender buds.
Water in the winter months just so the ground doesn't dry out.  I suspect that will be once or twice a week for your area.
Q:  I was wondering if it is a good idea to prune hydrangeas in the fall. I was told that if I pruned them now that I would be pruning off next years flowers. Is this not correct?
A:  Early fall is usually best for (eastern Washington - zone 6).  Have you had your first frost yet?  I'll bet it's close if you haven't.
I like to prune 2 to 4 weeks before the first frost.  The plant will grow some before going dormant.
It also depends on the variety.  Hydrangeas that bloom on old wood (most of them) need a little more concern than those that bloom on new wood.  Macrophylla (mopheads and lacecaps that typically color blue, pink or white and have big leaves) and Quercifolia (oakleaf) typically bloom on old wood but some do bloom on new wood.
Do you know what varieties you have?  I can give you a better idea of pruning if you know that.  Otherwise, it's best to prune lightly in the spring.
Some that bloom on new wood - macrophylla All Summer Beauty, Dooley, Penny Mac, Paniculata and Arborescens.  Prune anytime.  These will set bloom on new growth.  I like to prune these in the spring when leaf nodes are forming (probably late March or early April for you).
Blooming on old wood - spring pruning about the same time as the new wood bloomers but don't prune so much - just a leaf node or two cut off.  Just to ensure you have enough branch to get blooms in the summer.

Q:  I don't quite understand your pruning instructions on your web site. When you say to prune to the first leaf node on this year's growth, do you mean the lush non blooming growth that came up this summer??. And the first leaf node from the top of the shoot or from the ground??

A:  The first leaf node of this year's green growth.  From the bottom of the plant, you should see woody (brown) branches.  Then you'll see green fleshy stems.  This growth is from this year.  Cut all the new fleshy growth to the first leaf node.  When you finish, you should have one leaf node left on the plant.
Don't feel like you have to cut that much.  Prune for shape.  With this method, you could be cutting up to 1/3 of the plant.  If you have new plants, you won't have to cut that much.


A:  Where are you?  If you are zone 6 or below, let me know. You may want to wait until spring.    You're a bit late right now I believe.  Prune more early fall (September-ish) when the plant isn't actively growing.  That allows for some growth after pruning.  Prune this time in the spring but very, very lightly.  Wait until your hard frosts are over AND the plant is leafing out a bit.  Cut above a leaf node - a nice big fat one.
You can typically prune in the spring or the fall.  here is a link to pruning for general mopheads & lacecaps
The reasons why hydrangeas don't bloom are usually (1) too much pruning (2) improper pruning time (3) weather - too cold or transition to winter/summer too drastic (4) too much shade (5) too much fertilizer.

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Kristin VanHoose
Hydrangeas Plus®