Dear Hydrangea Enthusiasts,
Welcome to the October 2005 edition of the Hydrangeas Plus® e-mail newsletter.

Another year is almost complete here at Hydrangeas Plus®.  October is the month for cleanup here at the nursery.  Orders are slowing down but there is still so much to do.  

Back in stock - fully loaded
Most of the hydrangeas are now back in stock!  Order now to ensure your first choice will be available for fall or spring shipping.  
If you're unsure about fall planting, use this simple rule of thumb.  Do you have at least 6 (or 8) weeks before your first hard frost?  If yes, fall planting is really the best time to plant.  Cooler temperatures allow the plant's roots to focus on growth not getting water. Usually this means zones 6 and above are appropriate for fall planting.  As always, mulch your plants for the first few winters to be sure the roots get established before winter and maximize root growth.

We are short on a few varieties for this shipping season.  We hope to have them back in stock for next fall.  Sometimes even we have trouble propagating varieties.  The Paniculata Brussels's Lace is in very limited supply as is the Quercifolia Snow Giant.

I have replenished our inventory of hydrangea trees but remember, the Paniculata trees are available for shipping in the SPRING ONLY.  These are the only plants that we send bare root so it's very important that we ship them while they are still dormant.  The Paniculata varieties of hydrangeas are not sensitive to frost so as soon as your ground is defrosted enough to plant, we can ship them.

Thank you for your patience.  If you'd like to be notified when a particular variety and size is ready, just go to that product online at and enter your email address after clicking on the 'Keep me updated' button and we'll send you an email when it's ready.

The LADY IN RED (PPAF) are here
We've had lots of questions about new varieties of hydrangeas and we're please to offer a Dr. Michael Dirr and University of Georgia original.  It took a little while for us to acquire the licensing agreement but next spring, we'll be offering the Lady in Red hydrangeas!  I anticipate we'll have the one year plants available early next year.   We bought some starter plants just a week ago and while the other hydrangeas are growing like weeds, we'll have to wait for these new ones to get big enough.  This is our first venture into patented plants so we'll see how successful our first patented variety will be.  We're expect to continue offering Dr. Dirr's introductions as soon as they are released in the future.  This is just the first of many new and exciting varieties for real life gardens.

We are thrilled to offer you this wonderful hydrangea.  I've been growing a specimen plant for a year and the foliage color is really dynamite.  Dr. Dirr is introducing this first seedling from his first breeding trials.  This is an open pollinated seedling from the wonderful hydrangea Otaksa.  This Lady in Red variety is a strong, vigorous growing hydrangea with lacecap type blooms of pink or pale blue.  The lovely lacecap blooms aren't finished though.  Like many other lacecaps, these will flip upside and show their red underside.  This plant is truly a multi-seasoned hydrangea - blooms in late spring, aged red blooms in summer and fall color.

This variety was selected for it's fabulous burgundy fall color and it is mildew resistance even in the southern gardens.  Gardeners are going to love the burgundy leaf veins and stalks, too.  Lady in Red is hardy for zones 6 - 9, needs partial shade (more sun is okay for northern gardens) and the bloom is slightly pH sensitive.  It grows 3 to 5 feet tall and wide.  It reminds me a lot of the serrata family but that  may be the fall leaf color.  For a bit more history and information, check out the website at

These plants will be available in Spring 2006 - sorry, they aren't big enough to ship yet.  If you'd like to be notified when they are available, go to the Lady In Red hydrangea on our website at and enter your email address after you click on the 'Keep me updated' button.  We'll send you an email when they are big enough to ship.

Added USPS Priority Mail service for shipping your hydrangeas
We finally got the website shopping cart set up for another delivery option for those of you east of the Rocky Mountains.  We're using the USPS Priority Mail service for the fall and see how the plant delivery goes for you eastern customers.  UPS rates just keep going up and up and even though we are a volume user, we can't get the rates down enough for my liking.  So, until the USPS raise the rates next year, we'll give it a try.  Unfortunately we can't track the package as closely and there is no guaranteed service.   USPS Priority mail saves anywhere from $5 to $15 for smaller orders.

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.

Three-year fall plant sale
It's that time of year again.  We have too many plants left!!  We are offering some of our 3-year plants for just $30.  These plants can be shipped now or in the spring, just order by the October 15th deadline. Here are the plants we're offering in our fall sale - they should show up on the specials page four at a time (refresh the browser to see more) or in the three-year plant section on the website.

Macrophylla (mopheads)
General Vicomtesse
Nikko Blue
Souvenir de Presidente

Macrophylla  (lacecaps)
Geoffrey Chadburn

Pee Wee

Commonly Asked Questions

Pruning Question:  I've enjoyed looking through your website.  We have a few hydrangeas in our yard and they're lovely.  I know one is called Endless Summer, and another white with an odd shaped bloom.  We planted them but I didn't save the names!  Anyway - do I need to cut off old blooms when they wither?  I know I have to on the Rhododendrons to get blooms next year, but I'm not sure about the hydrangeas.  They both bloomed beautifully this year, which I wasn't expecting as we just planted them this spring.  Right now the blooms are dried up and starting to weigh the branches of the plant down.

Also, the Seattle Center has these beautiful hydrangeas with a dark burgundy bloom that is slowly turning to white as it fades.  Any chance you know the variety?  They're about 6-8' tall and I'd assume full height.  The color is very striking and I'd love to have one.

A:  You may prune now or in the spring.   The Endless Summer and the odd shaped bloom (probably Paniculata) both bloom on new wood so you don't have to worry about saving the old wood for blooms.   Be sure to prune above a healthy leaf node when you do prune.  We prune in the fall but that's because we are so busy with the nursery in the spring.

When plants are young, prune just for shape.  Once the plant is more established, you can take off more to maintain height.  Once the plant is established, be sure to take out all those old woody canes that have no new growth on them.  This thinning will give the existing branches more room to grow.

 Most of the varieties bloom on old wood and you have to make sure you keep lots of old growth to make sure you have blooms next summer.  The Oakleaf and Climbing hydrangeas bloom on old wood as well.  Paniculata, Arborescens and the new wood blooming macrophylla (Endless Summer, All Summer Beauty, Dooley, Penny Mac, Decatur Blue, David Ramsey, Oak Hill) bloom on old and new wood.

There are some diagrams on the website (under commonly asked questions).  On page 11 of our catalog, I have diagrams and pictures of pruning.  We're working on a video for the website, too.

Send me a picture of the burgundy red one.  Is that the fresh color or the dried color?  If they are burgundy now, it's probably the dried color.  The deepest pigmented hydrangeas turn red as they dry (Gertrude Glahn, Altona, Europa, Hamburg, Mathilda Gutges, Souvenir de Presidente).

Thank you for your question.

Planting Question:  In addition to incorporating peat moss, humus, etc., is there a particular depth you would recommend the planting site for hydrangeas should be in an area that has a heavy clay content?  I also wanted to know if 3 or more inches of gravel could be placed in the bottom of the site.

A:  Because you have heavy clay, make the hole as large as possible.  What variety do intend to plant?  The roots of a normal macrophylla will be as wide as the spread on the plant but not very deep.  That can be up to 6 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet deep.  Hydrangeas don't like to be sitting in water.  The 3 or so inches of gravel in the bottom is great and helps tremendously in clay soil.

Do you have large trees or other large plants in the area?  If you do, be careful of the roots from the larger, established plantings.  They may take away vital water from the hydrangea.  Be sure to plant the hydrangea far enough away that the roots will not be impeded by the larger plants' roots.

Winter protection Question:  Hi there, I went crazy this year buying up hydrangeas.  I am afraid and disappointed that my local nursery sold me hydrangeas that are hardy in zones 6-9 when I am in zone 4/5.  How can I insure my hydrangeas will make it through the winter?  I have lime lights, nikko blue (didn't bloom this year), sun goddess (didn't bloom this year), amethyst and endless summer.
Am I out of luck??? I saw some polyurethane "cones" you can cover plants with during the winter.  Will that help? I am about ready to cry!

A:  It wasn't an orange home improvement store was it?  They are notorious for selling plants outside the zone ratings.  But, they are such deals when they are dried out and looking so pathetic, I can't resist a bargain.
The hydrangeas will make it through winter.  however, to ensure your hydrangeas bloom for you next year, you need to make sure the old wood survives the winter.  Use tomato cages, chicken wire or peony cages (new email for another customer in zone 5 NJ - see below) around the plants and fill with leaves.  Wrap with burlap for added protection.  The wind is probably your biggest culprit for killing the buds during the winter time.  Remember most hydrangeas set buds old wood.  The Limelight you mention as well as the Endless Summer should be hardy enough for you.  These both bloom on new wood and according to the nurseries that sell these, hardy to zone 4.
I think the Poly cones you mention would work too.  As long as they are big enough and you can keep them from blowing away.  The Nikko, Sun Goddess and Amethyst should all be protected.  The Nikko is probably the hardiest of the list.  The Sun Goddess and Amethyst are closer to zone 7 in my readings.  I've heard the Sun Goddess doesn't bloom well regardless of the zone. 

NOTE from NJ Zone 5- Your wrapping with a cage and burlap really works! I figured it out since I'm a peony grower  and did it with those cages that work perfectly.  I tried it the first time last winter  ( I have many  after three years of no blooms ! I used the peony cages I have and filled with leaves.   The only one I did not wrap was one that was about 20 years old. It has been on the property and sits in mostly sun. I have never seen a bloom on it at all (my mother planted it years before I came here) and neither has she. I will try wrapping it this year.

Fading bloom Question:  My hydrangeas were beautiful last year, but this year the flowers are just a greenish tint.  There are a lot of blooms but no color.  What is the problem?

A: The green color is probably a function of environment and possibly chemicals.  The more heat and humidity you have, the less the pigments last in their natural, fresh color (blue or pink).  If you had an extra hot summer (like most of us), many of the hydrangeas went straight to green.  The hydrangeas with the paler colors typically fade to green eventually but the fading can be sped up by weather, fertilizer or amendments.  If you used aluminum sulfate to increase the blue colors, that speeds up the fading.  Too much fertilizer can do the same thing.

Fertilizing Question:  when preparing hydrangeas for winter what type of fertilizer should we use before we put leaves on top?

A:  Just a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 that is time released.  You don't want to overdose the plant with nitrogen before dormancy.  Too much nitrogen will weaken the stems' ability to withstand the cold weather and generate buds next summer.  

Size of hydrangeas we ship Question:  As I am new to Hydrangeas, I'm trying to understand what the difference is between 1-year and 3-year hydrangeas.  Didn't see that in your hints and tips...

A:  The answer is on the website under most commonly asked questions.  It a good question, though.  There are so many companies selling such different sizes.  here's our definition.

The one year plants are one year old and are growing in a one gallon container.  We don't ship the container so we don't want to mislead anyone about what they get.  The size of the plant (right now) is anywhere between 5" - 12" depending on the variety.  The three year plants are three years old and have three times as many branches as the one year.  They are growing in three gallon containers but again, we don't ship the container.  These plants are about 12" depending on variety but could be as much as 24".

If you want a more specific answer, let me know what you're interested in purchasing and we can give you a better idea of size.  Most the hydrangeas will grow to 5 or 6 feet.  The one year plants will get to maturity in about 5 years.  The three year plants, in about 2 or 3 years.

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Kristin VanHoose
Hydrangeas Plus®