Hydrangeas are making a comeback at the moment and the sight of them may prompt you to reminisce that ‘my nanna always had hydrangeas!” Many people equate them with plants their grandmother grew – there’s just something about the flower heads that remind us of old-fashioned powder puffs and those hydrangeas that grew along the shady side of the old house.
As we all know, plants often come and go just like fashion. Whilst hydrangeas were big in the sixties and seventies, they never really went completely ‘out’, they just baselined, and the most reliable varieties remained constant. However in the past year numbers have been climbing again. Breeders have been hard at work on this genus, and growers are excited about a resurgence in popularity for these charmers.
PMA works with 2 Hydrangea collections. One is the You and Me collection which comes from a Hydrangea breeder in Japan. Ryoji Irie loves to work with colour and has spent a great deal of his time developing a great range of colours in this collection. It offers a complete spectrum from pastel pinks, lilacs and clues through to deeper and bright shades. An added bonus of this collection is that varieties can withstand higher temperatures. The You and Me Collection is also frost tolerant and easy to grow. It has been a staple on the market for quite a few years now and each of the varieties have romantic names such as ‘Desire’, Romance’ and ‘Forever.’
Over the past 3 years we have been trialling the new Obsidian Collection. This includes 3 varieties which come from different breeders. The key difference here is the unique black stems – these add a real element of contrast in the garden and also indoors if you want to use them as a cut flower. They are also frost hardy and tolerant of high temperatures. ‘White Knight’ has beautiful mop top flower heads, ‘Black Lace’ is a lace cap selection with pink, blue or mauve flowers and ‘Storm Cloud’ rewards with blue or mauve mop tops very large in size.
Of course, the flower colour of some hydrangeas can vary according to the pH of the soil. For blue flowers grow your hydrangeas in an acidic soil and fertilise with aluminium sulphate. If you prefer pinks, you’ll need an alkaline soil and add lime. White hydrangeas are less common, and remain white regardless of the soil pH.
Overall hydrangeas are surprisingly tough and can survive in a wide range of locations. They do have fibrous roots however that are close to the surface so it’s a good idea to provide some mulch. I think their best claim to fame is their hardy nature and showy displays of large flower heads. They are a great choice for shady spots – which nanna obviously worked out quickly as the side of the house was like a magic garden.
To care for all these hydrangeas – keep them in a moist soil. Prune back to 1/3 of their size during winter and feed in spring with a slow release fertiliser for best results.
So what do you think – nanna or not?
[This post brought to you by Plants Management Australia]