Hydrangeas provide welcome summer colour in the garden. In my garden that colour extends well into autumn as the flower heads gradually fade from blue and mauve to pink and green. These old-fashioned plants make a splash in the garden but rarely hit the headlines. This year they made international news and also featured in a good news story.
Colour of the year
The US-based colour forecaster Pantone Color Institute releases annual colour predictions. Usually one colour is highlighted, but this year, two have top billing as the colour of 2016. They are Rose Quartz and Serenity. Basically baby pink and baby blue.
When executive director at Pantone, Leatrice Eiseman, was interviewed about her company’s colour predictions she pointed to a mass of hydrangeas growing in her garden as part of the inspiration for the predication. Since Leatrice drew attention to her hydrangeas, images of pink and blue hydrangeas have been pinging around the Internet.
In announcing the colours Pantone said the choices were calm and soothing tones that could combat stress and offer a sense of wellbeing. Check out some hydrangeas and see if they are right! Certainly as many hydrangeas are in shady spot, it is often cool and tranquil near hydrangeas. An oasis of calm in the midst of an often harsh, glary, smoky summer.
A pink hydrangea is also in the news. A pink Hydrangea arborescens (a pink form of the popular Annabelle hydrangea) called ‘Invincibelle Spirit’ has raised a lot of money for breast cancer research.
The plant was released in the United States under the Proven Winners brand with a dollar from the sale of each plant going to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation in the US. The pretty pink plant has accumulated $US903,000 for the charity since its release in 2009.
Unfortunately it is not yet available in Australia, but there are other plants grown here including Cordyline ‘Passion Pink’ that similarly raise funds for charity.
When in hydrangeas are full bloom they need regular watering to keep them looking good. They wilt when the weather is hot or if the soil or potting mix dries out. Where soils are hard to wet, apply a wetting agent to improve water penetration into the root zone.
Providing summer shade for hydrangeas reduces their water needs and can stop the flowers becoming brown and burnt by ultraviolet exposure. Their love of summer shade makes the eastern or southern side of buildings or under the shade of deciduous trees good spots to grow hydrangeas. They can also be grown in large containers with good quality potting mix to position where summer colour is needed.
These plants don’t need much in the way of fertiliser. A few spadefuls of aged manure scattered under the bush and slow-release fertiliser in spring as their new growth resumes gives good results.
Hydrangeas need the correct pruning regime for good flowering. Hydrangea macrophylla produces flowers on old wood in early summer. To keep plants compact and neat prune them in stages. Stems that haven’t flowered and those holding burnt blooms can be pruned in mid or late summer. Leave flowered stems until autumn. Left on the bush these old flowers take on deep shades of pink, purple and green, which add interest to the autumn garden.
If a hard prune is needed, take to the hydrangeas with the secateurs in late winter. A hard prune rejuvenates old, woody plants. Cut flowered stems back to the first pair of live buds. Remove old stems (five to six year old wood with peeling bark) cutting these branches back to ground level. Don’t prune young stems that haven’t flowered.
Some new varieties are repeat flowering (for example Endless Summer forms). They bloom from summer to autumn with flushes of flowers. Deadhead these varieties after each flower flush.
Hydrangeas are easy to propagate in winter from hardwood cuttings taken at pruning.