Sunday, October 16, 2011

Who Couldn't Love Hydrangeas?

One of my earliest childhood memories is my grandmother’s garden in England in mid Summer where she had a massive hydrangea hedge with flowers the size of dinner plates…..

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Here in South Africa they’re known as the Christmas Rose (because that’s when they flower) but I’ve never managed to grow these beautiful plants myself.
I have, however, just taken a number of cuttings from a well established stock plant and am DETERMINED that they’ll survive. I want this in my garden next Summer….

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So what’s the secret to getting these beauties to flourish?
From what I’ve read it would seem that Winter is the most dangerous time as frost or even very cold air will kill the buds, so covering during the coldest weather is essential. Wrapping in a cylinder of chicken wire and filling this with leaves seems to be the cheapest and most efficient option.
Although you could always buy them a nice parka jacket…..

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Next problem is where to plant them?
Again, the concensus is partial shade although I’ve seen spectacular displays in quite deep shade.
I guess the main thing is NOT full sun (particularly here in South Africa where our summer sun can kill at 20 paces…..)!
I already have several shady places in my garden where I know they would be happy so my next question is how to plant them and what to feed them.
It would seem that they don’t like fertilizer until they are well established (4-8 weeks after planting).
After that they just need a regular dose of an all purpose fertlizer but PLENTY of water.
These darlings love to drink so they need watering whenever there’s an absence of rain or when you notice a bit of a wilt. Keeping control of this wilt is particularly important during the Spring months when the flower buds are forming.

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And now to the colour….
Should it be white which would show up well in shady spots….

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Fabulous pink? (always a girlie favourite...)

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or that stunning blue ? (Yummy enough to eat….)

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For me it would have to be the blue but that gorgeous colour doesn’t come easy – there’s work involved. You have to turn them blue!!!
Firstly, white flowers cannot be made blue or pink.
It seems the easiest way is to turn pink big leaf varieties blue.
To make the flowers turn blue they need acidic soil and a low PH. To this you can add any of the following:
aluminium sulphate (1 tablespoon per 4 litres of water)
grass clippings
coffee grounds
ground up orange or grapefruit peel
Alternatively you can use a fertilizer low in phosphorus and high in potassium to achieve the blue colour.
A bit of a fiddle I know, but wouldn’t it be worth it………….

As for variety, well, there are loads. It’s all down to personal choice but personally, I think every garden should have at least one hydrangea.
Has your garden got one? If not, I hope I've persuaded you that it should have.……it really should.


  1. Hi Laura, I found your blog through Blotanical. Hydrangeas are a wish-list plant for me too. I have an oak-leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) with white flowers, but the mop-head and lace-cap ones are hard to grow here. My soil and water are alkaline, and it would be almost impossible to grow blue ones, even with additives, so it has to be pink, but even they don't like as much alkalinity as I have, nor do they like drying out, as you mentioned, which is a problem in summer here in Australia. I have tried and failed a few times, but I'm going to try again with Hydrangea villosa, which is gorgeous and seems to take both alkalinity and a bit of dryness. I'll be interested to see your hydrangea progress!

  2. Like Lyn, I am in the temperate/cool south. I have frosts in winter, but they haven't done my hydrangea any harm...they are without leaves anyway. The buds didn't seem to be damaged and now, after a good prune in winter, it is a mass of young leaves. It gets morning sun and solid afternoon shade and is well watered. Good luck with yours.

    Oh, and I found you through Blotanical...always on the look out for Southern Hemisphere bloggers.

  3. My Grandma (in England) used to put loads of rusty old nails in the soil around her Hydrangeas. She said the iron in them made the colour more intense. I think it worked, since I remember how impressively deep pink/red they used to be.
    P.S. I'm another Blotanical blogger (and I know Hazel well!)


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