The clue to keeping hydrangea happy is in the flower's name
If you've noticed your hydrangeas have been blooming their heads off this summer, it's likely due to Vermont's hot and humid conditions this year.
Hydrangea love being well-watered, though they don't like wet feet, so make sure your soil is well-drained!
One of these types tends to be on the finicky side when it comes to growing well and blooming, though. The blue hydrangea h. macrophylla gets the bad rap. This year, though, blue hydrangea are doing very well in the heat and humidity.
And to ensure your hydrangea plants overwinter, mark your calendar for November. Then as you're out doing other yard and garden clean-up and prep for next year, put some wood chips on the top the hydrangea's crown.
That layer will protect the plant's stems and buds. Next spring, when you remove the woodchips, the hydrangea will start growing and blooming all the way into September.
Aside from being the more challenging ones to keep happy, blue hydrangeas have another downside: they aren't adept at attracting pollinators, like bees or butterflies.
Fortunately, there are a number of hydrangea varieties that do. Enter h. aborenscens!
This hydrangea type is the big, white, fluffy one you most likely think of when you hear the word, "hydrangea."
And there are new varieties of those, too, that vary in size and color from the traditional one. Try the Invincibelle Spirit selections like Wee White, which is a white version and the pink Mini Mauvette version.
These hardy perennials will bloom right into the fall and come back year after year without much concern.
The third type is one that is starting to bloom now and will continue right up until frost. That's the h. paniculata or the panicle hydrangea.
This hydrangea is the heirloom variety though there are some newer versions, like Quick Fire and Limelight. It's a big shrub that can grow 8- to-10 feet tall. This shrub is loaded with white blossoms that eventually fade to a burgundy color.
Panicle hydrangea make great cut flowers and if you don't have the space, there is a dwarf version called Little Bobo that will stay three or four feet tall.
Ensuring they are well-watered and well-drained and properly overwintering hydrangea is a large part of their care. An equally important one is pruning. And the key to pruning them is knowing when.
If you have arborescens or the Annabelle hydrangeas, or paniculata hydrangeas, prune those in the spring.
For the blue hydrangea, prune them after its first flush of flowers.
Q: Can you resurrect a dried up blue hydrangea? How do you go about it? - Diane, in St. Albans
To resurrect a dried-out blue hydrangea, be sure to provide a lot of moisture in well-drained soil. You can also dry and preserve blue hydrangea blossoms to use in flower arrangements, too.
To do this, wait till the flower gets to a mature stage. And before it starts to turn brown cut that flower, strip off off the all leaves, place it into a vase with a couple inches of water. The water will eventually evaporate and the hydrangea blossoms will dry and be beautiful for a year.
Q: Another resident planted a sweet pea plant purchased from a local grower. They placed it in a raised bed in mid-June. The sweet pea got a lot of green growth, but very few flowers. Any idea what happened? - Jessie, in Shelburne
Sweet peas like cool temperatures! They haven't loved the hot and humid conditions we've had as of late. When you add these to your gardens and raised beds, go ahead and plant sweet peas in mid-April.
Getting them in the ground early allows them to start maturing and start flowering before it gets too hot. Sweet peas tend to shut down in heat. They'll keep their green growth but won't set flowers.
And if you're growing sweet peas, the key to get them to germinate is to score the seeds with a nail clipper or file. Soak them in warm water the night before then plant them the next morning. This helps them germinate faster and start growing quickly.
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