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Heavenly Hydrangeas HEADING_TITLE
 

Heavenly Hydrangeas                             May 2006

If heaven is landscaped with our most favorite flowers (and surely it is), there must be plenty of room among the clouds that's been allocated for hydrangeas - those big, round, luxuriously fluffy flowers that almost beg you to stick your face into them so you can feel their softness on your cheeks. For some folks, hydrangeas conjure up nostalgic memories of the big, pink or blue, ball-shaped blossoms in their grandmother's garden. In today's market, hydrangeas have become explosively popular as cut flowers, especially when used in wedding work. The massed, spherical form and supple texture of hydrangea blooms makes them a preferred choice in upscale floral arrangements. Rare indeed is the 'home interior' magazine these days that doesn't show a picture or two of a bouquet of hydrangeas among its pages.

Hydrangeas come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors, from climbing vines to small trees. The potted hydrangea plants most likely to be found in flower shops at this time of year are the shrubby Bigleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla), which are sometimes also known as Mophead Hydrangeas. For decades, these have been the most popular hydrangeas for growing in gardens and home landscapes. Bigleaf Hydrangeas are beloved for their large, rounded flower heads, which are actually composed of dozens of tightly clustered individual florets. The showy flowers occur in a range of colors, from the common pinks and blues to more vivid purple, amethyst, and nearly red hues. These flowers also come in white, which is exceedingly popular in hydrangea bridal bouquets and other wedding decorations.

An attractive variant of the Bigleaf Hydrangea is the Lacecap Hydrangea. The inflorescence of the Lacecap Hydrangea has a flattened center composed of tiny, bead-like, unopened flower buds situated very closely together. This compact center is surrounded by a delicate ring of open florets, which seem to hover weightlessly at the perimeter of the bloom.

Among hardy hydrangeas for the landscape, the Oakleaf Hydrangea is the standout favorite. Easy to care for, the Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is one of the few hydrangeas that are native to the United States, the others hailing from China and Japan. The Oakleaf Hydrangea is a dramatic, white-flowering, deciduous shrub with four seasons of interest. Its elongated panicles of florets are persistent through the summer; its large, deeply lobed leaves turn several shades of orange and red in the fall, and the peeling bark on its stems provides great winter texture. It blooms best in areas where summers are somewhat hot, but the Oakleaf Hydrangea is winter hardy further north than the Bigleaf Hydrangea. A tremendous advantage of the Oakleaf Hydrangea is that it can thrive in much drier locations than its cousins (in fact, the word "hydrangea" is Greek, meaning "water vessel" - a reference to the majority of the species' extreme need for water).

Hydrangea care is fairly easy. The most important thing to remember is that hydrangeas love water (as their name implies). Keep the soil of a potted hydrangea moist at all times, without permitting it to become waterlogged. Place the plant in a bright location away from strong, direct sunlight. Keep the hydrangea in as cool a location as possible, especially at night, to prolong blooming. When blooms have faded, and after any danger of frost, the hydrangea may be planted outside. Cut the plants back, removing the spent blossoms. Plant hydrangeas in a rich, loamy soil in a semi-shaded location that gets plenty of moisture. Florist hydrangeas are generally hardy to USDA Climate Zone 6, but may need protection from winter freezing that far north. Bigleaf Hydrangea plants bloom on the previous summer's growth, so in order to preserve the next season's flower buds, prune im! mediately after flowering, if necessary. Care must be taken never to prune them during winter or spring.

With extra care, it is sometimes possible to change the flower color on the Bigleaf Hydrangea. It has to do with the acidity level of the soil and the presence of available aluminum. To maintain or change a hydrangea's flowers to pink, keep the soil pH level around 6.0 to 6.2 or higher (hydrangeas cannot assimilate aluminum at higher pH levels). Add dolomitic lime to the soil several times a year to raise the pH. Fertilize using a plant food that is relatively high in phosphorous (the middle number in the three-number ratio on the package), which also prevents aluminum uptake.

To change the hydrangea's flower color to blue (or to keep it that color), aluminum must be present in the soil. Authorities recommend that a solution of oz. (or 1 tbsp.) aluminum sulfate per gallon of water be applied to plants (which are at least 2-3 years old) throughout the growing season. The pH of the soil should be around 5.25 to 5.5 so as to make the aluminum available to the plant. The soil should also contain plenty of organic matter, such as peat moss, which will tend to naturally acidify the soil. Fertilize with a plant food that is relatively low in phosphorus and high in potassium (the last number in the analysis). In some native soils, however, it may never be possible to change a hydrangea's color to blue if the soil is highly alkaline (chalky). Similarly, take care not to plant them next to a concrete foundation or driveway since lime gradually leaching from the concrete will make the soil artificially high in pH. In that case, it may be be! tter to grow your blue hydrangeas in big pots where you can have better control over their care and the soil makeup.

As we noted earlier, hydrangeas have become very popular for use in wedding work. The soft texture and the voluptuous rounded form of the hydrangea flower heads gives them a romantic, feminine appeal that works well in wedding centerpieces. Their grand size makes them appropriate for altar arrangements at the wedding ceremony. A single, large hydrangea bloom can even become the basis of a bridal bouquet, with smaller flowers like roses or freesias arranged around and through it.

Hydrangeas are among America's most favorite flowers. They have a commanding presence in a summer garden. They're lovely as cut flowers all year long. For weddings, they can't be beat. And in spring, long-lasting potted hydrangea plants are especially nice as Mother's Day gifts! Your local florist can arrange to have a big, beautiful, blooming hydrangea plant delivered to your Mom, whether she lives locally or out of town. Phone or stop in to place your order, being sure to allow several days' notice for best selection and timely delivery. With those big, fluffy, cloud-like blossoms, hydrangeas might just be a little bit of heaven on earth!

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*This article is cited from flowershopnetwork.com 

 

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