Sum­mer belles

In sun­shine or shade, flam­boy­ant hydrangeas will make your gar­den glow

Better Homes and Gardens (Australia) - - Contents -

with their flam­boy­ant flower heads in lush blue, pink or white, hydrangeas are among the sig­na­ture blooms of the sum­mer­time gar­den. Tra­di­tion­ally a shrub for shady gar­den beds or side paths, hydrangeas have spread their wings dur­ing re­cent years, with a bunch of new, sun-lov­ing va­ri­eties ap­pear­ing on the scene. And they’ve scaled down a lit­tle in size, too, mean­ing they now make great con­tainer plants for decks and pa­tios. So, if you don’t have hydrangeas in your gar­den, you’re miss­ing out on one of the best sum­mer flower shows go­ing around. Check out the beau­ties here and be in­spired! ➤

1 The volup­tuous blooms of mop­head hydrangeas vary from blue to pink in colour, depend­ing on the ph of the soil. Some­times, you’ll even get sub­tle shades of both on the one plant!

2 The blooms of dou­ble-flow­ered hydrangeas have lots more petals – they make gor­geous cut flow­ers.

MEET THE FAM­ILY

The best known hydrangeas are the mop­head va­ri­eties

(Hy­drangea macro­phylla), which are de­cid­u­ous shrubs grow­ing to about 1-2m in height and bear­ing large rounded flower heads. Lace­cap hydrangeas are a smaller group (be­long­ing to the same species), which have more flat­tened flower heads, where the showy coloured petals form a ring around a clus­ter of tiny flow­ers in the cen­tre.

Hy­drangea pan­ic­u­lata, which is na­tive to China and Ja­pan, pro­duces large pan­i­cles of flow­ers on a ro­bust shrub, grow­ing to about 4m in height, and is more tol­er­ant of sun. New forms in­clude ‘Candlelight’ and ‘Di­a­mond Rouge’, both of which will grow in full sun or part shade.

The oak-leaf hy­drangea

(Hy­drangea quer­ci­fo­lia) is an­other lovely form, which is na­tive to the US. It fea­tures deeply lobed leaves, which turn fab­u­lous red shades in au­tumn, and pro­duces creamy white cone-shaped flow­ers in sum­mer.

3 In gar­den sit­u­a­tions, hydrangeas look great planted as loose hedges – you can trim them back in au­tumn, once the flow­ers have faded.

DIF­FER­ENT SHADES

Hy­drangea macro­phylla va­ri­eties are known for their habit of chang­ing flower colour, ac­cord­ing to the ph of the soil they're grow­ing in. Acidic soils (be­low ph 7) pro­duce blue blooms and al­ka­line soils (above ph 7) pro­duce pink. If you’re des­per­ate to change the colour, there are blu­ing or pink­ing ton­ics avail­able. How­ever, the best ad­vice is to just en­joy the flower colour your soil pro­duces, rather than try­ing to rad­i­cally al­ter its ph level – which might also have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on other plants. Al­ter­na­tively, con­sider grow­ing plants in con­tain­ers and you’ll have to­tal con­trol of the soil con­di­tions. The flow­ers of white hydrangeas are not af­fected by the ph of the soil. ➤

Sun-lov­ing hydrangeas For sunny ar­eas of the gar­den, choose forms of Hy­drangea pan­ic­u­lata, which are more sun-tol­er­ant. ‘Candlelight’ bears creamy white flow­ers which turn pink as they age, while ‘Di­a­mond Rouge’ pro­duces white flow­ers in sum­mer, which grad­u­ally morph through pink to rich red.

Long-flow­er­ing plants

One of the new­est hydrangeas to ap­pear on the mar­ket is ‘Mag­i­cal Revo­lu­tion’, which pro­duces clas­sic mop­head­style flow­ers with a unique qual­ity – they last for up to 150 days! Open­ing in spring, the blooms go through a colour trans­for­ma­tion from pas­tel blue or pink, through pinky-red shades and onto deep bur­gundy by au­tumn. They’re also com­pact grow­ing plants, so are per­fect for pots and small gar­dens, too.

The End­less Sum­mer range of hydrangeas also of­fers a long-flow­er­ing sea­son in the gar­den, since the plants flower on both old and new wood. The plants can be pruned back all over, and will bloom again in about 8-9 weeks.

Dou­ble hydrangeas

For hy­drangea blooms with a twist, seek out some of the dou­ble-flow­ered forms. The You & Me Se­ries, from PMA, fea­tures a range of gor­geous dou­ble-flow­ered cul­ti­vars, in­clud­ing ‘De­sire’, ‘For­ever’ and ‘Ro­mance’. Grow­ing to about 80cm high, they’re ideal for tubs and con­tain­ers in partly shaded gar­dens or court­yards.

HOW TO GROW THEM

Po­si­tion Mop­head hydrangeas grow best in fil­tered shade, or else a com­bi­na­tion of morn­ing sun and af­ter­noon shade. They won’t thrive in heavy all-day shade, es­pe­cially where there is no air move­ment around their leaves, as this can lead to prob­lems such as pow­dery mildew. Hy­drangea quer­ci­fo­lia and H. pan­ic­u­lata both tol­er­ate more sun – just avoid po­si­tions that are blasted by hot west­erly af­ter­noon sun in sum­mer.

Soil Hydrangeas thrive in or­gan­i­cally rich soil, so dig in ad­di­tional com­post and cow ma­nure at plant­ing. They also love mois­ture, so add wa­ter­re­tain­ing crys­tals to the soil as you back­fill. Af­ter plant­ing, mulch the sur­face of the soil to a depth of about 3-5cm.

Main­te­nance Feed plants in early spring, with a dose of con­trolled-re­lease fer­tiliser or ma­nure pel­lets. This will give them plenty of nu­tri­ents to draw on while form­ing the flow­ers. Top up the mulch layer in late spring or early sum­mer and, once the plants are in bloom, feed them with oc­ca­sional doses of a sol­u­ble fer­tiliser, us­ing a flower and fruit for­mu­la­tion.

Prun­ing Prune shrubs back in au­tumn or win­ter, only cut­ting back the stems that flow­ered dur­ing the sum­mer. Make the cut just above a pair of plump buds.

GROW YOUR OWN

Hydrangeas are easy to grow from cut­tings taken dur­ing the spring or sum­mer months. Take tip cut­tings about 10-15cm long, mak­ing the cut just be­low a pair of leaves. Re­move this bot­tom pair of leaves, then cut the re­main­ing leaves in half, to re­duce wa­ter loss. Plant the cut­tings into pots filled with prop­a­gat­ing mix and place in a shady but bright spot. Don’t let the soil dry out, keep­ing it just damp but not wa­ter­logged.

Cerise mop­head hy­drangea

‘Mag­i­cal Revo­lu­tion’ ‘Ro­mance’ ‘Candlelight’ ‘Di­a­mond Rouge’

Two-tone va­ri­eties have a white eye at the cen­tre of each flower. SOURCES ‘Candlelight’, ‘Di­a­mond Rouge’, ‘Mag­i­cal Revo­lu­tion’ and the You & Me Se­ries of hydrangeas from Plants Man­age­ment Aus­tralia (pma.com.au). End­less Sum­mer range from Flem­ing’s Nurs­eries (flem­ings.com.au).

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