South Burnett Times - - GARDEN - GREEN THUMB WORDS: MA­REE CUR­RAN Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email ma­ree@ede­nat­by­ron.com.au

There’s some­thing de­light­fully old-fash­ioned and com­fort­ing about hy­drangeas. With their lovely neat mounds of lush green leaves, topped by clus­ters of lit­tle buds that grow plumper by the day, they are a high­light in semi-shaded sit­u­a­tions from now through to the end of sum­mer.

In full bloom, the large, strik­ing flower heads in shades of blue, pur­ple, pink, cerise and white are just gor­geous. The fo­liage too is lovely – large, dark green oval leaves, of­ten with ser­rated edges. The lush­ness of the fo­liage and the mostly cool tones of the flow­ers have a sooth­ing ef­fect in a sum­mer gar­den.

Hy­drangeas are an easy-care, fast-grow­ing de­cid­u­ous shrub to 1–3m. Flower colour is some­what vari­able ac­cord­ing to soil con­di­tions. Acidic soils will gen­er­ally pro­duce blue flow­ers, whereas al­ka­line soils will pro­duce pinker flow­ers. White va­ri­eties tend to re­main so, although may be tinged with blue or pink de­pend­ing on the soil.

You can in­flu­ence the flower colour if you want, adding hydrangea pink­ing tonic or lime to push the flower colour to­wards the pink end of the spec­trum, or hydrangea blue­ing tonic to go the other way. The newer named va­ri­eties are pretty true to colour, given a neu­tral soil pH.

Hy­drangeas are long-lived and easy to grow. The ideal po­si­tion is partly shaded, pro­tected from strong winds and hot sun. Not too shady, though, or you will have beau­ti­ful leaves and few flow­ers.

They grow well in our sub-trop­i­cal cli­mate. You’ll need moist, well-drained soil en­riched with plenty of or­ganic mat­ter. Use wa­ter crys­tals when you plant, and keep the plants well mulched. They look spec­tac­u­lar in pots, but keep them re­ally well wa­tered.

Prune af­ter flow­er­ing, around March or April, and re­move any old or dead wood. Don’t prune too hard, though, and leave stems that haven’t flow­ered as they may do so next year.

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