Manitoba master gardener and Winnipeg Free Press Homes section columnist Colleen Zacharias inspired Interlake gardeners on hydrangea at the Gimli garden club June 20.
There are about 23 species of hydrangea. Of the six types, three main species in North America are macrophylla, arborescence, and paniculata. Hydrangea means “water” and “vessel”. The most popular variety is the mophead.
From the white blooms of annabelle to the pop of pinky winky, the breeding is changing. “I sometimes feel a tiny twinge of guilt that I’m so in love with hydrangeas because they are not low maintenance. I really do love hydrangeas…not just in the garden, but in containers,” said Zacharias.
With carousels of colour from deep pink to periwinkle blue, hydrangeas are chameleons. Potted annual raspberry red blooms, Lady Mata Hari, moonrock and kanmara with 10-inch blooms are new to market.
Endless summer varieties bloom on old and new wood from spring to summer. They reach three to five feet in zones four to eight. “The ultimate goal is blooms,” concluded Zacharias. “With endless summer, you don’t want to prune it,” she stated. This variety is more prolific and tolerant. Still, “Be patient.”
An avid gardener should follow the tag and tips on long-term care like watering, shade, mulch and feed as well as over-wintering and susceptibility to injury. The easiest one to grow is the paniculata because you can hard-prune it by mistake.
Macrophylla is not so forgiving. “You don’t want to touch it until June 15 because then you know what is alive,” said Zacharias. “You don’t want to prune it in the spring. You don’t want to prune it in the fall,” she added.
Use slow-release, 20-20-20 fertilizer. Watch the afternoon sun. Make your own mulch using maple or oak leaves and your mower. Store them in an aerated, clear plastic bag with a cup of soil and some water. Leave it on its side until you need it in the fall.
Candelabra hydrangea is hardy to Zone 3. “I would say, keep your eye out for candelabra,” said Zacharias. “It has a beautiful form, very sturdy red stems…the top part is just like a candlewick.” The effort pays off. “If you buy any hydrangea, the first year…it’s going to need a little more attention.”
“There is not a blade of grass left in the back yard,” stated Zacharia