Hydrangeas My Favourite Flowering Shrub – By Wendy Rosen, Montgomery Place Gardener
I have 52 and counting, and as people walk by my garden, the hydrangeas are the plants they most often ask about. I am by no means a “plant expert”, I just know from experience what works for me. 15 years ago, I planted my first hydrangeas: Pink Diamond, and Quick Fire, and both are still thriving. My newer varieties: Limelight, Vanilla Strawberry, Pinky Winky, Firelight, Little Lamb, Phantom, Brussels Lace, Zinfin Doll, and Silver Dollar have proven to be very hardy as well.
Hydrangea, the name originates from the Greek words for “water” and “vessel”, referring to it’s need for plenty of water, and it’s cup shaped flowers. While they are getting established, they require more frequent watering, and also benefit from mulch. Hydrangeas prefer acidic soil, so plant them with a bit of peatmoss mixed into the soil along with some compost. Most do well in sun or part sun, while some do better in part shade. Be sure to check the tag for sun exposure and hardiness (Zone 2 or 3). The “Paniculata” varieties are hardiest for our climate, as opposed to the big leaf “Macrophylla” varieties.
Other than watering, hydrangeas are fairly low maintenance plants. Before the shrub leafs out in early Spring, and then again after the flowers bloom, apply a slow release fertilizer for acid loving plants. I leave the dried flowers on for the Winter, partly because they look pretty covered in snow, and also because it makes the shrubs less appetizing for deer. I recommend pruning hydrangeas in Spring, after they start to leaf out, so that you can more easily see if there are any branches that are dead or rubbing together, or that need to be removed to maintain the desired shape.
The flowers can be used for beautiful, long-lasting bouquets, if you immerse the woody stems in water immediately after cutting them. They also make great dried flowers.
Hydrangeas have always been near and dear to my heart. At my parents home in Victoria, my Mom still has the hydrangea she received from her Mother on Mother’s Day, the year I was born. That hydrangea is now 60 years old and still blooming strong!