Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday: Pictures and a Few Words . . . How to Look at Hydrangeas

 I know that the colour of hydrangeas has much to do with the pH balance of the soil
 but I've no idea how many seasons it will take me to turn this shrub's blooms to a palette closer to
 my preferences.
 The pink does, believe it or not, seem slightly less garish than the blooms I cut last September . . .
 perhaps my emptying the spent tea leaves onto the soil as a top dressing has made a tiny difference.
 I suspect I'll have to take more concerted action, but we've been distracted by the scale infestation,
 and honestly, I'm very tempted to shovel prune this one, replacing it with a white lacecap, perhaps
 even an oakleaf like the H. quercifolia "Snow Queen" we had in the last garden. It can be a sprawler,
 though, and I see that there's a 'Sikes Dwarf' available that apparently does well in a container.
Meanwhile, though, I must admit that there's considerable beauty to be found in the unfolding, day by day, of the furled green balls into the very emphatic pink mopheads. . .

And finding beauty, and acknowledging it, seems particularly important these days. Right now in our province, British Columbia, thousands have been displaced from their homes by forest fires, thousands more are in small towns cut off from supplies because fires have shut down any access, and there is no relief expected from the weather.  Crises like these seem to arrive back-to-back, and we can become overwhelmed hearing about them, and trying to balance them against the personal crises we might be experiencing, as in my extended family. But as my very wise sister-in-law said, "All we can ever count on is the moment we're in. So we do our best, and we help where we can, and we still have to eat and sleep and keep ourselves healthy. And we make the very most of the moments, as they arrive, one by one."

Sometimes that means stopping to look at the hydrangeas. Even if they're not our favourite colour. . . 

34 comments:

  1. We have many types of hydrangea growing in our gardens from the single lacy to the fully pink with whites, blues and purples in between. I cut one tiny flower from one of the gardens that I'm tending to put in my mother-in-law's Moorcroft vase. You're right, we can only take each day as it comes.

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    1. The gardens you're tending sound quite beautiful, Mme.

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  2. I heard of the forest fires on the news a couple of days ago, and ever since I have been wondering whether and how they might be affecting you. Your sister in law is a very wise woman indeed. But sometimes it is very hard work to stay in the moment and resist the worries with their undercurrents of panic.
    The idea of throwing away a plant (which is what “shovel prune” is the euphemism for, isn’t it?) makes me shudder. (In fact, I have been known to recover discarded plants from dustbins and coddle them up again.) If that hydrangea can’t soften your heart, isn’t there somebody you could give it away to?
    I know that coffee grounds can be used as fertilizer and have done so myself, but I never heard of using tea leaves. What effect do they have?

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    1. We're okay, here on the Coast, except that we'll stay put rather than taking any road trips we were thinking of into wine country. But it's tough to see so many having to leave their homes, not knowing if they'll be there later.
      I'd never want to pass this hydrangea along if I thought it was still infested with scale.
      Mostly, I think the tea leaves just become humus, eventually, acting as a mulch until they break down, but they do add some acidity, I've been told, 'though probably not enough to turn my hydrangea blue...

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    2. No, of course you would not give away an infested plant. I thought you were thinking of getting rid of it because of the colour. A misunderstanding, sorry.

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  3. I have a lacecap hydrangea called Lady in Red which doesn't mean the blooms are red because they are sort of lavender. I think the red refers to its stems. I especially like the lacecap variety but for cutting purposes the mopheads are better. I prefer the blue ones over the gaudy pink blooms. I, too, have used my spent tea leaves as a top dressing but have not noticed any difference in the color.

    I think your sister in law is very wise and will keep her advice in mind myself.

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    1. I'm going to go look up that Lady in Red. With red stems, it would provide some all-season interest, I'd imagine.
      I've emptied my loose tea leaves on my roses for ages, at our old place, and here, where we don't keep our own compost (yet -- look into the possibility) it's good to be able to add something organic to the soil that won't smell nor attract pests.

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  4. I wondered if the fires were in your area . Those firefighters really earn their pay don't they . Your sister in law has the right attitude & beautiful flowers , even bright pink ones , can be soothing . I had the idea that copper turned them blue but I'm not sure . Like Eleonore , I struggle to reject a plant .
    Wendy in York

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    1. The fires are a good few hundred kilometres from us, but oh, it's getting really dry here after three weeks without rain, and none in the forecast. After all the months when it seemed constant! And yes, they really do work hard in tough conditions, the firefighters.

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  5. Your pink hydrangea is so lovely...I am passionate about the limelight hydrangeas as green is my favourite colour.
    Those fires are truly frightening and the devastation can be immense...we could use more Mars Water Bombers in our province!

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    1. I'd love the limelight -- that or a white variety may be on the list eventually, although I'll see what we can do with what we've inherited.
      The Mars Water Bomber is very dramatic to see in action -- I've heard mixed reviews from forest fire crews about their actual value compared to what they take from the budget. . .

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  6. Hydrangeas are some of my favourite flowers. I love the mopheads, mostly in blue. The blue dominates my garden, but there is one persistent pink one that won't change.
    Your sister's words are indeed wise. These fires are affecting so many - I have a cousin who was evacuated. I'm thankful that there has been no loss of life.

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    1. I wasn't a fan of hydrangeas for years, seeing them as part of some boring or stuffy plantings, but over the last ten or so years, I've been won over.
      Hope your cousin's feeling okay about the evacuation -- it must be very stressful.

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  7. In my experience, hydrangeas which have the capacity to turn blue are encouraged to do so by more acidic soil. So fertilizer for azaleas, rhododendrons, gardenias, etc, will quickly encourage a bluer color. Tea leaves or coffee grounds would be a slower route to the same end. BUT some varieties ("Forever Pink" for example) don't have the capacity to become blue and will only become a bluer pink with acid treatments. I gather it is a terrible fire season in many places....I remember being in the Wind River Mountains one summer when there was a bad fire and seeing trucks full of fire fighters from all over the mountain west arrive to help - very unpopulated there so not the same resident disruption that's happening now....

    ceci

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    1. That's exactly how I understand it, Ceci, and I may decide to ramp up the acidifying, or I might just continue the slow route we're on now.
      The interface borders between forested wilderness and residential areas get smaller all the time, don't they?

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  8. Bizarrely, I just learned yesterday that the way to make the flowers pink is with acid. Totally randomly.

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    1. Ha! I always enjoy that phenomenon of becoming aware of something for the first time, then noticing its occurrence all 'round. Wonder if there's a name for it. . .

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  9. Taking pleasure in the beauty at hand is a powerful antidote, isn't it? And sometimes I find the simple and unsophisticated the most grounding of all. (Says the woman with a corner of the deck devoted to exuberant red geraniums!)

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    1. It's really true. The best clichés or classics are just that for a reason, even if that means they risk toppling onto the side of the fence marked "banal" or "trite." Or because of that risk?

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  10. Shovel prune? Haven't heard that one before, but it made me smile.

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    1. I'm sure I did, when I first heard it from some other gardener somewhere. . .

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  11. I have a pink that has not bloomed for 3 years. I have a blue that is profusely blooming so I a bit flummoxed why the pink doesn't bloom. Maybe I could trim it in the fall and move it to another spot? Even the master gardeners that I ask just say hmmmm.

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    1. I waited 15 years for a hydrangea petiolaris to bloom (it did once, the year after it left the nursery, working off the old year's growth, I suppose) -- had to leave it behind last year, wondering if it ever will again. . . Is yours a variety that blooms on last year's wood? If so, perhaps you keep trimming that away and it hasn't time to recover from the pruning?

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  12. Gorgeous hydrangeas, Frances. I'm glad you're still enjoying yours. Ours down here in Missouri had their heyday earlier, but we still have blooms on bushes planted in the right spots. And those are the places we moved them to THREE times until they thrived.

    BTW, hubby and I just organized a weeklong staycation in Vancouver in mid-August to get a break from the heat. So looking forward to being in your neck of the woods then.

    Your SIL's perspective is a healthy one. It's the rare ones who don't at least once in their lives find themselves whelmed over by uncontrollable events. At those times we are humbled by disaster, as by the kindness of loved ones and strangers. God bless us, every one.

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    1. Are the ones in the right spots the ones in shade, Ann? We've had three weeks without rain, now, and I'm glad ours is close to the door, because in full sunshine, this one likes to soak up the water. . .
      You use the word "staycation" differently than I do (I think of it as a vacation taken in my own city) -- mid-August is generally our warmest and dryest time of year, and I suppose it will still be much cooler than your temperatures. . . Will it be your first visit to Vancouver?

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    2. Yes, the successful hydrangeas were moved to shady places. Or much shadier places. The heat here, even in spring, can be overwhelming, compared to your environs or New England, where I've seen gorgeous hydrangea flowerings deep into winter.

      And yes, I misused the "staycation" word -- I think because I was thinking of how we'll be staying in one spot rather than traveling, as we usually do on our vacations.

      And no, we spent a lovely week in Vancouver another August about 5-6 years ago. I've also been to Vancouver several times solo on business trips. It's a glorious setting with so much to recommend it, and we share your enthusiasm for your city. I plan to take great advantage of Stanley Park and your lovely gardens. You are fortunate to live in such a beautiful place.

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  13. Leslie in OregonJuly 13, 2017 at 2:49 PM

    It is horrifying that some of British Columbia's beautiful forests are on fire and that their human and other animal residents have had to evacuate. Unfortunately, the effects of climate change are making mega forest fires ever more common.

    . . .

    We have a semi-shady garden that hydrangeas love, and we have come to love them. If your pink hydrangea becomes scale-free and you decide that you want to replace it, consider taking one of your thwarted road trips down to Portland, leaving your hydrangea with us, and feasting your gardening senses on the nearby Joy Creek Nursery, a country paradise owned by two very knowledgeable gardeners that has a beautiful selection of hydrangeas, among much else. www.joycreek.com/

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    1. Apparently another factor with our forest fires here is that modern prevention methods have been too effective. Without the smaller, periodic fires that used to happen more regularly, the forests build up more fuel on the floor and tend to burn hotter and spread more ferociously. . . .Messing with nature. . .
      Pretty sure there are some complications around transporting plants across the border, but what a sweet suggestions. You're so lucky to have a nursery that special so close by.

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  14. Hydrangeas are my favorite flowers, and it does my heart good just to look at them. We've been following the fires in the news and feel for those in their path.

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    1. But they don't have any scent to speak of, Maggie! ;-)
      They do have a wonderfully reassuring shape, somehow, such lush solidity, and they offer an impressive mass of colour.

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  15. Although I adore blue hydrangeas, and all the shades reminiscent of blue, and the limelights, pink is growing on me. Perhaps I just like flowers, and increasingly accept that a little gaudiness may be a good thing.

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  16. Such a coincidence to see your post on hydrangeas while we're in Cornwall. Over the years we've always seen the most beautiful ones here. Whilst visiting this time, first time in years! we've seen so many and have been talking about planting some at the front of our house.
    Rosie

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  17. I had no idea how severe the forest fires are in BC Frances or how many people have had to leave their homes ... such a tragedy ... I agree with your sister in law.
    Rosie

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  18. Suddenly this summer my pale pink hydrangeas turned purple. So weird.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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