These bountiful blooms are seemingly ever bursting year after year. Well, most years.
This year, much of the country is under-blooming and for really one simple reason.
It’s been a long and difficult winter.
This year, the buds were unable to manage making it through the ravages of winter: mainly repeated cold and frost damage. Richard Abate, a blogging landscape designer at http://www.hicksnurseries.com, explains “…most Hydrangea macrophylla, especially older cultivars, produce their flower buds on the stems produced the year before they bloom. Due to the damage, these plants will most likely not bloom, or only produce a few blooms this year. The plant will recover in size and set buds for next year (barring any extreme conditions, of course). Some of the newer remontant (re-blooming) varieties will still bloom, perhaps later in the season, or weaker than normal, or look be completely normal… but they will still produce flowers due to their ability to produce flowers on old and new wood.” His wonderful article goes into detail about this years issues which offers up hope for next.
So, how exactly do we care for them?
Abate offers up a wonderful guide to tending hydrangeas:
“By keeping your plants healthy, they will have a better chance of making it through tough conditions. All trees and shrubs, but especially our suffering Hydrangeas will benefit greatly from the following:
- • All of the dead and damaged branches need to be pruned away, making clean cuts back to where the plant is still alive.
- • Fertilization with a slow-release, organic fertilizer infused with beneficial microorganisms, like Espoma Plant-Tone (Holly-Tone for blue Hydrangeas) or Dr. Earth brand products. The Dr. Earth Metabolic Transformer is especially helpful for these situations
- • A ½” to 1” layer of compost around the base of the plant out to its drip line (or previous drip line in the case of our struggling Hydrangeas)… be careful not to suffocate the crown of the plant.
- • A 1 to 2” layer of organic mulch… again, be careful not to suffocate the crown of the plant
- • Ensure the plants receive adequate moisture to prevent stress to the new growth.”
So lets say another harsh winter lies ahead. What should we ‘winterize’ these delicate bushes?
Wilkerson Mill Gardens offers some great tips:
- “Encircle the shrub with a wire cage.
- Carefully wrap the stems using burlap or spunbonded polypropylene (“Reemay” is one of many brands)
- and/or fill the cage with a lightweight mulch (pine straw, hay, straw, deciduous leaves).
- This process helps to protect the flower buds along the lower portion of the old stems, which will flower if not killed by cold even if the terminal bud is lost. Leave protection in place until after risk of frost has passed. Be careful when you remove the protective construct so that you don’t pop off any buds along the stems.”
Fear not, there is always a way 🙂 Hopefully we’ll have a milder winter this coming year. And if not, yet again…there is always the year after. I tend to have hope that the sun will come out tomorrow…