Growing with O: Originally from Japan, hydrangea a staple in landscapes

Olivia Sansing

David is the fourth of six boys, Bruce, Clyde, Craig, David, Chris, and Jeff.

We all went for Sunday lunch every week, which always included the best-fried chicken I have ever eaten. Mrs. Maudie was a hard-working southern woman and took little time for the pretty things in life.

They had huge gardens and preserved foods for the winter. Chickens, goats, guinea, rabbits, pigs and Bessie roamed the property. A few daffodils and spider lilies would pop up, but under the kitchen window, next to the chimney was the most beautiful blue hydrangea! I am blessed that Craig shared a rooting with me.

Hydrangea came from Japan in the mid-1700s. It has long been a part of our landscape with the traditional large mophead pink or blue bloom. Hydrangea is making a comeback as new cultivars, a plant that has been cultivated and bred by humans, are developed. There are over 75 species and 600 named cultivars.

The hydrangea of ​​today can be used as foundation plants, shrub borders, in groupings or alone. The foliage adds to the appeal of the plant in the landscape.

Planting hydrangea in the fall will allow time for a healthy root system to develop before blooming. Plant early morning or late afternoon to avoid heat stress. Using a 2- to 3-inches of mulch will conserve the water and help keep the roots cool.

Think before you plant. Hydrangea enjoys the warm morning sun and is not a fan of the afternoon heat. The north or south side of your home in a sheltered location is a desirable choice. Avoid planting under large trees as they will compete for nutrients and water.

After the site has been selected, add organic matter into the soil. They like moist soil but be careful that they do not become waterlogged. Soggy soil will cause root rot.

When planting, dig a hole two feet wider than the root ball. Your plant should sit level or just a bit higher than the ground. Creating a slight mound around the plant will aid in keeping the water away from the base of the plant.

Watch for the smooth and oakleaf hydrangea to put out new shoots or colonies close to the underground stems. You should be able to dig up the young plants and easily separate them from the main plant during the dormant season. Then transplant to the new location.

Bigleaf and panicle hydrangeas propagate easily by layering in early or mid-summer. Dig a 1- to 2-inch trench close to the mother plant and pull a lower branch down into the trench and cover it with soil. Weigh the limb down with a brick and leave about 6 to 12 inches of the branch out of the dirt.

Research your selection for specific needs to ensure the most beautiful blooms. Yes, the flower color of some species can be altered by adjusting the soil pH levels. Note the fertilizer recommendations. Pay attention to the flowering habits as some bloom on old wood or stems from the previous year. Other varieties produce blooms from new growth.

Hydrangea can add beautiful color to your summer garden and require minimum work after you get them established. Hopefully, future generations will remember and enjoy.

Former elementary teacher and avid gardener Olivia Sansing lives in the New Hope community and shares timely tips on behalf of the Lowndes County Master Gardeners.

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