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hydrangeas



Published: Sun, July 10, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



HYDRANGEAS

Care and decor

Hydrangeas are valuable additions to your yard, says Les Parks of Smithfield Gardens in Suffolk, Va. They fill the color gap after azaleas finish blooming, their showy flowers and foliage are interesting to watch as they go through color changes, they make a great cut or dried flower, they're easy to propagate and share with friends and they mix well with any style of gardening. Here are some tips on growing and using them:

Prune hydrangeas to remove only dead wood and old blooms. If your hydrangea gets too big and needs cutting back drastically, prune mopheads, lacecaps and oakleaf hydrangeas before August; prune PeeGees and Annabelles (both bloom white) fall or winter.

Fertilize your hydrangeas in February or early March, using a general shrub fertilizer or bloom-boosting product.

Hydrangeas prefer moist, acidic soil; also, give them morning sun and afternoon shade.

To get a blue hydrangea flower, aim for a soil acidity, or pH, of 5 to 5.5.; a pink flower likes a 6 to 6.2 range. To lower the pH and get that blue flower, add aluminum sulfate throughout the growing season. To raise the pH and get pink blooms, add dolomitic lime several times a year. If you want a reliable blue-flowering hydrangea, plant Nikko blue.

Annabelle creates a stunning display of dramatically big white flowers; use it in masses or as a deciduous hedge.

To dry hydrangeas, leave them on the bush for a silver color tinged with blue, pink or shades of burgundy. Or, you can cut them, remove the leaves and dry them in a vase with or without water.




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