Hydrangeas are beginning to show their colours in local landscapes. These beautiful deciduous flowering shrubs are a favourite among many gardeners because of their abundant supply of long lasting, large flower heads.
Not only do they look attractive on the plant but make sure you pick a few because the flowers are attractive in fresh floral bouquets or can be dried.
One of the reasons for their popularity is their low maintenance. Hydrangeas are easy to grow and are rarely bothered by pests and disease. Plant them in a moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Choose a site that receives full morning sun, with some afternoon shade. Moisture is important when growing and caring for hydrangeas, especially in the first years when the root system is becoming established. Hydrangeas require lots of water, and if they become too dry their foliage will begin to wilt.
Hydrangeas can be grown in mass plantings, borders, hedges, screens or as a specimen plant. They are a very pretty deciduous shrub which bloom later in the season, often when many of the other flowering shrubs have finished blooming. They bloom from mid-summer into fall and will add winter interest making them a good choice for a year round shrub.
There are different varieties of Hydrangeas but not all of them are hardy for our zone 3 climate. The ‘Bigleaf’ types, which have the pink or blue flowers and are often seen growing outdoors in the lower mainland are not hardy for Prince George. They are sold as indoor plants in local garden centres around Easter time, but will not survive the winter weather if planted outdoors.
The selection of hardy varieties for Prince George continues to grow. Many of the ‘paniculata’ types are known for their hardiness, and cone shaped flower heads. The ‘Peegee’ hydrangea is a paniculata type that has done well in our area for many years. It has clusters of pink/white flowers on bushes that can grow up to two meters tall and wide.
Other paniculata type hydrangeas include ‘Limelight’ with its soft green flowers that shade to pink in the fall, or ‘Pinky Winky’ which has open white flowers that change to white, ‘Confetti’ which has white/green/pink flowers, compact sized ‘Sweet Summer’, ‘Strawberry Sundae’, and ‘Sundae Fraise’ will all do well in Prince George. The Hydrangea arborescens sometimes known as ‘smooth hydrangea’ also have hardy varieties such as ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Incredible’ both known for their massive white flowerheads.
Both the arborescens and paniculata type hydrangeas bloom on new wood (current seasons growth) and so they are pruned in the spring, just as the buds begin to swell. A nice feature about a flowering shrub blooming on new wood is that the plant can be severely cut back in the spring or if there is die back over the winter months, it will produce new stems full of new blossoms for the summer. After a few years the oldest stems can be removed to rejuvenate new growth.
Hydrangeas are grown for their attractive flowers that also make beautiful bouquets to be enjoyed indoors. When picking hydrangea flowers, go in the morning and choose flowers that are opened completely. Cut the stem on an angle and remove the lower leaves, then place them in a water filled vessel. Hydrangea flowers can also be used for dried bouquets, and these should be picked when they have fully matured, towards the end of the season. The foliage is removed from the stems and then the stems are hung upside down in a dark, dry, warm room. After two to three weeks they will be ready to use in your arrangements.
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Home and Garden Centres in Prince George
Highway 16 west at Kimball Road
Highway 97 North at Northwood Pulpmill Road