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  • Understanding Hydrangea Choices

    Hydrangeas are some of the most beloved garden shrubs, but are also among the least understood. Does the Hydrangea bloom on new growth or old growth? Should you prune it in the spring, summer, or fall? Why is it pink when it is supposed to be blue?

    Before we can answer the questions about pruning and color, it helps to understand a bit about the types of Hydrangeas you can buy.

    Hardy Hydrangea

    Limelight HydrangeaMany Hydrangea shrubs set flower buds in the fall for a bloom the next spring. This means that the flowers have to live through cold weather, not be pruned at the wrong time, and survive spring temperature swings.

    The Hardy Hydrangea group is newer but much beloved because these shrubs form flowering buds at the beginning of the summer. It is almost impossible not to enjoy a gorgeous bloom from these shrubs each year.

    These shrubs grow well in full sun to partial shade in zones 3-9 and have flower clusters in shades of pink and white. The popular Limelight Hydrangea is part of this group.

    Lacecap Hydrangea

    Lacecap hydrangeaLacecap Hydrangeas are so named because of their flowers. Typical Hydrangea flowers with large petals or bracts form a ring around smaller lacy flowers to create a unique and beautiful bloom. These plants bloom on old wood, so do not prune after August.

    Plants can be leggy when you purchase them, so spend some time pinching back the shrubs to achieve a full, branching growth habit.

    Lacecap Hydrangeas grow best in gardens in zones 5-9. They are susceptible to cold weather, so take care to plant in a protected spot. Most Lacecaps reach heights of 2-4 feet and flower in shades of pink and white.

    Mophead Hydrangea

    Let's Dance® Blue JanglesEveryone loves Mophead Hydrangeas. In fact, when you picture a Hydrangea flower, you're probably picturing a Mophead. They have the large, pom-pom sized flowers in shades of white, pink, blue, or purple. They're popular as part of bridal bouquets and wedding flowers.

    The flower color of many of these plants is dependent on the pH of the soil where they live. Alkaline or neutral soils will produce pink blooms and acidic soils will produce blue blooms.

    Mophead Hydrangeas grow well in zones 5 – 9 and will produce well in sun to partial shade. They need moist soil and bloom in mid summer through late fall.

    Mountain Hydrangea

    Mountain hydrangeaMountain Hydrangeas give lots of flowers from a little package. These small wonders are 2-3 feet in height and spread with lacy purplish-white blooms. Gardeners with limited space love these petite powerhouse bloomers. The small shrubs are covered in flowers from summer through fall.

    Currently we offer two varieties for sale. They both grow well in full sun to partial shade. They rebloom throughout the summer, including on new growth so you can't possibly cut off all of the flowers.

    Perfect for landscape beds and containers!

    Oakleaf Hydrangea

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    Oakleaf Hydrangeas are native summer-blooming shrubs that truly stand out in the landscape.

    Unlike other Hydrangeas, Oakleaf Hydrangeas need drier soil in order to thrive. Do you have a woodland garden? It isn't complete without at least one Oakleaf Hydrangea.

    Oakleaf Hydrangeas are hardy in zones 5 – 9 with average to dry soil. The average height at maturity is 5 – 6 feet while some varieties can get as tall as 10 feet.

    Don't miss the new "Gatsby's" series Oakleaf Hydrangeas. Gatsby's Star™ Oakleaf Hydrangea has truly stunning star-shaped flowers.

    Smooth Hydrangea

    Invincibelle™ Spirit HydrangeaThis large and lovely Hydrangea has pink blooms at the end of erect stems. It is a rebloomer and flowers on new wood, so you can't cut off the flowers.

    Hardy in zones 3-9. Prune after flowering or in the early spring if you need to control size.

    How about Flower Color?

    A big mystery of Hydrangeas is flower color. How do you get blue flowers if you live in the west or pink flowers in the east? Some hydrangea varieties' flowers are not affected by soil pH, but others are. Read the description of the plant you're buying to see if the one you want is affected by pH. Soil pH affects the amount of aluminum the plants can take up and that affects the color. More aluminum = more of a blue color. Aluminum is more available to plants at a pH of 5.2-5.5. You can lower the soil pH by adding Aluminum Sulfate. You can raise the pH by adding garden lime.

    White hydrangea flowers will not turn colors. Only pink or blue flowers can be changed. (And then, only some of those flowers can be changed.)

  • Loving Lilacs

    Are there any spring-blooming shrubs with as much tradition, as many memories attached as the fragrant-flowered lilac? When you drive through the country, you can see lilac shrubs blooming around tumbled down old porch steps. You'll sometimes see lilacs standing at either side of old cemetery gates. But the lilacs we have at Shrub Source aren't your grandma's lilacs. They are re-bloomers, compact-growers, and more resistant to problems that plague older varieties. Here are our new favorite fragrant flowering shrubs.

    Bloomerang® Purple Lilac (Syringa)

    Bloomerang-purple

    Bloomerang® Purple Syringa is a compact blooming shrub reaching a mature height of 4-5 feet and spread of 5-6 feet. The shrubs are covered with flowers in the early spring, but the plant re-blooms in the summer and keeps blooming until frost. They're hardy in zones 3-7 and are resistant to powdery mildew and root rot.

    Bloomerang® Dark Purple Lilac

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    This deer-resistant re-blooming lilac starts the show in early spring with tightly-closed plum purple flower buds that open to fragrant flowers beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds. Keep these shrubs looking their best by giving them a light pruning after they bloom. Fertilize after the spring bloom to encourage reblooming later in the summer.

    Scent and Scensibilty™ Pink Lilac

    Scent and Scensibilty™ Pink

    A truly unique lilac, Scent and Scensibilty™ Pink Syringa, has a compact, mounding growth habit with a height of 2-3 feet and a spread of 4-6 feet. It grows best in full sun in moist, well-drained soil. It will re bloom sporadically throughout the summer, but not as reliably as the Bloomerang® lilacs.

    Lilac Care and Maintenance

    If you have older lilacs, the way to keep them blooming beautifully is through renewal pruning. This is the practice of removing one third of the old growth back to the ground each year.

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    Keeping lilacs pruned helps promote airflow and reduces problems with powdery mildew.

    Newer varieties benefit from light pruning for shape after the spring bloom and application of a liquid fertilizer. Always plant in full sun and well-drained soils to avoid problems with root rot.

    Deadhead (remove spent flowers after bloom) to encourage re-blooming.

    Still grows the vivacious lilac a generation after the door and lintel and the sill are gone, unfolding its sweet-scented flowers each spring, to be plucked by the musing traveller; planted and tended once by children's hands, in front-yard plots,--now standing by wall-sides in retired pastures, and giving place to new-rising forests;Mthe last of that stirp, sole survivor of that family.
    ~Henry David Thoreau

  • Evergreens: Never-Ending Beauty

    ilex_berry_poppins If this winter has helped you realize nothing else, it’s that a few evergreens can go a long way in the garden. While the rest of the garden is barren and covered with snow, evergreens provide a respite for your eyes and a promise that everything else will, eventually leaf out.

    There are more reasons to plant evergreens beyond the fact that they have color when nothing else does. Here are some reasons why you’re going to want to make room in the garden for some new plants this year.

    Welcoming Wildlife

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    Development and construction have eliminated much of the naturally existing cover that wildlife, from birds to mammals to reptiles, rely on. You can make a big difference in the health of wildlife populations by planting trees and shrubs in the garden. While some birds need taller trees for nesting, a lot of favorite songbirds derive more benefit from eye-level cover from shrubs. Birds that have access to shelter will fledge (raise to maturity) more chicks. So, it’s not just food (in the form of berries) that shrubs with winter interest can provide. These plants also provide a welcoming home.

    Enjoyment Indoors and Out

    “Winter interest” doesn’t have to mean green leaves. The berries on deciduous hollies such as Berry Heavy ®, Berry Heavy® Gold, Berry Nice®, or Berry Poppins® are beautiful, in part, because they are the stars of the show, with no leaves to distract from the bright color.

     

    basketPorch pot with Evergreens

    The red twigs of Cornus Arctic Fire ™ make stunning and statuesque arrangements without any other flowers. They can also serve as the structure for more elaborate creations.

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    You can use branches and twigs from these and other, evergreen, plants to make porch pots and floral arrangements all year long.

    Privacy and Screening

    Less exciting, but no less important is the important function evergreens have in creating natural privacy and screening. While putting up a fence is a faster way to block out your neighbors, a beautiful row of Thujas is nicer to look at.

    When planting a privacy screen, it’s better to go for Evergreens than deciduous shrubs, even shrubs with dense canopies, because you’ll lose some of the screening benefits in the winter when the shrubs lose their leaves. American Piller Thuja is one of our favorite evergreen shrubs for screening.

    Thuja-American Pillar

    You can plant close together and hedge the plants or allow them to grow to their natural conical shape.

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