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Species of Hydrangea date back to the paleogene era. Hydrangea fossils have been found in Oregon and into Alaska. The Fossil museum in South Eastern Oregon has many specimens clearly of hydrangea. 30,000 years ago the Northwest was a sub- Mediterranean area and many types of plants grew and are evidenced in the fossils that have been found. I recall seeing the hydrangea, birch, ginkgo, pinion and fir fossils among many others found in the now arid portions of the state. It must have been a glorious sight compared to current times where the area is mostly sage brush, greasewood and juniper with deep canyons and large lava formations throughout the region.
Hydrangea is easy to grow, winter and drought hardy and one of my all time favorite flowering shrubs. Many old homesteads had hydrangea planted near a door or window, likely because of it's beauty and ease of care with little water needed once it's established. A single flower head of hydrangea makes a statement of its own, but a bouquet of hydrangea is stunning.
Hydrangea will last well in a vase and is easily dried for year-long bouquets. The color of the macrophylla species can be altered, because they are hyperaccumulating plants. They will take up the nutrients in the soil to produce blue, red, pink, varying shades of purple and if not enough of one nutrient or another the color will fade to a near green shade. White hydrangea will not change color with alteration of the nutrients.
To alter the color, add an acidic fertilizer for blue. For more pink, top dress with agriculture lime. The more you add, the deeper the color whether for blue or pink to purple hues. I do this annually, however you do not need to, just know that the colors will fade if not treated regularly. I have left mine for 3 or 4 years and still had nice color, albeit different from each previous year.
My hydrangeas bloom in June up to October, but are ready in August for snipping flowers for dried bouquets, so they are long blooming shrubs. The shrubs can get quite large, but take well to pruning if needed. Simply cut back to the next leaf node in the direction you wish for the branches to grow.
Hydrangeas can get lanky, so a good pruning will revitalize them and grow back for the next bloom time. Pruning is best done in the fall after they are finished blooming.
To dry hydrangea, I have found that waiting until the flower heads are firm is best. Cut them back to a leaf node and hang in bundles to dry. If the flower heads are not firm, the flowers tend to shrivel. I have heard of others placing them in a vase with about an inch of water to dry them, however I have never had success drying them that way. The dried hydrangea will make a lovely everlasting bouquet for months and years. I have made up huge dried bouquets of hydrangea that I've kept displayed for at least a couple of years and they still look lovely. The dried hydrangea makes lovely everlasting wreaths and tied to a gift makes a very special statement to the recipient. I love using the hydrangeas in a variety ways.
Hydrangeas are long lasting in the vase and make a statement all their own, or other flowers such as roses, alstromeria and babies breath can be added for a fabulous display.
It is easy to start hydrangea from cuttings. Cut back to a leaf node (5 or 6 " stem), place the stem in good, moist potting soil, keep them watered and be patient. By spring, they will start showing new growth from each leaf node on the branch. When I'm cutting back my hydrangea I save some of those cuttings and just poke into a container with potting soil and share those with others. If you allow enough space for your hydrangea they will rarely if ever need pruning. If they do get lanky, they will benefit from a good pruning.
An average hydrangea will grow about 4 feet high and wide. However they can and do grow larger.
Potted hydrangeas are available around Mother's day each year and are forced to bloom, however they actually by nature bloom later in the season. They will grow well in containers, if deep enough and large enough to accommodate them. If grown in containers they will need regular watering and regular fertilizer to keep them happy. They will outgrow containers fairly quickly so if you do intend to grow them only in containers be prepared to repot them annually or plant them in well drained garden soil. Do not over water if you do not have well drained soil, as this will cause root rot.
Hydrangeas do best with morning sun and some afternoon shade, though in cooler climates they will thrive in afternoon sun. For the best blooms, do not plant in full shade. My hydrangeas are planted on the north to east side where they do receive morning sun, and fairly dappled shade in the hot afternoons and they thrive in that location without sacrificing blooms in our temperate climate here in the Pacific NW. It is best to plant hydrangea in the fall in most climates. Do not plant them too deeply. Plant them to the depth of the pot they are in, so the soil line is at the base of the plant.
If you want a care free, hardy homestead or farmstead plant, that is as lovely in bloom as the dried flower bouquets, and has withstood the test of time, Hydrangea is ideal. They make ideal shady spots and hiding places for free-range fowl.
CREDENTIALS: Certified Oregon State Master Gardener since 1999. Horticulture degree 2001. Study of Herbs and Horticulture Therapy, heavy research of all plants and herbs. Gardening a lifetime.
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