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Hydrangea pruning and care..
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Hydrangea plants require complex pruning once a year if they are to be a real asset to the garden. Step-by-step guide with photos.
Tools of the Trade.
Caring for Lawns.
Caring for Hedges.
Most of the task of caring for Hydrangeas is done in the late winter or early spring before new growth starts. Pruning these plants is a task everyone tries to avoid, resulting in the job rarely being done well, and always too late, if at all.
You say, "My bush is always covered in flowers so why bother pruning?" But if left un-pruned, the bush will produce a large number of flower heads the size of a tennis ball, all supported on old thin stems that bend to the ground as soon as the flowers get wet.
Prune the bush correctly and the result is the number of flower heads are reduced by about a quarter but their size is far greater. The bush ends up the same size, completely covered in flowers, but now they stand up on strong healthy stems.
The theory of this task is easy:
- Remove all dead wood.
- Remove thin, crossing or weak stems.
- Reduce quantity of old stems by a third.
- Reduce height of taller stems to form nice shape.
The reality can be somewhat more complicated as the first job is often trying to find a way into the bush to see what is what.
Any branches that overhang the path need cutting back hard to create a clear space. Once you can see inside the bush, Look for dead branches and remove these. Often they will simply snap away from the base of the bush but do not force them. Thin branches will never hold up a prize flower so remove these as well.
Be ruthless now and completely remove several of the older stems. These will have plenty of flower buds on them and it's not easy to make the cut but this will force the shrub to make fat new shoots.
Any crossing branches are next for removal. All that remains to be done now is prune back all the remaining branches, cutting just above a flower bud. Aim to create a nice dome shaped outline to the bush even if this means cutting well below the terminal buds. Plenty more will grow if there is room.
Old wood (see picture to the left) is fairly easy to tell apart from the fresh young shoots (shown at the right). Young wood is a nice reddish-brown colour with smooth bark whereas old wood becomes very rough and discoloured.
Once the pruning is done, and you are happy with the result, make sure to tidy up all the mess you have made. The mop heads can go on the compost heap if you can catch them. Round them all up quickly or the garden will look like a film set from the Yankee Badlands.
Finally, give a generous scattering of bonemeal around the plant
Hydrangeas are relatively trouble free plants during the Summer months. Early in the growing season they may be attacked by aphids, but the ladybirds soon move in to devour this little problem.
Water is this plants greatest requirement during the Summer. Water, water, water. Lots of water at regular intervals. If this plant runs dry while in flower, the blooms will be disfigured for the rest of the season.
While the plant is actively growing, a scattering of fast-acting fertilizer such as Growmore applied every 6 weeks or so will help it to become robust and healthy.
Blooms of the average mop head hydrangea can have their colour altered between pink and pale blue simply by altering the soil chemistry. The natural flower colour is sensitive to the acidity of the soil and by watering pink flowered plants with a solution of colouring agent, the blooms can be turned blue.
Mineral deficiency is a problem to watch out for as hydrangeas are very susceptible to this problem. The photo to the left shows this condition, and is characterized by yellowing leaves with prominent green veins. This is caused by a shortage of certain minerals in the soil and is overcome by watering the plant with Sequestrine or Sequestered iron tonic.
Try to do this as soon as the condition becomes apparent.