12 October 2010
I used to think that hydrangeas was something old ladies had in their gardens. Then one day, I fell in love with a purple-blue lacecap that absolutely knocked me off my rocker. From then on, I was on a quest to find one – just like that one – for my learning lab garden. If I had known then that they are quite easy to propagate from cuttings, I would probably have knocked on the owner’s door and asked permission to take a few. Instead, I went nuts at a nursery sale, and came home with many more varieties than my crowded little city lot has room for. The purpose of this spree was to let them grow for a year or so, decide which one was the perfect one, and find new homes for the discards. A year later, I find myself a humbled convert and reformed enthusiast – they are actually really cool plants!
They are the plants that keep on giving – especially the mophead varieties. They proudly bloom for months on end, displaying a continuous transformation of color. A little reading revealed some interesting facts. While the mopheads will enhance your plantings for up to six months, the lacecap display ends quite a bit sooner. The reason is the number of actual flowers on the blossoms. The flower petals are, as you may know, not petals at all, but sterile sepals. While mopheads most often are all sepals, the center of the lacecap blossom consists of actual flowers. Insects are attracted by the surrounding sepals and, as they buzz about, will pollinate the true flowers. Like all other flowers – once they have been pollinated, the lacecaps begin to fade. Since the mopheads are almost exclusively fakes, the show goes on until winter signs them out. So, in terms of longevity and proverbial bang for your buck, mopheads are the way to go. I still love the layered daintiness of the lacecaps, though, but now Im a sucker for both!
Another interesting fact I gained was in regards to their potential to change color. Most every gardener knows that acidic soils, as a general rule will turn out blue flowers, and alkaline soils will show up as pink, and most of us take advantage of the fact that they all transform over time. But, it is not just the actual acidity level that makes the blossoms one color or another – it is the presence of aluminum sulfate that makes the blues come out. And – here is the interesting part – the hydrangea roots will slowly collect whatever free aluminum is available in your soil over a period of about three years. Not until then will it stabilize and settle into a permanent color. So, provided I don’t help them out by adding aluminum, I guess I still have to wait another couple of years before I know what these chameleons really will look like in their new home. So much for a quick decision, huh….