Bursting into summer with bunches of brilliantly colored blossoms, Hydrangeas boast an infallible air of class and old-fashioned charm. While many people associate the flower with memories of playing in grandma’s flower bed, hydrangeas are back in and better than ever.
With about 100 different species in the family, Hydrangeas range from 3-20 feet in height and 3-18 feet in width. Its flowers bloom in clusters at the end of the stem and come in vibrant shades of white, blue, red, pink and purple. The color of the blooms depend upon the acidity or alkalinity of the soil.
“If it’s more acid, it’ll produce blue flowers,” explained Victoria Dubose, owner of Bloomin’ Miracles in Jacksonville. “If it’s more alkaline, it will have pinks or purples.”
Besides a soil test, there are ways to predict which color you’re going to get. According to Dubose, landscapes with a lot of pine trees tend to be more acidic.
“There are also additives that you can get from your co-op to add to your soil,” she said — for instance, aluminum sulfate adds acidity, lime adds alkalinity.
Hydrangeas thrive with morning sun, afternoon shade and plenty of water — at least once a week. But even if a location is lacking in afternoon shade, Hydrangeas may still thrive there.
“Something I learned years ago,” Dubose said, “is the hydrangeas with the leaves that feel like sandpaper will tolerate more sun, while the ones with leaves that feel like vinyl seem to do better in afternoon shade.”
In their peak blooming season, Hydrangeas are a pretty hot commodity at Bloomin’ Miracles. While some customers prefer the look of the French Hydrangea for their yards, Dubose said, others tend to go for one of the many Paniculata varieties. The French Hydrangea, also known as the Big Leaf Hydrangea, is the most widely grown variety. It produces big, ball-shaped clusters of white, pink, blue or purple flowers — depending on soil conditions — and grows about 7 feet tall and 8 feet wide.
Hydrangeas in the Paniculata species grow from about 8 to 16 feet tall and get between 6 and 12 feet wide. In late summer, July and August, the plant bears large conical panicles of creamy white flowers, with pinkish white florets. One example is the Oakleaf Hydrangea, a white, cone-shaped flower blooming shrub that happens to be one of Dubose’s personal favorites.
“It really thrives down here because it stands up to the hot, dry climate,” she said. “And plus, it’s our state wild flower.”
The Oakleaf Hydrangea gets its name from the shape of its large leaves, which often turn vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow in the fall. It will grow to about 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide and can be purchased in either single-blossom or double-blossom form.
With a blooming period of summer and fall, incorporating these so-called “grandma’s flowers” into your garden this season will make your lawn look anything but old and outdated.
Another hot pick in the horticulture world right now is gladiolas. These colorful perennials bloom from bulbs, so planting and flowering times differ from those of nursery-bought plants. Gladiolas can be planted as early as two weeks before the last expected frost and, in our warm climate, straight through June.
For a continual display of color, plant a few bulbs each week. Bury bulbs 2-6 inches deep in well-drained soil with full sun. Taller varieties need to be staked when planted. Or, as Dubose suggested, tie a string from one end of the planting area to the other to help prop up blooms.
Planting to flowering can take anywhere from 70 days to three months, but while these bulb bloomers may require a little more time and patience, the breathtaking results popping up in your flower bed will be well worth the wait, and the work you put in.