Perennials – Growing Hydrangeas – Beginner Style

Hydrangeas were first introduced by Sir Joseph Banks from a Chinese garden in 1739. They’re the birth flower of June, and almost always blooming then. If you have arrived at this page, there is probably a good chance that you already know what they look like. I have, however, included a few pictures of them, simply because they are so beautiful.

Big Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) are the most commonly planted kind, and the ones with the largest and most show-stopping blooms. There are also other kinds of hydrangeas, but for now, this article will focus on the showiest and most popular type; big leaf hydrangeas.

Where do Hydrangeas Grow? Hydrangeas are hardy to -20 degrees celcius, although cold winds at -15 degrees celcuis will kill tender wood to the ground. In colder areas, damage to the buds may occur in winter and late spring, so be prepared to provide some winter protection by covering the plant with an old sheet, blanket or cardboard container when temperatures drop below freezing. If you live in an area with winters a bit colder than -20 degrees celsius, a cylinder of chicken wire placed around the plant and filled with leaves can provide excellent cold protection.

Choosing a location for a Hydrangea Bigleaf hydrangeas prefer partial shade. Morning sun and afternoon shade is perfect in inland areas, while on the coast, no shade is required. Give them moist, well-drained soil. Avoid planting Hydrangeas on hot, dry, exposed sites.

Planting a Hydrangea Incorporate compost, well-rotted manure or mushroom manure thoroughly into the top eight to 12 inches of soil with a shovel. Organic matter holds nutrients and water in the soil and helps prevent stress from fluctuations in soil moisture levels.

As with any other shrub, plant the root ball level with the soil surface, and water thoroughly immediately after transplanting.

Fertilization and Watering Hydrangeas Don’t fertilize Hydrangeas at all until they are established. This will be 4 to 8 weeks after transplanting. Once established, feed with an all-purpose fertilizer.

Hydrangeas are water-demanding. Water whenever the plant begins to wilt in the absence of rainfall. Avoiding this wilt is particularly important during the spring months when the flower heads are forming, so be sure to monitor the soil moisture around your hydrangeas during dry weather.

Gardening in Ireland – Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labour

Now that the hanging baskets are all up, the window boxes allocated their usual space and the bedding plants safely tucked into their beds, it is time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Or is it? The cuttings of the alpine plants should have started some weeks back, not to mention Nemesia, Diascias, and Violas that are growing strongly and just crying out for reproduction. Now is also a good time to take a few cuttings from Surfinias to keep as stock plants for suitable rooting material towards the end of the season. These plants can be stopped back as required and will produce lots of fresh young growth ideal for cuttings, and save you from having to rob your plants in baskets and containers. These seldom produce suitable material anyway because the shoots quickly run to flower.

Taking the alpine cuttings usually turns into something of a treasure hunt as I frantically search the gravel for that elusive label. It should be there for I always bury the label to the north side of the plant. I wish someone would come up with a decent workable system of labeling alpine plants, without having the place looking like a dog’s graveyard. Even with the labels buried they keep coming to the surface and if not covered immediately the wind blows them away. That is why I keep a record of all plants acquired, and a note of where they are planted.

Geranium harveyii has managed to produce some flowers at last, a kind of purplish-red colour, but the silver foliage sets it off to perfection. Campanula nitida white has put on a very good show this year, it is rather enjoying the wet weather. The blue variety is not as vigorous and has only managed to produce three blooms to date. This plant does not come true from seed and has to be vegetatively reproduced. As the plants in the scree bed seed around freely I left a few last year just to see what they would produce. All the seedlings from the white plant produced three-foot tall plants with blue flowers.

The ramondas and harbelas are also producing lots of flowers this year, again probably enjoying the cool wet weather, although I did cover them in the winter, which may have had some bearing on the flower production. Nemesia ‘Confetti’ is in full bloom as usual and Nemesia caerulea is just showing colour. Rhodophoxis douglasii, a nice deep red has been in bloom for two months now and shows no sign of retiring just yet. The scree beds are awash with seedling Aquilegia flabellata nana, and while the dainty little blue flowers look well nodding in the breeze, some of them will have to go, as they are encroaching on the territory of other plants. The white form, Aquilegia flabellata nana alba, does not seed around like the blue form and seems quite content to stay in its allotted space.

Living with Wildlife – Beaver Control: Non-lethal

In my part of the country, Massachusetts, beavers begin aggressively making preparations for the winter. These preparations include refurbishing the dam, doing maintenance on the lodge and building their food cache. Each of these activities can result in human conflicts due to flooding and/or loss of timber. Whatever your situation may be, here are some strategies to minimizing beaver damage. This month’s edition will only cover non-lethal techniques. Next month, we’ll cover lethal techniques.

Let me make one caveat here before beginning. Don’t be surprised if non-lethal control doesn’t work in your situation. Despite the claims of many so-called animal experts, aka animal rights activists, the reality remains that non-lethal control is a viable option in only a small percentage of the problem situations. Don’t ignore the non-lethal methods entirely. They can help resolve small complaints or buy you time until lethal control can be properly initiated.

If you need to protect some of your favorite trees, then I would suggest installing a fence along the water line to prevent the beaver’s access. The fence should be regularly monitored as the beavers might dig underneath. Another method would be to construct a fence around each tree. The fence should be at least 4 feet high and encircle the tree at least 3 inches away from the trunk. The fencing material should be some sort of welded hardware cloth. Larger trees will require that you stake the fence so the beavers don’t knock it over. Take care to protect exposed roots, as beavers will chew them too.

If you need to control flooding, the best non-lethal control method is called a beaver pipe. Essentially, it consists of a pipe or pipes that are inserted through the dam that allows water to pass through and thereby keep the water level at a tolerable level. These pipes are not the solution for everyone. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife estimates that only about 5 percent of all beaver dam sites are viable locations for beaver pipes. One of the criterion is that there is enough land to handle the stream’s overflow from heavy rains. Obviously, beaver pipes won’t work well in heavy water conditions caused by rainfall. If you don’t have enough land for flooding overflow, then beaver pipes probably won’t work for you.

Beaver pipes also require maintenance. They can become clogged with mud and debris. Someone will need to monitor the pipes and clean them regularly. If these problems weren’t enough, you must still gain permission to install them. Tampering with a beaver dam without the proper permits is tantamount to draining a wetland which is a federal crime. Be sure to get permission from your community’s conservation department and state division of natural resources. The last problem with beaver pipes is their cost. I would find it difficult to believe that one could be installed for under three hundred dollars for materials alone. Of course the cost depends on the size of the dam and the ingenuity of the installer.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the best advantage of a beaver pipe, namely it allows you the opportunity to continue to have beavers residing in your pond. If you have enough food for the colony, you will have beavers remaining at your pond for years. What is wrong with that? To see what such pipes would look like, click beaver pipes.

A final non-lethal control method is by far the most drastic. This method requires that you cut down all the trees that beaver enjoy for food. This would entail your cutting down softwoods such as poplar, willow etc. Generally speaking, beaver avoid evergreens. If the beaver doesn’t have enough food, they will have to move on. I don’t think highly of this method but your situation may require it. Especially now as animal rights activists are making it harder and harder to use lethal control on beaver. But that is a story for another column.