April 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm EDT | by Kyle Thurman
Spring planning brings summer reward

Environmental Enhancements, Inc. is a customer-focused full-service Landscape Design/Build firm that is passionate about building a personal relationship with you.

We deliver custom landscape solutions by listening to you and utilizing our creativity so that you can be truly confident that your vision will become a reality. We all know Washington is known for its spring blooming trees and shrubs. As the spring blooms fade, now is the time to consider what will be blooming in your summer landscape.

Everyone loves hydrangeas, and I believe there is a reason. Whether they are reminiscent of your grandmother’s garden or you enjoy their midsummer bold punch of color after your spring display has faded. Hydrangeas are a very popular landscape plant and are prized for their abundant blooms and easy care. But often the question is “When do I prune my hydrangea?” How you care for and prune the hydrangeas will depend on what type you have.

There are four categories of common hydrangeas. These are Hydrangea macrophylla, commonly called Big Leaf, Mophead or Lacecap hydrangeas; Hydrangea arborescence, which includes “Annabelle” and its relatives, also known as Smooth hydrangeas; Hydrangea quercifolia, also known as Oakleaf hydrangeas; and finally, Hydrangea paniculata, which are commonly called PeeGee hydrangeas.

Big Leaf hydrangeas are some of the most popular hydrangeas in landscapes. Most of these bloom in July to August in either blue or pink, although a few varieties are white. Except for the white varieties, any of these can be grown as either blue or pink, depending on the acidity of the soil they’re grown in.

If your Big Leaf hydrangea needs to be pruned, this should be done in early summer, before the flower buds are formed for the next season. These hydrangeas bloom on old wood, which is wood that was formed during the previous growing season. The flower buds are formed in August through October, so do any necessary pruning in the summer, prior to August. Prune out any dead wood each year, and after the plant has reached five years old about a third of the stems can be pruned back to the ground each summer to help revitalize the plant.

Annabelle hydrangeas are a popular landscape shrub because it will bloom reliably even after heavy pruning or a severe winter. In some harsh winters, the plant will die back to the ground, send up new growth in the spring and still bloom profusely. The blooms tend to be quite heavy, sometimes bending the stems to the ground. The stems may be staked to prevent this, or pruned to about 24 inches to help the stems become stronger and better able to support the heavy blooms. Annabelle hydrangeas bloom on new wood, and should not be pruned in the spring while they are preparing to bloom. They can be pruned any other time of year, but it isn’t necessary to prune Annabelle each year except for removing dead wood or branches that don’t contribute to a nicely shaped plant.

Oak leaf hydrangeas are native to the U.S., and as their name suggests, they have large, deeply lobed leaves. The white blooms of oak leaf hydrangeas are beautiful in early to mid summer, tending to turn pink as they age. Oak leaf hydrangeas also add beautiful color to the landscape in the fall as the large leaves turn brilliant red, burgundy, orange or yellow, especially if they receive some sun. These hydrangeas are more tolerant of sun and dry conditions than other types, but they will not tolerate wet feet. Oak leaf hydrangeas should be pruned at the same time and in the same manner as the Big Leaf hydrangeas.

Like the oak leaf hydrangeas, PeeGee’s white blooms tend to turn pink as they age. PeeGees often grow very large, up to 8-10 feet tall and just as wide, and should be planted where they’ll have ample room. They do like some shade in hotter climates, and are tolerant of sun if they receive enough moisture. PeeGee may be pruned at any time except in midsummer when they are preparing to bloom, and they can also be pruned to a tree shape.

Hydrangeas don’t require much special care after planting. You may want to give them a balanced, slow-release fertilizer once a year in late spring to keep them happy. Spread the fertilizer under the plant, but not right next to the trunk, and remember that not enough fertilizer is always better than too much.

The list of various Hydrangea cultivars continues to grow and is becoming more interesting each season.  At Environmental Enhancements, Inc. we have found ourselves using Hydrangeas in designs whenever the conditions call. The showy flowers in mid-summer, when most other shrubs have finished their blooming have earned their right to becoming a staple in the Mid-Atlantic landscape.  If you are interested in a multi-seasonal garden that is well designed and custom tailored to your lifestyle, we look forward to hearing from you.

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