Hydrangeas Aren’t Perfect

Hydrangea macrophylla...blue lace and Nikko blue in full bloom.

Hydrangea macrophylla...blue lace and Nikko blue in full bloom.

There is something about a hydrangea that is almost irresistible…maybe it’s their reputation for being old fashioned…something my grandmother would grow. Until this year I also thought hydrangeas were nearly indestructible. There are four hydrangeas growing along the side of my porch, all are macrophyllas – two lacecaps and two Nikko blues – and they have thrived for seven years without fail. Then this spring, when I went out to do the usual pruning, I noticed the Nikko buds were frozen and the stems were mostly dead. I couldn’t imagine what had happened.

Well, Nikko blues are only winter hardy to Zone 6. OK, I am in Zone 6, so what happened? Well, for one thing we started to warm up in the spring but then it got cold again and very, very windy. Also, it seems that for one single day last winter the temperature fell to one degree below the lowest average temperature for Zone 6…ONE DAY!…ONE DEGREE!…so without protection a significant number of flower buds froze  and there were very few blooms this summer. But an odd thing happened: there are new stems that grew up from the bottom of the plant and they now have small flower buds. But wait…Nikko blues only bloom on old wood, don’t they? Hmmm.

There is one other thing about Nikkos. They are water hogs. I always knew this but you would think that in a month when there was more than 11 inches of rain it would not be a problem. (And yes, I have beautiful loam, not sandy soil.) So guess what. They still drooped when there was no rain for a couple of days. Doesn’t matter, maybe they aren’t perfect but they are still irresistible to me.

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