For today’s green scene of the day, I’ve chosen an image from my garden. My Crispa spiraea (Spiraea x bumalda ‘Crispa’) is an unusual spiraea because it grows these crinkly, toothy leaves, which is very unlike a spiraea. But what it shares with other spiraeas are those gorgeous summer blooms. Butterflies love their flat umbels. I also find this shrub sooo alluring.
Plants Popping Through Each Other
The spiraea all by itself is pretty darn cool but my peach Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria) are pretty heavenly too. They often poke through the spiraea as they reach for sunshine (and because I often forget to stake them, haha). Isn’t that peach and yellow pattern with the tiny stripes so neat? This variety, whose specific name I don’t know, is absolutely my favorite alstroemeria. I bought it eons ago when I lived at a different house. But I brought a couple clumps of tubers to the house I live in now and they’ve flourished.
A Color Combo to Please the Eyes
So I thought it would be a nice bit of relaxation for you to have access to this image. I love how the deep pink puffs of the spiraea play off the smooth coral color of the alstroemeria. If you’re on a lunch break sometime, you might take three minutes out just to sit quietly and enjoy them both. Take a few deep breaths and allow your eyes to roam through this lovely little moment of nature. Hopefully, you’ll feel a bit more relaxed afterward. Cheers.
You know how in summer you might notice a bee on a wildflower, collecting pollen and getting nectar? Usually the temperature’s warm and the sun’s out. The flower glows with color. You may hear a faint buzz, the song of birds. At that moment, you often feel a brief interlude of neutral relaxation. Calmness permeates the air. All is right in the world. Nature’s at work. It’s a peaceful time to cherish and a lovely slice of stress relief.
So in anticipation of this summer, I’m once again giving away wildflower seeds! Each packet contains coreopsis, coneflower, cosmos, black-eyed Susan, clover, marigolds, and more. All the flowers that bees like and keep their colonies thriving. If you’d like to get a free packet, sign up for my digest. Every month, I send a collection of interesting stuff to explore: ideas for books to read, plant news and gardening tips, music & film finds, my latest inspiration, advice on creativity, and more. Oh, and giveaways!
Speaking of which, if you’re already a subscriber and want seeds, watch for my next (March 7th) newsletter. In it, I’ll let you know the easy way to get the seeds. Until then, get your ground ready! Spring is coming and I have a feeling it’s going to be a happy growing season this year!
Today I hit a wall. It’s still rainy and cold in Seattle and I couldn’t deal with the gloom. Do you ever get that trapped feeling at this time of year? You feel like spring should be coming but it isn’t quite. So I started just flat out daydreaming of blue skies and warm sun, what my mood would be like right now if I were on a tropical beach. Who am I kidding, my mood would be awesome. Then I realized I did have those blue skies and sun just six months ago. I still couldn’t move about but I was able to relax on my patio chair. The memories of summer make winter fade for a little while.
What does this have to do with plants? Well, my summer’s are always jammed with gardening fun. I’m in nature nearly every day. I love the free feeling I get being outside in a T-shirt and sandals, sharing a moment with a passing bee that lands on a flower in bloom. It’s heaven. Even at home during this sad pandemic, it’s heaven.
Plant Photos Help Relive the Dream
So seeing how these images give me a bit of stress releaf, I thought I’d share them. My memories of summer might help you through the winter blahs too.
If you’re new to gardening and don’t know what to plant, consider a hydrangea. I’ve been thinking about them as mine are in bloom now in late summer. They’re graceful in form, not difficult to grow, and decorate the garden with profuse, showy flowers. Here are five reasons I love them.
They’re easy-to-grow in most U.S. gardens
Unlike some shrubs that need just-the-right conditions, hydrangeas are versatile. They’re hardy from zones 2-9 so almost any gardener in the U.S. or even Canada can grow them. They tolerate heavy or sandy soil. And they bloom every year without fertilizer or major pruning, though those two bits of attention enhance their structure and blooms. If you live in the northern U.S., you’ll want to plant them somewhere where they’re protected from hot afternoon sun and if you live in the South, you’ll want to plant them in mostly shade. Other than that, they require only some supplemental water the first year and not much attention after that.
Their structure is graceful
Hydrangea shrubs grow in a loose ball shape. They rarely shoot branches out in odd, unhealthy crossing directions. They simply add a few inches every year, leafing out in opposite patterns with stems that are sometimes stiff and sometimes a bit floppy. Regardless, they never do what I call splaying. Some shrubs like certain viburnums or callicarpas will branch out in all directions. This creates odd messy forms that are hard to prune. But the hydrangea never has a messy form, its branch structures are mostly tidy and definitely lovely. They even peel a bit as they age.
Hydrangeas are easy to prune
Generally speaking, very little pruning is required of hydrangeas. If you have a hydrangea in deep shade and it gets leggy, that’s a different story. If you have hydrangea aspera, that’s also a different story. But overall, mophead and panicle hydrangeas don’t need much pruning.
When pruning a hydrangea, look for old thick canes that cross other branches and remove those. Remove dead canes too. But the only other pruning needed from year to year is deadheading. I’ve known gardeners who don’t even do that, instead allowing the delicate blooms to simply dry over winter and disintegrate in the wind. I like to tidy mine up, bringing in the blooms for table bouquets and such.
One thing to note: because many hydrangeas bloom on older stems, you’ll want to only prune back to the next lower crotch of leaves. Otherwise, you’ll accidentally remove forming buds. There’s detailed hydrangea pruning instructions all over the internet, but just remember this simple rule and you’ll be fine.
You can play with the flowers’ colors
Hydrangeas are famous for changing their flower colors based on a soil’s pH. The more acidic the soil is around a hydrangea, the bluer the flowers will be. The more alkaline, the pinker the flowers. It’s rare to grow a hydrangea whose flowers look exactly like the catalog’s color. But that’s the fun part. You can add lime or acidic fertilizer to create a soft lavender or smoky pink. With certain cultivars, you can amend the soil to create a deep purple color.
What I love most about hydrangea flowers is they bloom for a long time and fade gently as they dry, thus creating changing color in the garden and antique-looking bouquets.
A variety of flower shapes
The most recognizable hydrangea flower is the mophead (top photo). It’s the circular pom-pom most folks know and some associate with old fashioned shrubs. For this reason, some gardeners don’t care for hydrangeas. But! There are other species that offer more interesting flower heads.
The lacecap hydrangea has a flat corymb for a bloom with tiny fertile flowers that look like little buds surrounded by sterile flowers with big sepals. Lacecaps are quite alluring as they often have a two-tone effect, the interior blooms are lighter, the exteriors, darker.
Also, the panicle-shaped hydrangeas are fun. The inflorescences are tall and pointed like a lilac blossom and offer a bold, spiky presence. Also, their colors don’t change due to soil pH so the color is more reliable. Cultivars range from white to lime green to pink and deeper red.
Online, you’ll find lots of detailed instruction on how to grow hydrangea. Try not to get overwhelmed. And instead of shopping via catalogs, I recommend perusing your local nursery. I like to buy with my eyes: see the plant’s form (and possibly blooms), check out its health, etc. Plus, nursery workers can answer questions and offer advice.
Overall remember, you can begin creating the lovely structure of a mixed border with one hydrangea. Then build around that anchor. As the seasons progress, I’m sure you’ll find more fun plants with which to decorate the garden. If you want ideas, you can always check out my gardening archive site. Happy planting!
This Sunday was sunny and warm, the kind of Sunday where you just want to set up a lounge chair and read a book. Instead, I worked in the garden. I weeded for a while and then transplanted my Stargazer hydrangea, a lovely pink shrub with pointed flowers.
I love hydrangeas. There are so many species now that you can grow every flower color and shape. With certain amendments to the soil, colors vary from deep burgundy to lavender to icy blue. The blooms can be mopheads (round pom-poms), lace cap (flat and wide), or panicle (triangular).
Because there are a million articles on how to care for hydrangeas, I won’t go into that but spotlight the hydrangea I transplanted. In my records, I recorded it as Double Delights ‘Stargazer’ though it’s so packed with flowers, I’m unsure if it truly is that cultivar. I think it is though.
The Stargazer had to be moved. Whenever I turned on the sprinkler system, the sprinkler head popped up and the spray hit the hydrangea, thus blocking water from all other plants. I solved that by moving it to a spot more in the center of the border. It’s inside what I call my hummingbird, bee, and butterfly garden.
Transplanting Without Trouble
Hydrangeas are some of the easiest shrubs to transplant. I’ve transplanted large, medium, and small ones. Because they have a fibrous root system, there are few if any anchor roots. The fibrous roots spread out like a pancake around the base enabling you to dig them out easily. There are few anchor roots to cut. If you don’t cut anchor roots, you won’t send it into shock. So if you water the heck out of it afterward, you will be successful and the plant’s leaves won’t sag.
Above is a photo of my perfectly pink hydrangea. It has huge blossoms on sturdy stems. The flower color glows in afternoon shade, thus brightening the garden. The leaves are large and textural, offering an excellent architectural structure to contrast with other leaf forms. For instance, I have mine amidst a shaggy spiraea, purple penstemon, and yellow physocarpus. It’s a bit more price wise but definitely worth the cost, and it grows in zones 6 – 9, a wide range.
I hope you enjoy this spring season by planting a plant that you like to gaze at!