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Gardening: Hydrangeas, asters and late summer blooms

Hydrangea flowers

Hydrangea flowers

The season is really well past peak now, most of our favorites have already come and gone; there’s sadness, of course, in that and lots of poems about roses

faded. I just went online and looked at some of them and I’m sorry I did!

My goodness, but they are sad! And indeed, no need, since there’s still a good deal to both enjoy at the moment and look forward to.

Since “bang for the buck” is always a good thing, let’s spend some time with shrubs, since that’s where a lot of “bang” can be found. One of my favorites is the less chosen hydrangea.

Not the big, blue balls that we see everywhere, or even the blue lace caps, but Hydrangea paniculata, the hydrangea whose blooms appear in “panicles,” long, almost triangular shaped, large blossoms.

And Hydrangea paniculata has one very major advantage – unlike the “balls,” which set their buds in fall, to bloom the following spring and consequently are frost-vulnerable, as well as pruning-mistake vulnerable, paniculata sets buds in spring on that season’s wood.

No worry then about early fall frosts. In spring, it may be cut back to a few buds to form a framework to produce larger flowers, or allowed to grow with minimal pruning.

These hydrangeas adapt to many soil types, require ongoing but moderate moisture, and bloom almost regardless of pH, climate or the degree of pruning.

The latter, i.e. pruning, should be done in late fall or early spring (note: the plant can be restrained, i.e. kept as a small or large bush, or allowed to grow into a tree).

Use a slow-release fertilizer in spring and then feed normally during the remainder of the season.

All hydrangeas belong to a genus of 70 to 75 species of flowering plants native to southern and eastern Asia and the Americas. By far the greatest species diversity is in eastern Asia, notably China, Japan, and Korea.

Looking forward, we have asters coming, all those wonderful blues and purples, as well as all the chrysanthemums, the whites and the yellows and their relatives, which are many.

Speaking of the coming end of season, my next question and you probably knew it was coming, is, where are you in your feeding schedule? You should be winding down; actually I do my last feeding in late July and this has proven to be quite satisfactory.

But if you haven’t fed recently, do it soon and let it be the last. Unless, of course, you want to give a little something special to the last of the very late bloomers.

You might want to check out Grady Riley Gardens if you haven’t been there recently. Not only is their plant material in much better shape than it’s ever been in past seasons, but they’ve added a truly extensive array of plant containers, both ceramic and wood, in every color, size and shape imaginable. And delivery is free.

Take care, everyone, the cool weather is almost here, and I know …  promises, promises … but it has to happen. Try to do the chores in the cool of the early morning, then enjoy the rest of the day. Talk again soon, early September.

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