gcrfd hydrangea rowMIDDLETOWN, NJ - On March 21, the Garden Club R.F.D. will be visited by Bob Magovern for a program about hydrangeas. With his extensive horticultural experience from his work at Barlow’s Flower Farm and at Rutgers Cooperative Extension and having been a Master Gardener since 2002, the meeting will surely result in a deeper understanding of the hydrangea.

With this expanded knowledge, Garden Club R.F.D. will make it the featured plant at our Annual Plant Sale held at the Little Red Schoolhouse on Middletown Lincroft Road in Middletown. You are invited to visit with us on May 12 and 13, for that special Mother’s Day gift and your garden needs. For the first time, we will have a Master Gardener’s Help Desk where your gardening questions can be answered and fact sheets from Rutgers can be obtained.

But right now, let’s begin your introduction to the hydrangea, a plant that is a summertime staple in many gardens across New Jersey.

  • The plant genus Hydrangea contains more than 75 species of flowering shrubs that are native to South or East Asia and can be grown in areas of the United States that have a USDA hardiness zone designation of 5 to 9. Hydrangeas love New Jersey.
  • It is the plant most remembered as having big blue ball-like shapes on the outstretched arms of leafy shrubs. These plants are “mopheads”(a type of H. macrophylla) that were imported from Japan, China and Europe in the 1800’s. However, there are also delicate “lacecaps” (H.macrophylla nomalis) that have flat heads dotted with color and then circled by 4-petaled florets and “panicle” hydrangeas (H. paniculata) with white cone-shaped flowers. Many hydrangea macrophylla varieties can produce pink to deep blue blooms even on the same plant. It depends on the soil’s pH.
  • In addition, there are now easy-care species that are native to the United States, such as the shade-tolerant “oakleaf” hydrangea and the cold-hardy “smooth” hydrangea like ‘Annabelle’ (a type of H. arborescens). Discovered in an Anna, Illinois, garden, Annabelle is perhaps the most popular old-fashioned flowering shrub grown in American gardens. Once established, it produces enormous, snowy white,12-inch, globe-shaped flower heads starting in early summer and increasing in size until mid to late summer -- truly spectacular!
  • Recently another cultivar has been added to that family-- spectacular pink-flowered ‘Belle Anna’, a new hybrid that reblooms all summer. Try ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Belle Anna’ together, for a breathtaking pink-and-white hedge, border, or accent planting!
  • The hydrangea that often is called a “Snowball Bush” is a pee-gee hydrangea (H. paniculata, ‘Grandiflora’). This 15- to 20-foot plant also has large cone-shaped clusters of white flowers that appear in late summer. This hydrangea loves sunshine and, like the viburnum, is tolerant of heavy pruning. If full sun exposure and high heat are issues, this old-time favorite is perfect for you.
  • A question that is heard time and again is, “Why didn’t my hydrangea bloom?” While there are many reasons why hydrangeas sometimes fail to bloom, a leading culprit is frigid winter temperatures or a late freeze that killed the flower buds. Panicle hydrangeas are the most reliably blooming, low maintenance, hardy hydrangeas you can grow. Since they bloom on new growth (not all do) each summer, there is no chance for the flower buds to be damaged by winter cold because they simply haven’t been formed yet. The result is a reliable show of gorgeous blooms every year from mid to late summer and well into the fall.

gcrfd hydrangea multiAs you can see, the hydrangea is really more than a “blue ball of petals”. There are many shapes, colors and sizes. There is also much more to learn. Join us on March 21 to hear more about this fascinating plant by calling Nancy Canade, Membership Chair, at 973-452-4846 for further information about this meeting and future meetings. Join our group to continue to learn about the wonderful world of plants and flowers and join us at our May Plant Sale to get your questions answered at the Help Desk and to find the perfect hydrangea for your garden.

Garden Club R.F.D. is a member of Garden Club of New Jersey, the Central Atlantic Region and the National Garden Club, Inc. and we welcome new members (men and women) from all the local communities.

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