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Hydrangeas have ‘Deep South’ look

The August Gardener

Southwest Georgia Master Garadener Shirley Tyner displays a cluster of blue flowers in her hydrange garden in northwest Albany. joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com

Southwest Georgia Master Garadener Shirley Tyner displays a cluster of blue flowers in her hydrange garden in northwest Albany. joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com

I have long been fascinated with Bigleaf Hydrangeas. I am not sure if it is the huge blooms, the color, or just the fact that the “snow balls” are so Deep South looking. What a beautiful display from just a few blooms.

Research tells us that color variation is due to the presence or absence of aluminum compounds in the flowers. If aluminum is present within the plant, the color is blue, if it is present in small quantities, the color is “in between” and if it is absent, the flowers are pink. A gardener can change the color from pink to blue or from blue to pink by adjusting the soil pH.

Before planting Bigleaf Hydrangeas, prepare the bed with 50 pounds of composted organic matter per 10 square feet and mix thoroughly into the top 8-12 inches of soil with a tiller or shovel. Organic matter holds nutrients and water in the soil and helps prevent stress from wet/dry fluctuations in soil moisture.

Bigleaf hydrangeas prefer morning sun, afternoon shade and moist, well-drained soil. Avoid planting on hot, dry, exposed sites. Be prepared to provide some winter protection by covering the plants with old sheets or cardboard containers when temperatures drop below freezing. A cylinder of chicken wire placed around the plants and filled with leaves also provides cold protection. These plants are water demanding. Water when the plant begins to wilt if rainfall is scarce.

Bigleaf Hydrangeas can be grown in containers. To make these arrangements last, use containers that can be moved indoors on cold nights.

“Hydrangeas for American Gardens” by Dr. Michael Dirr is a good resource. In addition, the U.S. Arboretum has an online publication on selecting and growing hydrangeas.

A NATIVE AZALEA

A North Georgia friend gave me a potted Native Azalea “Tallulah Sunrise.” I have a picture of what it will look like in full bloom next spring. I am applying the water needed in hopes that it will thrive, bloom, and be as beautiful as the picture.

KNOW WHAT’S BELOW

Before using any mechanized digging, it is important to notify Georgia 811, Utilities Protection Center, Inc. You should know what is below.

Homeowners digging projects include landscaping, fence installation, digging holes for fence posts or a mail box; anchoring supports for decks and swings sets, planting trees, removing tree roots, driving landscaping stakes into the ground and installing a retainer wall.

Georgia 811 provides a service called the Positive Response Information System to help the caller track the status of the request. By calling Georgia 811 (or 1-800-282-7411) the caller will be notified of buried electric cable, gas lines, and other buried cable.

Call before you dig, it is the law in Georgia. The law protects us all.

TIPS FOR FALL PLANTING

There are two major planting periods, (Spring) March to May and (Fall) Mid July to September. The fall plantings are harvested from October to December. These recommendations are based on long-term average dates of the first killing frost in the fall.

Check with the University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences web site for additional information on your fall plantings. We are reminded that every year does not conform to the “average” and that we should use our own judgment about advancing or delaying the time for each job, depending on weather conditions.

Brochures on planting and gardening are also available at our local Extension office on 125 Pine Ave., Suite 100 (www.uagextension.com/dougherty) or www.caes.uga.edu/publications.

Plant the following no later than these dates:

Aug. 15 — snap beans and Irish potatoes (seed can be sprouted two to three weeks before planting).

Aug. 31 — cucumber and squash; be sure to plant varieties resistant to downy mildew. Start plants for broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale and onions in a half-shaded area for setting out in September. Water the garden as needed to prevent drought stress.

Start planning next year’s garden now and be sure to read the labels when handling fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals.

Shirley M. Tyner is a master gardener and a volunteer with the University of Georgia Extension Service.