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Hydrangeas

Easily recognisable for their mop-shaped heads and billowy blooms, hydrangeas are perfectly at home in any garden, and widely admired for their classic charm.
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These beautiful flowers come in a range of varieties and shades and are relatively easy to grow. They also make wonderful cut flowers and wedding bouquets.



Origins

The hydrangea has its roots - literally - in Japan, where it was not only treasured for its beauty but also used in herbal teas for its medicinal properties. It has been cultivated in western gardens since the first American species were brought to the UK in the 1730s.

The hydrangea is native to southern and eastern Asia, and North and South America, and is a very hardy flower. The plant is well-loved for its large flower heads, which are actually made up of tightly clustered individual florets. In most species of hydrangea, the flowers are white, but in some they can be shades of blue, red, pink or purple. One of the most interesting things about hydrangeas is that their exact colour often depends on how acidic the soil is. Acidic soils produce blue flowers, while neutral soils give pale cream petals, and alkaline soils result in pink or purple petals.



Types of Hydrangea


1. Mophead (Hydrangea Macrophylla) :
This is the most popular type of hydrangea. Plants have large globe-shaped flower heads, and blossom colour is changeable. Varieties include Altona, Enziandom and Nigra.

2. Lacecap (Hydrangea Macrophylla Normalis)
:

This has a flattened cluster of tiny florets surrounded by large-petalled flowers. Lacecaps are commonly seen in woodlands. Varieties include Libelle and Hobella.

3. Panicle (Hydrangea Paniculata)
:

Long, cone-shaped flowers cover large plants that grow 2.5-3 metres tall and wide. Panicles are resistant to cold and can be pruned to form trees. White blossoms get a pink tint as they age.

Care Tips

  • Hydrangeas need to be pruned regularly to encourage new growth. Pruning should normally be carried out in late winter or early spring. Climbers, however, should be pruned after flowering in summer.
  • When pruning, all the old flowering shoots should be removed down to the point on the stem where strong new growth is developing.
  • Try to use rainwater when watering your hydrangeas, as mains hard water can affect the colour.
  • If you want to change the colour of your flowers, you'll need to be patient. It can take weeks, or even months, and shouldn't be done to new plants. To get blue flowers, you need to lower the pH of your soil, which you can do by adding a sulphur compound to it. To enhance red or pink flowers, add a layer of limestone or chalk to the soil during winter.
Expert tips, from expert florists.

Did you know?

  • The hydrangea comes from the Greek word hydor, which means water. It is thought that the large flower heads resembled Greek water vessels.
  • The cheery bloom was worshipped by the Incas of Peru due to their resemblance to the life giving sun.
  • Hydrangeas are traditionally given to mark a fourth wedding anniversary. They symbolise heartfelt emotions.
  • Native Americans used the bark of the hydrangea shrub to treat muscle sprains and burns. It is still used today as a tonic to treat bladder problems and kidney stones.




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