Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The White Hydrangea

The White Hydrangea - well technically it isn’t white, from the tight buds of the early flowers a greenness like jade jewels nestles deep within the dark green leaves.

Hydrangea bud
Developing bud
Further development
Nearly there

Not a true bush, several cuttings growing strongly

   I was surprised to see Hydrangeas growing so well in the north of Italy where I live; large heads (for the most part) of sturdy mops.  A few lace caps can be seen too but the mop heads or hortensia as the Italians call them are the norm, and seen in most gardens and I would guess shared. You only have to stop and admire a garden and the owner, if around will proffer a cutting or ten.

   Shades of blue and pink are most commonly seen. We moved two sad looking blue flowered mop heads to a more shady position to join a pink flowered one already in situ, they reverted quickly to pink, as well. Now I understood that, but for the newly moved and recently divided plant, it reverted to white and two years later has mellowed to a delicate pearly pink.

   The precise instructions for propagation were ignored (this is usual practice for me) – with bottom leaves stripped, the top pinched out and a neat cut beneath a leaf axil the cuttings were pushed into a circle of soil where another plant had failed. Within weeks several had become firm in the ground, several others had not survived.  The pictures show the joy this years’ flowers have brought.

   The only way to control the colour of a hydrangea is to grow it in a pot. The colour of the flower will depend on the soil in which it is grown. Hydrangeas flower blue in acid soil.  Less acidic soil gives pink flowers.

   In Italy the Hydrangea will start to flower as early as April in a warm spring and continue on with their aging hues until autumn.

   Cultivation requirements suggested for the UK are different in the Italian gardens that I have seen them grow, frequently bowing their heavy heads as the warmth of the sun takes its toll. Deep and fertile, is not how you would describe the soil in our garden, well drained yes, but thin and lacking goodness. They also require plenty of water in dry periods. The word hydrangea means water vessel.

   In our town they prune the flower once it has faded.  I was horrified when I saw this, and although we rarely suffer frosts in the way the UK may, there can still be extreme cold.  They rarely remove inner branches, just a random deadheading, leaving long stems that heighten the shrub each year.  However their method of pruning does nothing to lessen the number or size of the flowers.

   I still prune mine as I would in the UK, not removing any flower heads until the spring except if they are top heavy and weighed down.

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