Non-blooming hydrangea is aggravating but sickly trees
are serious trouble
Usually, questions slow down during the dog days and I catch up
on what I missed in spring and early summer. Not so, this year!
Here are brief reports on the three hottest topics:
For blue and pink hydrangeas that didn't
...or bloomed only on short, low branches: That's a hardiness
issue, not a question of when you pruned or how you fertilized. The
blue and pink blooming hydrangeas are not reliably hardy in some
zones. Their branches often die back over winter, and new growth
begins from the roots the next spring. Yet these species flower
only on growth that begins in spring from branch tips which matured
the previous year. If branch tips are killed over winter, the plant
is no longer primed to flower.
If your hydrangea has no flowers at all, move it to a spot
that's better protected in winter. If it still doesn't flower, try
If there are flowers low on the plant but nowhere else, that
means only the branch tips near the ground survived the winter. You
might bring more of that plant through winter by ringing it each
December with a wire cage wider and taller than the plant, then
stuffing that cage full of airy insulation such as oak leaves or
pine needles. Even more sure, you can use the Minnesota Tip method to bury
Oaks, maples, birches, sycamores, poplars, elms and
other trees in trouble.
It was a killer of a winter, damaging many plants' roots and
circulatory systems. Many trees are not as leafy as they should be
or have dead parts that just didn't leaf out this year. Others
leafed out late and slow, with dwarfish leaves. Quite a few of
these stressed trees, like people with compromised immune systems,
have developed secondary problems such as leaf spot and anthracnose
or succumbed to blights and wilts because their resistance is way
down. Some seemed fine until a few weeks ago when heat and drought
peaked, and now every leaf on the tree or on particular branches is
shriveled, dry and hanging.
The best thing you can do is to be sure these trees are watered
regularly and have adequate nutrients. Water whenever the soil is
dry, applying enough to penetrate several inches deep from the
trunk to the dripline of the branches and beyond. It's not a good
idea to fertilize woody plants right now, but plan to apply a slow
release fertilizer in October after leaf-fall begins.
It's likely that the trees' roots as well as tops were damaged
so they cannot even absorb normal amounts of water and fertilizer.
Like a person being nursed back to heath from the point of
starvation, they must be given small meals frequently. That's why
you should use a slow-release fertilizer or apply whatever you use
in small doses spread through October, April, May and June.
These trees need pampering and time. Forgive their ragged looks
right now and understand that you may see no real improvement until
The bigger the tree, the longer its recovery time may be, so
keep babying it until you see it return to its normal color,
density and growth rate. Some oaks, first damaged in the drought of
1988 and hurt repeatedly by drought and two severe winters since
then, may need a decade of extra attention before they are glossy
green rather than sickly pale yellow.
Garden's not as colorful as it should be?
Many annuals did not grow as large as usual and remain less
vigorous and floriferous even now because of the cloudy, cold
spring. Cold soil and lack of sun stunted them and secondary
problems like stem infections on marigold and impatiens or leaf
spot on begonia and geranium continue to sap their strength. Where
annuals are very disappointing it may be best to remove them early.
Fill in with asters, mums or flowering kale.
Green thumbs up
to sharing vegetables from your garden with those in need.
Green thumbs down
to expecting any one garden center to carry everything. With
tens of thousands of plant varieties available for growing in
gardens, of course one store can't stock them all. Do ask for the
plant you seek, though. The more we ask, the more likely the
store's buyer is to order that type next year.
Originally published 8/16/03