QUESTION: What is the best way to secure Annabelle hydrangeas to keep the beautiful blooms from breaking in the wind and rain? And why do these beautiful flowers do so poorly when they’re cut for an arrangement? – Debbie
It’s true. The big, heavy bloom heads of Annabelle hydrangeas make an impressive statement in the summer, but whip them around with a strong wind or pelt them with heavy rain and they can flop over like big, wet rags. Sometimes the stems break, and that spells the beginning of the end for the lovely white flowers.
The best way to keep them standing is to prop them up. Judith King, who writes a Web site devoted to hydrangeas, has several suggestions. She says you can plant them next to a decorative fence, plant three Annabelle shrubs together so they prop each other up, or, early in the spring, surround each plant with a short wire cage. As they leaf out and grow, the foliage hides the cage, and all you see is your tall, lovely hydrangeas, happily standing.
One cultural practice to consider: Some gardeners cut the stems of Annabelles close to the ground in the fall. Since these hydrangeas bloom on new growth, they’ll grow and bloom just fine next summer, but the stems will not have had a chance to thicken. If you leave the stems 18 to 24 inches tall, those stouter stems will help support the newer branches and blooms next year.
As for why the flowers sometimes do poorly after they’re cut (they sometimes wilt within an hour or two), Judith King says this seems to be caused by a sticky substance that clogs up the stem. Try this:
When you go out to cut hydrangeas, take a container of water and put the stem in water immediately after you cut it. Back indoors, boil more water and pour it into another container. Cut the hydrangea stems to the desired length, then stand the stems in the hot water for 30 seconds. Immediately put them into room temperature water in an arrangement. King says it works like a charm.
Got moles? They’re all over – or under — my kitchen garden. My next plan of attack will be a castor oil recipe that’s supposed to encourage them to move on. Read about it over at Turning Toward the Sun: A Garden Journal.