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The Beautiful Temperamental Hydrangea

Pink hydrangea

Pink Hydrangea

I’m not a gardener, but I love flowers. Growing up our daughter, Laurie, realized my love for them as we cared for mountain laurel, white and orange azaleas, wild pink azaleas, white dogwoods and purple border grass growing outdoors while violets and peace lilies bloomed amid our house plants. After she moved away she visited and brought me a beautiful hydrangea, lush with pink blossoms.

Blue hydrangea

Blue Hydrangea

My husband, Rick, planted it beside the mountain laurel. I checked on it frequently to make sure it flourished. One day I looked out the window and my mouth gaped. I showed the plant to Rick. “Am I nuts, or were those blue flowers pink?”

He scratched his head. “You’re right.”

“There’s something wrong. I don’t want Laurie to come home, see the plant and think I didn’t take care of it.”

“I’ll dig it up and replace it tomorrow.”

Good to his word, Rick dug up the blue hydrangea and planted another pink one. I took extra care watering it, hoping it would look great when Laurie came to visit. Nope. Right before she arrived, it turned blue. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I went outside and stared at the bush as though I could will it back to pink.

My neighbor came over, and I shared my problem.

She said, “Hydrangeas often change color when they’re transplanted. My mother used to put rusty nails in the ground to make them blue.”

“Ohh, I’ll look into that.” We had plenty of nails.

My neighbor left to get her mail, and I came in the house to read about hydrangeas. I discovered a colored one adapts to its environment and is affected by the soil’s PH. Adding aluminum to the earth changes a pink hydrangea to blue, but switching blue to pink required ground limestone. It needed to be added to the dirt when the flower was planted and could take months to turn the blossoms pink. Perhaps Laurie would forget what color flower she bought.

The first time she visited she breezed by the window, turned around and stared at the hydrangea. “Mom, is that the plant I gave you for Mother’s Day?”

“Not exactly.” I explained. From then on we all knew to look for blue blossoms.

***

Hydrangea no flowers

The Hydrangea that didn’t bloom

This year for the first time since we planted the second hydrangea, it didn’t bloom. After hearing from many friends that theirs didn’t either, we asked the nursery why. According to them, unusually harsh winter conditions right at the time hydrangeas started to bud, killed them. We pruned ours. They said that was fine, or it was all right not to prune them. We had covered the plant during the cold snap, but the nursery said it didn’t help because of the timing of the drop in temperature. Their directions were to water it every four days unless it rains.

But all wasn’t lost. A friend gave me a new purple hydrangea. It’s now turning blue.

Recently planted hydrangea changing color - was purple

Recently planted purple hydrangea changing color

 

Gail Pallotta with Mountain Laurel

Gail Pallotta with Mountain Laurel

Flower lover / writer Gail Pallotta enjoys surrounding herself with flora and plants. Her favorite flowers as a child and teen were the camellias her father grew, but when she moved away from her native home near the mountains, she insisted on having a mountain laurel shrub to remind her of the hills. They don’t grow as well in the warmer Georgia climate, but they’ve flourished in the shade near Gail’s house. When Gail isn’t caring for her flowers or making arrangements she writes inspirational Christian books with romance and mystery. You can learn more about her at http://www.gailpallotta.com

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