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Gift of hydrangeas to adorn museum grounds

Bloomstruck hydrangeas were among 75 plants Bailey Nurseries donated recently to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Photo courtesy Irvin Etienne

Endless Summer may be the best selling series of hydrangeas, but they frequently come with a lot of questions, with the main one being “why won’t my plants bloom?”

For answers, I went to the source.

Ryan McEnaney is a public relations and communications specialist at Bailey Nurseries in St. Paul, Minnesota. He’s a third generation member of the Bailey family, which has been breeding and selling plants for nearly 120 years. Bailey introduced Endless Summer hydrangeas in 2004, marketing them as rebloomers. For gardeners, that translates into flowers all summer long.

With perhaps a slight smile, he suggested mulching Endless Summer hydrangeas 6 to 12 inches of chopped leaves to protect them through winter. The flower buds, which are formed late in summer for the following year’s blooms, frequently get frozen when temperatures take a dip in spring. The mulch protects the plants from that danger. “But who is going to do that,” I asked? We both laughed and agreed not very many of us.

Bloomstruck’s long season of flowers makes it perfect for a summer container on the porch, patio or balcony, or as a focal point in the garden. Photo courtesy Bailey Nurseries

Reblooming hydrangeas bloom in early summer on stems that wintered over and then later on current season growth to provide flowers all summer. Whatever you do, don’t prune them until the plants have leafed out fully in spring. And then remove stems that have not leafed out or cut them back to where there are green leaves, he said.

“Don’t over fertilize them, which just encourages green growth,” he said. “Fertilize once in spring and if you think it’s needed, in summer.”

He said Bailey’s newer introduction of BloomStruck has hardier flower buds, which makes them handle winter better. Other tips: plant them in a partly shady location and water regularly.

McEnaney was in town recently to donate 75 woody plants, including Bailey’s Endless Summer BloomStruck hydrangeas (H. macrophylla), to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Also in the mix were Bailey’s First Editions’ Jetstream oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia) and Summer Cascade wisteria (W. macrostachya), two new cultivars of native plants.

Irvin Etienne, horticultural display coordinator at the IMA, said Bailey’s donation allows the museum to try new plants in areas that need attention while freeing up the budget for other improvements.

Blue or pink big leaf hydrangeas?

Big-leaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla), such as BloomStruck, Let’s Dance and many others, will have pink flowers in Indiana and other Midwestern gardens, because our soil tends to be alkaline (high pH). An acidic soil (low pH) is what turns the flower color into the blue range. Here are some more tips.

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July garden checklist

Indoors

  • For best selection, order spring-flowering bulbs for fall planting. Many bulb merchants will wait to ship the bulbs until closer to planting time, which usually is late fall and early winter. Photo courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

    For best selection, order spring-flowering bulbs for fall planting. Many bulb merchants will wait to ship the bulbs until closer to planting time, which usually is late fall and early winter. Photo courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

    Keep an eye on houseplants that have been set outdoors to make sure they are watered properly. Hot summer breezes can quickly dry them out.

  • Propagate houseplants by taking cuttings from vigorously growing plants. Root in moistened growing medium, such as perlite, vermiculite or soilless mixes. Keep moist, enclosed in plastic and out of direct sunlight until rooted. The amount of time it takes to root varies according to plant and growing conditions.

General landscape

  • Supplement rainfall to newly planted nursery stock, gardens and lawns if needed to supply 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water each week or 10 days.
  • Container-grown plants can be planted anytime, but make sure new stock is well watered.
  • Keep grass at 3 ½ to 4 inches tall to conserve moisture.
  • Don’t remove clippings from the lawn unless grass is excessively tall. Clippings return nutrients to the soil and do not contribute to thatch buildup.
  • Apply mulch around young plants and in flower and vegetable gardens to conserve soil moisture and control weeds. Do not allow mulch to touch stems or trunks.
  • Remove water sprouts (from trunk) and suckers (sprouts from roots) on fruit trees, including crabapples and other ornamental trees. See illustration below.
  • Illustration courtesy www.tlcfortrees.com

    Illustration courtesy www.tlcfortrees.com

    Pinch off faded rose blossoms and other flowers. Deadheading, or picking off the faded flowers of many perennials and annuals keeps them blooming longer and tidies up the plants.

  • To rejuvenate summer-stressed plants, cut annuals and perennials back by about one-half, water well and apply an application of water soluble fertilizer.

Vegetables and fruits

  • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and ornamental kale and cabbage for late summer plantings and fall harvest.
  • Harvest tomatoes, squash, okra, peppers, beans and cucumbers frequently to encourage further production.
  • Complete succession planting of bush beans and sweet corn.
  • Standard sweet corn is at its peak for only a day or so. The super sweet corn maintains its peak quality longer. Harvest when silks begin to dry and kernels exude a milky, rather than watery or doughy juice when punctured.
  • Broccoli seedlings. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau

    Broccoli seedlings. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau

    Make sure potato tubers, carrot shoulders and onion bulbs are covered with soil to prevent development of green color and off flavors. Apply mulch to keep them covered.

  • Allow blossoms on newly planted strawberries to develop for a fall crop.
  • Prop up fruit tree branches that are loaded heavily with fruit.
  • Harvest raspberries when fully colored and easily separated from stem. After harvest, prune out fruiting canes.