Hydrangea “pistachio”

I bought this little gem from Wayside Gardens, a well-known garden mail order catalog. It didn’t bloom the first year it was shipped, which I expected, and last year it just leafed out. This year, it has only grown a little bit, but I am happy that it produced a couple of blooms. I planted it in partial sun/shade and it receives mostly dappled afternoon sun. So far, it’s just a wee little shrub.

I am delighted.

About six inches across, it has a violet blue center, somewhat like a lacecap – not sure if this is a true lacecap, if so the surrounding petals are much more dominant. I love the color. No photo apps or filters, I am eager to watch this grow and continue to bloom. Most of my “pink” hydrangeas have turned blue.  How will it evolve as the blooms age? I am eager to see!

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Master Gardener Demo Garden

I am so lucky to have this garden in my work backyard. I went out yesterday to see what insect wildlife I could shoot. It was so hot and humid, and there wasn’t much activity. It rained heavily last night, and with raindrops lingering on petals and cooler temperatures, I was more fortunate on my second attempt. Here’s some selections:

More photos on our Flickr gallery, where they can be downloaded and reproduced under the Creative Commons license: https://www.flickr.com/photos/carvel/sets/72157655011651581/show

If you are on a mobile device, the slide show may not play. View photos here.

All Tangled up!

Beside my addiction to gardening and taking photos of what I and other people grow, I am also enthralled with mobile device photography apps!

I found this nifty little number called Tangledfx (effects) and it’s the best $2 I have ever spent. I have been disappointed with many photo apps, but not this one.

Behold my original lacecap  hydrangea taken in my backyard, which looks lovely on its own

Then I tried one of TangledFX’s  filters, I think this is called Swirl. Kind of has a Van Gogh effect:

This one renders a stained glass look. It can be produced with white or black edges.


This one is a little more delicate than the Van Gogh (not the effect’s real name )

And this last sample I will show today is very ethereal. In the mood for a Fairy Garden? Waiting for Tinkerbell!


There are about 16 “presets” with the app. They add varying degrees of fibers, strokes, swirls and outlines. Some will make your photographs look like a cartoon or an expensive woodcut.

My garden, my flower, my photo—I feel I can take a lot of the credit, but with some help from TangledFX, the potential for some amazing pictures emerge. I could see these made into logos, or if printed on high quality paper, framed as very nice gifts.

You’re bound to see some more examples. Like any obsession, well, one has to be obsessed!  Next to my Waterlogue app, this photo app has to be my all time favorite for botanicals. But it works pretty good on animals too:

Mom and her hydrangeas

In Delaware, hydrangeas bloom in June, but I always think of hydrangeas in May because of Mother’s Day.

My mother did not have a green thumb. I never saw mom kneeling and weeding in a garden. I only recall a few occasions with fresh-cut flowers in a vase on a table or counter. Mom went for plastic, and later in the 1970s and 1980s, the silk arrangements that were oh so fashionable and given to her as gifts throughout the years, accumulated in our home as decor accents. Slightly faded fabric petals of pink, yellow and blue held their faux bloom (and quite a bit of dust if truth be told) until her death in 2001.

  

Mom had one saving grace with gardening. She knew how to hold and point a hose. As luck would have it, a summer cottage my parents bought in the 1960s in Brigantine, New Jersey came framed in hydrangea macrophyllas. Big, blue cooling balls would erupt along the sides of our modest, white, one- story beach house and my mother succeeded in never killing them. In her mind, that made her a gardener. In the Brigantine summers, we had hamburgers, hot dogs and fresh hydrangeas on the table.

Vivid memories of her in a button down sleeveless shirt, madras plaid pedal pushers and rubber flip flops, watering hydrangeas, are etched in my mind as a standard, summer experience. Holding a green hose mom slowly made her way around the perimeter of the square cottage unloading healthy gulps of water upon the leaves. I watched her push pennies into the soil with her fingers.

“They make the flowers turn blue,” she said of the practice I have since learned is an old wives’ tale.

Her one horticulture knack was being able to propagate the leaves in water. In the summer we’d have a few plastic cups filled halfway with water and some hydrangea leaves sprouting tiny and tender white roots. Mom would give these starters away. I took her simple horticulture practice, trying to run with it, but I did not inherit this particular talent. Though I try, I can only get so far with this technique.


When mom died in March, 2001, we adorned the church altar with her favorite flower. The hot house hydrangeas, ready for the Easter market, were big and showy and powerfully pink. They surrounded her casket as she recieved the priest’s blessings. I took one of these funeral bouquets home with me and I planted it in a new house we were building and where I thought it would thrive. I hoped some of the Holy Water, which had landed on the leaves, might give the shrub a splash of good luck.

We had planned on mom living with us and had had a room ready for her. She never got to move in let alone see the house. Having that hydrangea grow symbolized she would be near.

The pink blooms faded away later that spring and did not return. The next year the plant grew to shrub size, but would not bloom.

That summer at work, I asked the horticultre Extension agent what was wrong.

“It might not ever bloom,” he said, “since it was raised in a hot house for the Easter market. You’ll just have to wait and see.”

Another summer went by and it grew big and luscious and green. But no blooms!

I didn’t push any pennies in the soil to help it along. By then I knew it was all about aluminum and pH and all that kind of stuff.  I planted other hydrangeas, one, Nikko Blue, a very old fashioned, powder blue, thrived on the other side of the house. It grew like bonkers. I kept adding different varieties – some oakleafs and lacecaps and limelights all did well. One way or another I was determined that some type of hydrangeas would grow on my property! These other hydrangeas showed off, pushing forth in panicles, round puff balls and dainty lacecaps. All except mom’s funeral hydrangea.

Geesh. Had I planted “mom’s” hydrangeas in the wrong spot?

My answer arrived in the third year, when mom’s gardening spirit and inspiration shouted in profuse young limes and teenage blues! Here’s the photo of mom’s original pink funeral flowers on its first rebloom, three years later.


Mom’s macrophylla is now the showiest hydrangeas on our property. This photo, the blooms are young. As they age they turn the most beautiful deep, purply blue.

Botanically speaking, Mother’s Day always arrives a month late in my house. Mom inspired my love of hydrangeas and all the hydrangeas varieties I’ve planted since.  Through them, memories of her follow me both inside, in vases and jars, and outside as far as my hose will stretch. Their blooms remind me of those Sixties’ summers in Brigantine where I spent June, July and August around bumblebees, spigots and cool water from a green hose that splashed on crunchy green leaves and a little girl’s toes.  Happy Mother’s Day Urusla Walsh Dorsey!

Mom and I in Wilmington, Delaware. I don’t have any photos of her in New Jersey, but this was definitely her gardening (or hose watering ) outfit!
I like to bring my hydrangeas inside to enjoy!
Photo credit: Michele Walfred

Lovin the Limelight

My hydrangeas took a horrendous hit this past winter. We had sustained cold blast, followed by a tricky warm period, which was followed promptly by another sustained cold spell. All but one of my macrophyllas and lace caps did not bloom this year.  Since I am so heavily invested in hydrangeas, I had a marvelous display of brown twigs to show off this year. This is a split photo showing 2014 atop 2013. Fortunately, there was green leafs at the crown and the plant did green out by summer’s end. It just didn’t bloom:

One of many hydrangeas that under performed in 2014
One of many hydrangeas that under performed in 2014

Fortunately my love for my mother’s favorite plant, caused me to diversify my hydrangea collection. I have two Oakleaf hydrangeas that did very well and were not affected by the late frost. Last year, I bought a Limelight hydrangea and its first year, it set out a couple of blossoms, but nothing spectacular. This year, my sole Limelight must have sensed my hydrangea deficiency, because it delighted me throughout the summer.

I didn’t detect too much lime in the limelight. The blossoms which arrived in late July and August looked like they came right out of a bridal catalog!

At first the limelight blossoms were almost a perfect white!
At first the limelight blossoms were almost a perfect white!
This limelight, close up with a macro lens, is fit for a bride, don't you think?
This limelight, close up with a macro lens, is fit for a bride, don’t you think?
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The panicles were bright and puffy
This limelight panicle showed just a feather's hint of pink
This limelight panicle showed just a feather’s hint of pink
This one demonstrated the signature subtle lime color
This one demonstrated the signature subtle lime color

I just had to bring them indoors to enjoy, using some variegated hydrangea foliage that did not bloom this year!

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I was conflicted in cutting and removing any of these blooms! As the ones that remained aged, they began to intensify their colors of lime and pink!

I think I have a new favorite variety!
I think I have a new favorite variety!

Yes, the summer of 2014 was less than spectacular for my reliable show-stoppers – the lacecaps and macrophyllas! So glad another hydrangea decided to hog the limelight!