Hortense Hoelove provides advice to the plant-lorn amongst us, those who are struggling with their plant and garden relationships.
My Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’ flowers are pink! But when I bought it all the flowers were blue! I feel betrayed, let down. I thought for sure this plant was right for me, I could just tell when we first met. And I had the perfect place for a plant with blue flowers. Now I feel like the plant just wasn’t being honest with me when we were dating at the garden center. I don’t know what happened but I know that for sure this isn’t the plant I thought it was when I let it put down roots in my garden! Whatever should I do? Kick it to the compost pile? Is this typical for plants to change their ways once you’ve planted them in your garden?
Longing for Blue,
I hate to tell you this, but sometimes it isn’t the plant, it's where you planted the plant and in what type of soil. Hydrangeas like ‘Endless Summer’ need acidic soil to produce blue flowers. In alkaline soil, their flowers will be pink. You have two choices. You can accept the plant for what it is now, which is what I’ve done, or you can try to acidify your soil with soil amendments like sulfur. If you insist on trying to change the flower's color by changing the soil pH, check with your local cooperative extension service to find out what the typical soil pH is in your area and how best to acidify the soil.
But I really think you should just go apologize to your Hydrangea and love it for who and what it is!
How many times should I try to grow a particular species of plant that keeps dying in my garden?
Zsa Zsa Gardener
Dear Zsa Zsa,
One of the good things about gardening is that you can try as many times as you would like to get a particular plant to grow in your garden. And you can do it in private. You are the only one who needs to know how many times you've tried to grow a particular type of plant. And you are the only one who needs to know how much money you’ve spent on plants that just don't make it in your garden. Unlike relationships with other life forms, which can be so messy to end properly, your relationship with a plant can end as quickly as you can pull it out and toss it in the compost bin.
However, I recommend that if you are known for trying too often with the wrong kind of plant that you bury the evidence of failure way in the bottom of the compost pile so that no one else finds out. Oh, wait, maybe a better option would be to find out why you can’t grow a particular plant before you try to grow it again and again and again. Seek out a garden club or other support group for plant relationship help.
Why am I attracted to plants that just aren’t right for me? I’m always wanting to grow a plant that isn't suitable for my zone, even though I know in the end the plant will freeze to death and I’ll be out the money I paid for it. Our relationship always starts out so well in the spring and seems to be taking root by summer. Yet right after the holidays, the plant will often just up and die on me! But yet, even after having this happen more times than I should admit in print, I’d love to have a relationship with a crepe myrtle and I’m in zone 5. Will it ever work out for me?
Longing for the South,
I have good news for you, Zoe. There is a crepe myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica ‘Coral Filli’, that is supposed to be hardy to zone 4 and I’ve got it planted in my zone 5 garden right now! Even though I planted it this spring, I feel like we are establishing a good long term relationship that will last for many years. Just remember that this crepe myrtle is only going to be a small shrub, maybe 12 – 18 inches tall. It is never going to be the smooth barked, multi-stemmed, often mis-pruned tree growing throughout the south. But it is a crepe myrtle and zone jumpers can’t be picky, can we?
Y’all Have A Nice Day,