Hortense Hoelove Answers Your Plant Relationship Questions

Hortense Hoelove provides advice to the plant-lorn amongst us, those who are struggling with their plant and garden relationships.

Dear Hortense,

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,
Feona Flowerlover

Dear Feona,

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!

Hortense Hoelove

Dear Hortense,

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.

Hortense Hoelove

Dear Hortense,

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,
Zoe Zonechallenged

Dear Zoe,

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,
Hortense Hoelove


  1. Oh, Indy, dear one, I fear you have gone over. Asking questions and answering them back. Sort of an advanced form of talking to yourself. Seek help.

  2. MA, I think it's another facet of Carol's spoonful-of-sugar-helps-the-medicine-go-down approach. She's not any loonier than she ever was.

  3. It takes one to know one. I think she is perfectly sane. Funny too.

  4. But I am starting to worry - the last name here is in questionable taste! ;^)

  5. Not any loonier than she ever was. High praise indeed! But how nice to get a good laugh on a Friday night after a long week.

  6. Dearest Ms. Hoelove,

    I'm in love with Pieris japonica "mountain fire" and everyone tells me we are not compatible because I live on the wrong side of Chicago. I find the photo of your crepe myrtle to be very intriguing but it's not quite tall enough. I need a shrub about as tall as me (5'). If you should ever come across another shrub with red new grown changing to green, that's taller, will you please post a mention of it?

    And thanks so much for the wonderful advice service you provide.

    Your fan,

  7. The Head Gardener here on MCOK has no questions for Hortense at the moment but I'll pass them along to Carol if the HG thinks of any. Oh, wait, she does want to know ... is Hortense's theme song Hoe Lotta Love, by any chance?

  8. Carol, I think Ms. Hoelove is going to fill a void here in garden bloggers' land. Ignore all those nasty comments from others about the state of your sanity. There are many of us who need her advice. For example, would you pass along this question for her?---I've had a serious case of daylily envy for quite some time. I'm going to my first-ever daylily farm this week. Should I take a set amount of cash or take the credit card with the high credit limit?? Keep in mind, Ms. H, that I am going with my friend Beckie, a serious plant buying enabler.

  9. Dear Hortense, I'm so glad I found your blog. It's wonderful.

    I have a question. My garden in NE Ohio is a first year garden so it has a lot of growing to do. I'm thrilled with its progress so far. In the spring when I was just beginning to plant I had trouble with Chompers I and II, a chipmunk and a squirrel. I kept them at bay with a product called Liquid Fence made with rotten eggs and garlic. Smells bad until it dries. Lasts for a couple months. It really works.

    Now I'm dreading the onset of Japanese beetles. Have not seen any yet but I see them in nearby gardens in ones and twos.

    My question: Do you think there may be any possibility of this product repelling the dread JBs?

  10. Thanks all for the nice comments and for asking Hortense more questions. She'll be posting again next Friday with answers to these and any other questions that are left here as comments.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  11. I was once told to pour vinegar on soil for blue and drive nails in soil for pink. Is this true?

  12. Ms. Hoelove's answers to Zsa Zsa's question reminded me of Julia Child's exhortation to cook because no one can see what you're doing in your own kitchen. I hope Ms. Hoelove returns with more answers later. She really knows what she's doing.~~Dee

  13. I enjoyed your gardening journal.

  14. I think Hortense Hoelove might have a cousin named Dorothy Dix!


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