June 5, 2014

Will Hydrangeas Bloom This Summer?

This mophead hydrangea at Ocean Beach was more than four feet tall last summer but shows barely a foot of new growth this week. The Beautification Committee will prune out all the dead stems shortly.
            The coldest winter in recent memory may be over, but its effects linger on in New London and surrounding towns. One of our most-loved landscape shrubs, the mophead hydrangea, was hit hard and is looking decidedly unlovely right now. This is the most familiar hydrangea, the one that is covered with large heads of blue flowers – the signature bloom of the shoreline.

            Most bigleaf hydrangeas were killed back nearly to the ground. Instead of being 4 to 5 feet of lush green by now, our hydrangeas are unlovely bundles of pale bare stems, with a few clusters of leaves near the ground.

The good news: the plants survived. The bad news: they likely will not flower this year.

            The most common varieties of this old-fashioned shrub flower on stems that grew last year. Because the buds died, the plants will probably be green mounds this year. The plants that don't flower this year will come back next year, unless we have two hideous winters in a row.

Many recent Mophead varieties flower on both last year's stems and this year's growth, so they will bloom, although later than usual. The biggest name in rebloomers is Endless Summer®. The flower heads are smaller and some folks find them less fabulous – but they bloom reliably, even in much colder parts of Connecticut than the shoreline. There is a whole line of branded Endless Summer® selections, widely available at good garden centers. Also look for 'David Ramsey' and 'Penny Mac', two  non-branded but very reliable rebloomers.

            So what should an unlucky gardener do? Start by trimming off the dead stuff. It may leave you with a very short plant, but those nude stems will never live again. Use pruners to remove the dead tissue, cutting just above a viable leaf. It's best to do this stem by stem, which may take a while, but is cleaner and better for the shrub than using power shears. If a stem or two winds up a lot taller than the rest, cut it back to a comparable height, always snipping just above a leaf.

            One of the Beautification Committee members, Cheryl Pappas, is a professional horticulturist and has a skilled hand with pruners. She reports she has found buds while working on sad-looking hydrangeas, so there may yet be good news!

            Go ahead and fertilize your hydrangeas too, spreading a few shovelfuls of compost around the crown. Or use a slow-release organic fertilizer such as Plant-tone, following the label directions. If the weather gets hot and dry, consider deep watering plants during drought. Then, alas, you'll just have to wait and see.

Alternate Hydrangeas

            Other, different species of hydrangeas came through the winter just fine. Panicle, oakleaf and arborescens hydrangeas all flower on new growth, so even the most vicious winter won't stop them. They bloom white or pink, however, not the true blue that is so appealing in mopheads.

            If you're considering replacing your hydrangeas or adding some new ones, here's a rundown.

Panicle Hydrangea

Limelight™ Hydrangea displays white flowers in August
'PeeGee' is the old standard Hydrangea paniculata, but the market is full of terrific alternatives. Limelight™ flowers open pure white, and the petals eventually fade to green, then tan. The bloom season is remarkably long, with plants looking good from July to October. Limelight™ gets to be BIG, easily 6 feet tall and wide in a few years, so site it with care. The flowers are terrific for cutting and for drying.

Other big, gorgeous varieties include 'Strawberries and Cream' and Pinky Winky™, whose colors vary from white to pink to wine over the course of a long bloom season.

Fortunately, breeders have also developed several varieties that are compact, reaching only 2-3 feet in height and width, while blooming prolifically. Look for Bobo™, Bombshell™ and Little Lime™.

Panicle hydrangeas can be cut back hard in late winter, to encourage more branching and blooming, but need little care once established.
By September, the flower heads of Limelight have turned green. Shown here with 'Kelvin Floodlight' dahlias

Oakleaf Hydrangeas

Native to the southeastern U.S. Oakleaf hydrangeas (H. quercifolia) also bloom on new wood and are reliable in Connecticut. The leaves have distinctive lobes, reminiscent of oak leaves (duh!) Flower heads tend to be elongated and open, gradually suffusing with pink and deep tones are they age. The foliage turns a vibrant burgundy in the fall and lasts until nearly winter. Oakleafs are more tolerant of shade, although they will bloom best with at least a few hours of sun.

There are a number of selections in the trade, but garden centers are likely to carry just one or two. Mature plants can be 6-8 feet tall and wide, but several dwarf varieties are also available.

Smooth Hydrangeas

H. arborescens used to be the only choice for gardeners in cold climates, if they wanted hydrangeas. The most common variety is 'Annabelle', with enormous pure white flower heads. They are the first hydrangeas to bloom in a normal season. Stems of all the smooth hydrangeas tend to be somewhat floppy, finding it difficult to support the oversize blooms. Typically, gardeners cut this type all the way to the ground in late winter.  

A couple of recent introductions are pink: Bella Anna™ and Invincibelle Spirit™. The individual florets are dainty but the heads are large. It does take several years for the smooth hydrangeas to deliver full-size heads, though. A delightful cut flower. 
Invincibelle Spirit™ is the soft pink flower seen in this mixed bouquet

Renée Beaulieu is a member of the New London Beautification Committee and a UConn Cooperative Extension Master Gardener who grows a lot of hydrangeas.

February 18, 2013

Beautification Awards - 2012

Tita Williams, Mike Passero, Dave Denoia, George Brosofske and Tim Hanser
at City Hall for Beautification Awards Presentation, November 19, 2012
See all the photos of this event on our web album, click to go
Run your mouse over each photo in the album to read the full caption.
Click on each photo to see it full size or to save a photo to your computer.

Each year the Beautification Committee recognizes New London businesses and organisations who have contributed to making New London such a beautiful city.
This year the recipients were Carwild Corporation, City Center District, Connecticut College,
 Harbor Club, Riverside Park Conservancy, Shaw's Landing, and Union Station.

We also thank individuals who have given time and assistance to the committee during the past year.
This year the recipients were Jason Clark and Katie Jordan from CCD, Joshua Radkosky of Joshua Tree Lawn and Garden Services, Matt Klotz for his stone work, Dave Sugrue from Ocean Beach Park, and Dave Denoia, George Brosofske, and Tim Hanser from New London Public Works.

September 25, 2012

New London Night at the Elks Club

New London Night - Honorees
Marty Olsen Jr., Ronald Samul, Ricky Free,  Barbara J. Neff
New London Beautification Committee,
and the City Center District

The Beautification Committee wishes to thank the New London Lodge Of Elks No.360 for the wonderful event they held on Friday, September 17 at the Elks Club.
While the Beautification members often garden together, we seldom get a chance to go to a social event together and we had a great time. Thank you for the award, it was an honor to be recognised along with the other honorees that make such a difference in the city of New London.
A special thanks to all the Elk Club members who worked on this event and prepared the dinner.
A good time was had by all and we thank you for your hospitality.

August 19, 2012

Late Summer at Ocean Beach Park

A late summer video of the Beautification Committee's Hillside Garden at
Ocean Beach Park. Also a reminder, that it is not too late to take a mini
vacation and spend a summer day at this beautiful beach.
 Take the scenic route.

August 12, 2012

Cannas Blooming at Ocean Beach

Cannas growing against the back wall, on the Hillside Garden
at Ocean Beach Park, New London

 Cannas are lush tropical plants, grown as perennials in garden zones 8-11. In northern garden zones like ours (zone 6A) cannas are treated as annuals.
Four years ago, Beautification Committee members Bob Stuller and Mike Wright planted some left- over canna rhizomes along the back wall,  just to see how the plant would do in the Hillside Garden.
Much to their surprise, the cannas have survived the last three winters, each summer looking better and better.
The wall, the cannas are planted against, receives full sun all day and must provide the warmth the plants need to keep them from freezing in the winter. The committee also mulches all the gardens.
Perhaps these two factors have created a micro climate fit for tropical plants.
You can grow cannas in large pots or in the ground. Select a site that is full sun and has moist soil.
Tall varieties should be sheltered from the wind. Plant the canna rhizomes around the time you plant your tomato plants and plant them four or five inches deep.
In the fall, after frost has turned the leaves brown, cut the plant down, leaving about six inches of the stalk. Dig up and divide the rhizomes and store in a cool basement. If the cannas are in pots, just bring the whole pot into the basement and if the cannas are not too crowded, you can just set the pot outside in the middle of May, water well, and in a few weeks the cannas will have new shoots.

July 16, 2012

Thank You to the Gardeners of New London

The Beautification Committee members have been busy taking photos
of some of the great gardens of New London.
The photos are then approved by all the members of the committee, at our monthly meeting,
 and a thank you card is sent to the gardener at that address.
Shown here are two of the first gardeners that received thank you cards.
We hope to add many more in the the future months.
If you have received a card and would like to have your garden photo shown here,
please email us at: nlbcadmin@nlbeautification.org

Remember to just click on the photo image to see the full size page.
It is a great way to see details and ideas that may inspire you in
your own garden.

June 23, 2012

How to grow great Iris

 Ric Silver, from Groton, Ct.,  grows beautiful Jackson & Perkins Iris.
We asked him to share some tips on growing beautiful iris.
Many thanks Ric.

I guess the main thing is to soak the corms in water for about 1/2 an hour before planting - then place them just slightly under the soil - the tuber should protrude from the soil at the plant end - and can even be slightly exposed the full length of the tuber.
Full sun is a must as they will die in the shade - I do have some that are in a spot that is shaded in the afternoon and they bloom later than the others and also the blooms are smaller - they like good brown dirt - but will grow in rocky soil as well - just so it's not gravel or sand. I fertilize once a year with MiracleGro Shake and Feed. If your Iris have stopped blooming - it's probably because they are crowding themselves out - every few years you need to tear up the whole lot - and start over - making sure to separate them well. clip the leaves in an inverted "V" about 2 inches above the corm. Using a 3 prong spade, lift from below and break into sections - even the corms with no greenery will come back if not rotted. I usually do this every 4 to 5 years . Till the soil to clean out the weeds and broken roots and space the corms about 8 to 10 inches or more apart. -Ric Silver-

May 10, 2012

Hosta Video

Hosta is almost the perfect plant for gardens in our area.
This video will give you the basic information on planting and caring for your hosta