Bostonians may have swan boats, the Gardner Museum, and the Public Gardens, but they are unable to grow hydrangeas in the same manner that we can.
Mother Nature gave these lovely bushes to Cape Cod gardeners as a gift. Unfortunately, they’ve drawn criminals who prowl the night, gathering garbage bags full of flowers to sell to big city florists. For that, we may thank Martha Steward. But in addition to paying exorbitant sums for the flower, she also revived interest in gardens in this traditional, long-lived plant.
Mal Condon, who owns a hydrangea farm on Nantucket, at least gives that person credit. Condon spends the rest of the year propagating and cultivating up to 300 different species of hydrangea on the island while wintering in New Zealand, which is an even hotter location for hydrangea. How fortunate can one individual be?
When he and his wife Mary Kay operated an inn, the retired engineer and avid gardener gave away his plants. One was handed to each guest as a present after they made a big deal out of them. Condon had become an expert in hydrangeas by the time they decided to sell the inn.
I began to grow seriously after we moved into a new home, he claims. Only Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are open at the farm on Madaket Road.
He grinned broadly and said, “I need to give time for fishing. The man is a wise man.
For the collector, Condon refers to his farm as a nursery. I basically gather things. I made the decision to sell my collections. He sells 7,500 plants annually, the majority of which are two-year-old stock in 3 1/2 by 5 inch pots. He ships all over the nation because of the Internet. He also sells plants up to seven liters, but the larger ones cannot be shipped.
Condon has spent 30 years learning which cultivars thrive on the Cape and islands. Climate is the key factor. The Cape has no spring, a mild summer, and a lengthy, spectacular fall, similar to Nantucket. Winters are less consistent. Thankfully, a large number of hydrangea cultivars enjoy chilly springs, temperate summers, and acidic soil. Greetings from Cape Cod!
The buds may swell in mild winters, but if it gets really cold, they may snap off, losing the flowers for the year. Condon advises enclosing plants in air-permeable Frostcloth, then stuffing the interior with pine needles. Alternately, surround the plant with four stakes, wrap, and stuff. The ideal solution is a chicken wire cage that has been wrapped and filled with needles. Given that they can survive for more than 100 years and become tougher as they age, the trouble is worthwhile. Wait until the plant has lost all of its leaves after a fatal frost (around early December).
early April for unwrapping. But be prepared to rewrap in case of early spring frost. When the earth is frozen and the air temperature is above freezing, water the plant if the winter is dry.
While most people associate hydrangeas with blue flowers, they are now also available in pink, green, white, blue-white, purple, and even red. They come in lacecape or mophead varieties, which Condon refers to as bulletproof.
Nikko Blue has reached maturity, according to Condon. He doesn’t much like Endless Summer either. He seeks out cultivars that are tough, reluctant to emerge from winter dormancy, produce blooms on both fresh and old wood, and are hardy to zones 5 to 6A. What does he suggest for the Cape, then?
Mademoiselle Emile Mouillere, a white mophead; Nantucket Nikko, Penny Mac, and David Ramsey for all blue-pink mopheads; Tokyo Delight, a white-blue lace cape; Lilacina, a blue lacecape; and Blue Deckle, a blue lacecape.
His next best options are Decateur Blue, a blue-pink mophead, Little Geisha, a white to pink mophead, Lady in Red, a red to white lacecap with dark foliage, and White Wave, a pink and white lacecap.
He also likes Red Sensation, a wonderful red mophead, and Paniculata Pinky-Winky, a plant with a lot of sterile seeds in panicle-shaped blossoms. These lovely flowers are not the hydrangeas your grandmother grew.
While Condon claims that the color of the blooms can only be increased and that it only affects mopheads, people often talk about changing their color. It all comes down to the soil’s pH, which should be between 5.0 and 5.6 for blue blooms and at least 6.0 for pink blossoms. Medium blue cultivars will bloom with a more intense blue/pink hue when exposed to aluminum sulfate. Use iron sulfate or elemental sulfur, then apply it in the spring after the land has been moistened. A lower pH can be maintained by using miracid.
Add dolomite lime to the soil in the fall to neutralize it and elevate the pH for pinks and reds. Add water after using half to one cup per plant. Additionally, compost improves soil neutrality. Strongly acidic soil needs a few years to become sweet.
Condon is a wealth of knowledge about hydrangeas. Avoid plants that are lanky and overgrown. Position them towards east.
He says, “They enjoy the morning sunshine but appreciate shade from the midday sun.
Prior to planting, aerate the soil. In the long run, it will be beneficial. And incorporate windbreak-producing plants like evergreens into your garden. While overhanging tree canopies offer shade and cold protection, foundations radiate warmth. Osmacote should be fed slowly, and if necessary, deer repellent should be sprayed.
Pruning, which Condon characterizes as both art and aesthetics as well as technology, is last but certainly not least. Keep in mind that it should be finished in April for the next year. By eliminating wasted flowers and cutting to the new buds, older shrubs can be kept robust. Old canes with flaky bark should be disposed of completely. Branch out to allow light to reach the center for fresh growth. Create the plant’s fundamental network. Learn what lies beneath the blossoms. Take note of the plant’s form. Don’t let aesthetics scare you; they are subjective.
This year, Timber Press released Michael A. Dirr’s excellent reference work, Hydrangeas for American Gardens. $29.95.
Why do hydrangeas flourish in Cape Cod so well?
Manager of Pine Tree Nursery and Landscaping in South Chatham Jeanie Gillis describes herself as a “mad hydrangea person.” When you hear her talk about the beautiful plant, you can tell how much she loves it and how much she knows about it. Gillis, a former president of the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society, claimed she can locate a variety for every setting.
She laughed, “I may be a touch extreme. I make an effort to stock every variety of hydrangea that can flourish on Cape Cod as a consequence. I wish to satisfy everyone’s hydrangea requirements. The summer and into the fall, hydrangeas can add color and beauty. I’ll make an effort to locate any rare varieties they might be looking for. I will make an effort to fulfill a customer’s request for a rare type. In addition, I have staple varieties that anyone can grow everywhere.
Although hydrangeas are among the most widely used flowering shrubs in Massachusetts landscapes, they are not actually local species. Despite their apparent abundance on the Cape, they are really imported from other farmers all along the coast and beyond in the country. Because of the soil and environment, they simply grow incredibly well here.
“We work with a number of producers all throughout the East Coast. We really enjoy cooperating with a grower in Mattapoisett, according to Gillis. We benefit greatly from him. But because I’m obsessed with them, I buy them wherever I can. A full vase is lovely. It’s breathtaking to see even one floating in a bowl. They truly appeal to people because of their aged, antique appearance.
Where you live on the Cape will determine how well your hydrangeas do. You could require a harder kind that is more resilient to somewhat colder climates in other regions, off-Cape. Chatham and the neighboring areas are slightly warmer than the rest of the Cape due to the ocean climate on the outer Cape.
Oceanfront residents adore blue hydrangeas. In fact, one of the garden’s distinctive plants is the blue hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla). People in this area frequently possess it since it makes them think of the water. Once they are established, hydrangeas are low maintenance. According to Gillis, they require relatively little upkeep and are quite tolerant of mistakes.
Hydrangeas are incredibly simple to locate everywhere—online, at nurseries, even at the grocery store. Additionally, Pine Tree Nursery sells a wide variety of full, healthy kinds so that you can enjoy blooms all summer long.
According to Gillis, there are variants for full sun, deep shadow, and even partial shade. ” The Endless Summer series is excellent for season-long flowers. She said, “There are also hydrangea kinds that can withstand droughts and hydrangeas that prefer water.” To please them, install soaker hoses or drip watering.
Hydrangeas are something we want to maintain in stock all summer long,” Gillis remarked. “I like to wait until they are in bloom so that people can simply plant them in pots. I enjoy creating “living fences” made up entirely of them. You desire something in a pot at your front step. I understand that. One of my favorite activities is unloading a truck of hydrangeas.
Do hydrangeas naturally occur on Cape Cod?
Red, white, green, purple, and pink. climber, dwarf, tree, and shrub. Beyond the traditional blue beauty, there is a hydrangea for every type of environment.
Since Martha Stewart introduced the world to the flowering shrub in the 1980s, hydrangeas have been regarded as Cape Cod’s signature flower. There were rumors that thieves were breaking into the vacation homes on the Cape and Islands, stripping shrubs naked, and hauling off hydrangeas to sell for exorbitant rates in Boston and Manhattan. Soon, you might find hydrangeas on street corners in large cities.
Hydrangeas have, of course, not always been so popular. Hydrangeas were viewed in the 1960s as stuffy, traditional flowers that only your grandma would like—certainly not hip enough for the Swinging Sixties.
The few species then available—big blue mopheads and towering white paniculatas—were being replaced by massed beach grasses and chic, minimum foliages imported from all over the world by Cape homeowners.
Stewart then started writing books like Entertaining (1982), which praised traditional garden flowers like poppies, peonies, daffodils, and hydrangeas. This was at the start of the 1980s. In Westport, Connecticut, the town in Fairfield County where Stewart’s empire first took off, many of these flowers were grown in Stewart’s backyard gardens.
I was born and raised in Westport, and when I was a young reporter for the Westport News, one of my first interviews was with Martha Stewart for a piece on her recently launched catering company. When I visited her house, I was in awe of both her gardens, which were quite lovely at the time, and the country kitchen, which was subsequently extensively documented in Entertaining.
We strolled into her backyard gardens, which were teeming with exquisite vegetables and vintage flowers. I don’t recall seeing any hydrangeas, but what Martha adored soon became the pinnacle of country style.
While not native to Cape Cod or the Islands (like that other regional favorite, Rosa rugosa), hydrangeas have long flourished in our sandy soil and humid summer environment despite the fact that they are very traditional flowers. Since Stewart brought the flower back to life, there are now thousands of different hydrangea kinds, much like dandelions, which are not native to the area.
In deep rose, there are miniature hydrangeas “Pink Elf), nearly luminescent hydrangeas (“Limelight” and “Annabelle”), and even yellow cultivars are being developed by growers.
Of course, the majority of people still like the traditional blue hydrangeas.
Without blue hydrangeas, what is a garden on the Cape or Islands? However, there are numerous types of blue hydrangeas available in modern nurseries.
I could go on and on about hydrangeas, but this is a narrative about how to cultivate and trim hydrangeas, a subject that is also the subject of fervent debate. There are several particular care challenges that apply to hydrangeas.
We’ve sought advice from specialists, and I’ve relied on years of experience cultivating hydrangeas in our garden, including the flamboyant “Nikko Blues” near our back door and the coy “Annabelles and Annabelle.” “Limelights hidden beneath shady covers.
Regarding Martha Stewart, she has come a long way since she showed me in her Westport kitchen how to dry herbs. Naturally, she has also provided me with a fantastic tale to share about my early days of writing about the pleasures of gardening.
What kinds of hydrangeas grow in Cape Cod?
This collaboration with the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society was started in 2010. About 155 different Hydrangea species and cultivars are on display in the garden. Hydrangea macrophylla is the most common species, but Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea serrata are also widely distributed. The Garden has expanded yearly and now contains a large number of ‘historic’ varieties that are uncommon in the marketplace. Typically, hydrangeas bloom from early July until late September.
Why is Nantucket covered in hydrangeas?
A tour featuring the most incredible variety of lavender, violet, blue, and pink blossoms
Few places are as vivid and abundant with hydrangea blooms as the island of Nantucket. A stunning variety of purples, blues, pinks, periwinkles, and lavenders are produced thanks to the soil, temperatures, and moisture levels 30 miles out to sea.
The final week of June through the third week of July is often the greatest time to witness the best and brightest of the season (or the end depending on the heat and rain throughout the month). On July 9, we went hydrangea-hunting, and this was the harvest we got to take home. Browse through our photo gallery to discover Sconset and downtown at their most vibrant.