Sunday, July 17, 2016

Bluebird and Amethyst

Mostly the hydrangeas in my garden are doing well enough, despite the very dry season. The panicle hydrangeas are a little limp but seem to be all right.  A small 'Preziosa' macrophylla hydrangea by the patio is not too wilted -- it gets extra water every time I fill the birdbath.

And the climbing hydrangea on the pergola over the garage actually looks very good.

It flowered along the top this year. Climbing hydrangea blooms are never very spectacular, but it was nice to see it flowering well. It's a subtle showing, though.

But how lush and big this woody climber has gotten, and how beautifully it has followed my plan to rise up at the side of the garage door and then run out along the pergola. It took some doing to get that to happen, and it was never that pleased about being in full sun with a west exposure, but now, ten years on, it's doing exactly what I had envisioned.

A hydrangea that is not doing what I pictured, though, is H. serrata 'Bluebird'. The plant is fine. It's round and leafy. It's there. But that's all I can say about it.

I had envisioned deep blue lacecap flowers all over it, and had seen similar 'Bluebird' hydrangeas just billowing with blue flowers at Chanticleer, but in all the years this one has been in my garden it has barely flowered. It just sits there every year, all green, then turns an odd purple in fall.

Spring frost always nips the buds so that only one or two survive on the interior of the plant.

Or erratic winters kill all the buds outright. It just never blooms. The shrub is healthy enough, it's a rounded filler at this end of the garden, but I think I want to replace 'Bluebird' with something else that would make me happier. This is not the bluebird of happiness for me at all.

The other hydrangea that is exasperating me is an oakleaf hydrangea 'Amethyst'. It has taken several years to get any size, finally did last year, and it looked wonderful when it turned deep garnet red in late fall.

But this summer it is dying, a branch at a time. Since spring I have been cutting off one wilted stem after another, until now I have lost over half the shrub. Oof, this looks bad.

It's not lack of water. I have been making sure it gets water, and the ground is damp enough. But week after week, since May, it has wilted and lost branches. Soon nothing will be left. You can see the empty base where I have been cutting it down.

Like 'Bluebird', 'Amethyst' did not bloom this year. Oakleaf hydrangeas have some of the most spectacular flower cones, but not this plant. It's actually never bloomed for me.

This hydrangea may have to be taken out too. I don't know why it is declining so precipitously, but it is maddening. This was just becoming a great shrub accent at the front of this garden.

So, while the other hydrangeas here carry on, 'Bluebird' and 'Amethyst' are on borrowed time in my garden. One because it is full and leafy but a big disappointment, and the other because I think I have killed it. 

I have some digging to do this fall.


  1. It is interesting to read this. My oak leaf hydrangea is spectacular this year, despite not producing a single flower last year. My blue flower hydrangea is leafing well and really filling out, but not even a hint of blue flower this year. I keep hoping it is just a late bloomer this season.

    1. I would love to see your spectacular oakleaf. There is something seriously wrong (disease) with mine. The blue flowered hydrangeas are a miss this year because we got a sharp frost in early April -- the only cold we really had all winter -- and it killed their buds. They are so susceptible. The plants themselves are fine, though. I'm getting frustrated with hydrangeas in general!!