HomeNewsMONTY DON: Dry summers do hydrangeas no favours, so give them a...

MONTY DON: Dry summers do hydrangeas no favours, so give them a head start

This spring I planted seven hydrangeas – three ‘Annabelle’ and 4 ‘Limelight’. The intention was to supply a steady show from early summer time into autumn, with the massive, spherical white flowers of ‘Annabelle’ showing from June by means of to late summer time, and ‘Limelight’, with its barely conical acid inexperienced flowers, beginning in late summer time and altering color to ivory after which flushed with pink earlier than fading into late autumn. A very good mixture.

However there was a hitch. I planted all of them down the west-facing size of the lengthy orchard beds that I widened final winter, so they might have the dappled shade they love from the apple timber and in addition profit from the rain that at all times blows in from the west on this a part of the nation. 

However, as everyone knows, the rain by no means got here. I planted them in March, watered them in nicely after which a really dry spring was adopted by the driest summer time for greater than 40 years. The timber sucked up all accessible water and the shrubs have solely survived as a result of I’ve spot-watered them each few weeks, however they haven’t thrived.

Irrespective of. Their time will come. Nonetheless, it does illustrate what hydrangeas like greatest, which is gentle shade and a beneficiant and common provide of water, together with a wealthy soil and good drainage.

Hydrangeas in Giardini Reali in Venice 

My selection of the 2 varieties was closely influenced by a go to to the Giardini Reali in Venice, the place each hydrangeas are used to mass and distinctive impact. ‘Annabelle’ is a cultivar of H. arborescens, which originated in North America. 

The flower heads are huge and dramatic, so it makes a giant impression even when younger. It reaches 1.5m tall, with the identical unfold, however will be pruned to its house. It needs to be pruned in spring, and the tougher you prune – even reducing proper again to floor stage – the larger the flower heads. 

The one drawback is that the flower heads are produced on new wooden, so the scale of the flower heads on unripe stems may cause them to droop.

H. paniculata ‘Limelight’ will, like ‘Annabelle’, develop in most soils so long as it has good drainage. It was bred in Holland within the Nineteen Nineties and may turn out to be substantial, reaching 3m or extra in top and unfold. 

The acid green blooms of ‘Limelight'

The acid inexperienced blooms of ‘Limelight’ 

If pruned yearly it can nonetheless placed on as much as 2m of development in the course of the season. It additionally flowers on new wooden so will be pruned again to 4 or 5 buds above the bottom each March.

I might advocate planting hydrangeas within the floor over the approaching month fairly than ready, as I did, till spring. It will give the roots time to ascertain earlier than new development begins in spring and they are going to be higher in a position to attain what moisture there’s within the soil.

One word of warning: in case you have the extra conventional H. macrophylla, whether or not mophead or lacecap varieties, don’t prune in winter. 

Their buds kind in late summer time and the spent flowers kind an vital protecting layer for them, so that they shouldn’t be eliminated till after the final frosts. While you do prune, reduce to the primary pair of wholesome buds. Any previous, crossing or lifeless wooden needs to be lower proper again to the bottom of the shrub. 


Garlic will be planted at any time in autumn, however cloves planted in September have one of the best probability. 

That is very true for hardneck varieties reminiscent of ‘Lautrec Wight’ (above). A second planting of softneck varieties reminiscent of ‘Early Purple Wight’, which develop quicker, will be made at any time up till Christmas. 

Plant plump particular person cloves 15cm aside, pointed find yourself and with the highest 2.5cm beneath the floor. Garlic does greatest in a sunny place in well-drained soil that has loads of natural materials dug into it. 


A few years in the past I planted a 30cm excessive conifer (left) 1.5m from our indifferent home. It’s now 6m tall – are the roots a menace to the constructing?

John Mullin, Glasgow

A basic rule of thumb in tree planting is to plant it the final word top of the tree away from the home – so a minimal of 6m in your case. If the foundations are good and the soil well-drained, you have to be advantageous. Nonetheless, if the home has poor foundations on clay soil (as is the case on many Victorian internal metropolis streets), then invasive roots may trigger cracks. In case you are nervous, take it down and subsequent time, plant additional away!

l have misplaced most of my Buxus to field tree caterpillars. I don’t like utilizing pesticides, however I solely have three bushes left and I’m choosing the caterpillars off by hand.

Linda Worby, Clacton-on-Sea

Sprays don’t work. Decide them off or, even higher, catch the dad or mum moths at evening earlier than they lay their eggs. The prognosis will not be good, I’m afraid.

I by accident splashed weedkiller on the roots of my privet hedge, leading to a ‘lifeless zone’. What can I do?

Peter Reed, Grimsby

Your greatest wager is to dig out the roots of the affected space, add in some compost and re-plant with wholesome younger bushes. They may quickly refill the hedge. 



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