limehousechappy
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Starting new bed for Hydrangeas

Hello,
Looking to help someone with "starting over" in the flowerbed pictured. It is a complete mess, but the owner is wanting to put hydrangeas there, as she gets sun and shade on this bed.

So, to prepare this bed, should we use cardboard, then mushroom compost or other rich soil and then mulch? The current soil is not very good and is weedy. If cardboard is used, are x's cut in the cardboard for planting since the existing soil is so poor?

Wanting to give this bed the best chance for survival, and need help!
Thanks in advance for the great help I know I will find here!

This bed is located in Huntsville, Alabama, zone 7
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luis_pr
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Location: Hurst, TX USA Zone 7b/8a

Re: Starting new bed for Hydrangeas

Hmm, "gets sun and shade on this bed". May I ask you a few questions? Does the bed get afternoon/evening sun? Hydrangeas in the South should only get morning sun, say until 11am or so. Otherwise the leaves can get sunscorch or can heat up a lot and then dry out. I assume the shrubs will only get morning sun? As an example, my summer sun is too strong so I have to be mindful of afternoon sun exposures.

The bed looks awful small for hydrangeas; for example, mopheads can be 4-6' wide. Which hydrangeas did you have in mind (type and variety)? Consider some of the very small ones to make sure they will fit and not overflow into the walking areas. It looks like you only have space for a plant that gets about 2' wide (or maybe my view of the picture's dimensions is way off). :o(

I am concerned about your statement of the soil is poor. Hydrangeas need well draining soil in order to prevent root rot problems or difficulty developing good roots (say in rocky soils). I amended the area where hydrangeas eventually went into with organic compost (have clay soil).

Is there any chance that the owner will do a soil test? Maybe the weeds are out of control due to mineral issues.

All soils and situations are different. I had to extract 3" of soil & replace them because the soil was full of weeds. Covering with paper products =like newspapers= did not help in my case. You could try what you stated as it all depends on the type of weeds too I suppose. ;o))

limehousechappy
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Re: Starting new bed for Hydrangeas

luis_pr,
Thank you for your quick reply. To clear up my post, the bed gets morning sun, afternoon shade. This is the hydrangea variety that the homeowner wants to plant, the Cherry Explosion Hydrangea.
It will get 3-4', although some places said it would be 3'x3'.

I have sent your information along to the homeowner and she will be doing a soil test soon. We were looking at taking this soil
out because of all the weeds and start over. Will straight mushroom compost be too strong for this variety, or any hydrangea, for that matter.

Thanks again for your help,
limehousechappy
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luis_pr
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Location: Hurst, TX USA Zone 7b/8a

Re: Starting new bed for Hydrangeas

Cherry Explosion's dark pink lacecap blooms may be a good choice in alkaline soil. It also seems to produce a lot of bloomage from new growth in northern locations, which is good when winter zaps all the stems down here in the South.

CE's blooms may also turn lavender in acidic soils so what you see in the picture may not be what you will get... Because Huntsville is near the Limestone Valleys and the Appalachian Plateau, it is hard to tell if the soil there -in that bed- is acidic or alkaline (unless it is tested first) and so it is also hard to guess what color the blooms eventually will be. But I sure like the shade of pink in the picture! I hope it produces something close to that for you.

But consider that, if you remove the soil on the top 3" to get rid of weeds, it becomes hard to tell how that will eventually affect the color of the blooms within a given shrub. Typically, the roots absorb aluminum (or at least they try to) based on soil pH and this makes all/most of the blooms within one shrub turn the same shade of pink or lavender. But if the top 3" have a certain level of soil pH/aluminum AND the rest of the soil has a different level, bloom colors thru a given bush might be slightly different since some roots uptake more or less aluminum depending on whether they are in the top 3" or not. Not forever. Temporarily at least. Eventually, those 3" will turn the same soil pH as the soil is below those 3" and then the bloom color would match more within each bush. I have never removed/replaced soil and planted hydrangeas there so, I am guessing there might be a little color change of some blooms within the bush, if any. The majority of the hydrangea fibruous small roots are in the top 4" and these absorb a lot of the water plus minerals. So do not panic if there are a few bloom differences within a shrub.

I also figure that, if the flower bed gets morning sun and afternoon/evening shade, CE's Fall foliage will be a nice wine/burgundy-ish color. That is just what CE does. Just make sure any afternoon sun does not make the leaves brown out early.

Since the growing season in AL will be slightly longer than in the northern states, I am not sure if the plant will stay corralled at 3' by 3'; it may get to 4' wide by late Fall instead. But really, who knows... Ha! That is always hard to tell/guess unless you can find another person who is already growing it in the same city/neighborhood.

By the way, smooth hydrangea (H. arborescens, a.k.a. Annabelle-like hydrangeas) and oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia) are native to Alabama. That includes some of the Annabelle cousins with pink blooms.

One thought/question... if CE gets 3' wide (or more), will it cover the walkway in the picture? If it does, will that be ok? I am not sure of the width of the bed there... Should it exceed its bounds, pruning (around July-August more or less) may be required to keep it in check. It will develop invisible flower buds on old wood by "then" (by July-August more or less). Maybe prune it by the end of June or by early July, just to make sure next year's early Spring flower buds are not pruned off?

Mushroom compost is fine with most plants, including hydrangeas. Regular organic compost and composted manure are fine too. But I am not sure I would apply mushroom compost or fertilizers now to the shrubs... in the middle of the summer I mean.

https://questions.gardeningknowhow.com/ ... ts/page/6/

If the plants already contain those round fertilizer pellets that wholesalers add as fertilizers to the pots, I would not fertilize the potted plants with compost until Spring 2018, maybe just spread the compost in the new soil around the hydrangeas, not on the hydrangeas...

limehousechappy
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Re: Starting new bed for Hydrangeas

luis_pr,
My goodness! Thank you so much for all of the information about hydrangeas! You certainly are knowledgeable about them.
I have passed this info along to the homeowner who will be testing the soil. The CE is a gorgeous color, indeed, so we will take all of you great information and see what color we come up with!

All the best to you, and thank you again for the great help!

luis_pr
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Posts: 815
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2009 12:31 pm
Location: Hurst, TX USA Zone 7b/8a

Re: Starting new bed for Hydrangeas

You are most welcome. Good luck on this project. Maybe post again when the shrubd bloom in Spring?

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