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Garden Variety Glam: Hydrangea
Published: 06/09/2012

Today's hydrangea varieties glam up your garden with an abundance of color that lasts all summer long.

Many of us remember hydrangeas with a bit of nostalgia, recalling trips to Grandmother's garden to snip a big bouquet of bright blue flowers for the dinner table. Today's newer varieties are proving less persnickety than your grandmother's garden variety hydrangea. In fact, some of them are easy to grow and quite perfect for coastal gardens.

Shrubs provide the bones for your outdoor space. Yet, there is a limited palette of shrubs that can survive, let alone thrive in coastal climates. Hydrangea macrophylla, common Mophead Hydrangea, is one shrub that can offer many benefits to the coastal gardener. Largely pest-free and resistant to disease, it is a medium-sized shrub that can tolerate the drying winds of coastal summers. Since their leaves are shed by late fall, they can also withstand damaging winter winds. They need little water, aside from what is provided by nature on the coast, and they require only simple pruning once or twice a year. Hydrangeas provide long-lasting, brightly colored blooms perfect for fresh flower summer arrangements and their beauty can be preserved long into winter if you take the time to dry blooms properly.

Basic color ranges available are varieties of white, blue, purple and pink, including shades from the lightest touch of lavender to a full-on bright periwinkle blue. One unusual variety called Quickfire changes color from white to a pink-red color during the bloom. Soil minerals and acidity can affect the final hue, though, so be prepared for the chance that the bright pink hydrangea you picked out at the garden center may eventually morph into something closer to blue!

You may want to keep in mind that hydrangeas are a very tasty treat for deer and elk. If your garden is frequented by four-legged foragers, there are non-toxic animal repellents such as Not Tonight Deer that can be quite effective. - By Veronica Russell

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