Monday, June 24, 2013

Pink or Blue

About three years ago, I rustled cuttings of an old-fashioned blue hydrangea in a cemetery in Fauquier County.  It was a typical mop-head hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), the kind where the flowers are blue in acid soil (low pH) and pink in more alkaline soil (higher pH).  When I took the cuttings, the mother plant was blue, blue, blue ... like this:

(public domain stock photo)

In my yard, the plant looks like this:

Not so much as a hint of blue to be found anywhere.

Soil in our part of Virginia is generally acidic heavy clay that requires profuse amounts of organic soil amendments and annual application of lime to get it to a point where plants will thrive.  The soil on our property, though, is a gardener's dream.  Our pH here ranges from 6.2 in my new rose bed to 7.0 underneath this hydrangea beside the pavilion.  (Compare this to the gardens at my last house where unimproved soil pH was a miserable 5.5 or lower.)

Stick the pH meter into the ground ... wait a couple of minutes ...

Ta dahhh!  7.0  (Kelway pH meter)

Is this because our place has been a working farm since the 1830s?  I tend to think so, because I can dig a hole just about anywhere and I have to go down about a foot or more before I hit clay.  Decades and decades of plowing and manure have done their work, and I don't usually have to amend the soil one bit when I plant. 

I've never had pink hydrangeas before, and I really love having these!  (Now that I think of it, maybe the pH is higher in this spot because of the abandoned brick-lined septic tank that we covered up with we built the pavilion ... decades of families and lots of you-know-what.)

Anyway .... it's a good thing that my plan in the shade garden doesn't depend on these hydrangeas being one certain color ... in fact, they are the ONLY color in this garden.  All of the other flowers are white, and the foliage plants provide varying shades of green and different sizes and textures of leaves.  Hostas, Hellebores, three more varieties of Hydrangea (Annabelle, Tardiva, and Lace Cap), Solomon's Seal, etc ... very lush, cool, and peaceful.

This cool feeling is a good thing, since summer heat has arrived.  That's okay ... it is almost July, after all.


  1. I have some hydrangeas that will be mostly blue and then one rouge pink one...guess the ph is neutral...I usually sprinkle aluminum sulfate once or twice a year on the ones I want blue...the big daddy's I planted recently are all pink...tells me if I didn't use it I would normally have pink hydras.

  2. Flowers are far from what I thought this post was going to be about! Pink or blue... you big tease!!!

    Love the pink hydrangeas!

  3. They do exactly the same thing here! I love them no matter what color they are. Your gardens are always so lovely- xo Diana

  4. I love hydrangea's and think its so cool how they react to the soil that they're in, pink... So pretty!

  5. I have a couple of blue hydrangeas, and just a few feet away, a pink and white one! Strange soil around here.

  6. Such a pretty shade of pink Connie! I've read that it's not just the pH level that determines the color, but also the presence of aluminum in the my daughter tells me anyway. The two we planted last year were both pink, and now they are white...go figure?! They say it's impossible to change a blue or pink one to white, but somehow we have succeeded. :)

    And I can vouch for that lovely shady spot in your yard!


  7. I always want blue and seem to end with pink or mauve.

    Your garden looks beautiful and I love seeing the greenhouse.

    Hotter than hell down there today?

    xo Jane

  8. I think this pink Hydrangea is very pretty too. I tried to keep my blue
    Hydrangeas blue for a long time but I have given up, I had to add so much iron to the soil again and again until I stopped. Now my Hydrangeas are all kind of pink and white.

  9. I've got too much sun to grow hydrangeas successfully (at least the mop-head type), but if I did, my 8 pH soil would make them all pink anyway.

  10. Wow....that photo of the hydrangea in the garden is just beautiful, Connie! I never heard of a ph meter. It would be so interesting to see what the level is in my garden. Might have to look in to getting one of those. :)

    xoox laurie

  11. Beautiful! I really like the different leaves and textures of a mostly-foliage garden in the shade. What do you think of the "ever-blooming" hydrangeas I've seen in garden centers?

  12. Your hydrangeas are beautiful! Mine are blooming, and they are BLUE! When we lived in Ashburn, where there was all clay, they were an ugly light brown, if being ugly is possible for a hydrangea!

  13. Beautiful! It's semi-arid and alkaline clay soil where I live, so no hydrangeas survive here. We get extreme temps - 105 yesterday, and too many hard freezes for some things to be perennial. I love your garden, and I'd love a white garden somewhere on my property. That little green house is wonderful!


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