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Canberra Today 3°/5° | Friday, August 19, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Dormant hydrangeas good to prune, to a point

If the hydrangea hasn’t flowered and the foliage has a point, then don’t prune as this is next year’s flower bud. Photo: Jackie Warburton

Now’s a good time to prune sleepy hydrangeas, says gardening writer JACKIE WARBURTON.

HYDRANGEAS can be pruned now as they have lost their leaves and gone into dormancy. 

Jackie Warburton.

Older hydrangeas can have their old, grey wood completely removed and reduce stems that have already flowered. 

Hardwood cuttings can be taken as well by cutting some small stems with a few sets of buds that haven’t flowered into a loose potting mix. Water well and place in the shade of the garden and check them every week or so to give them a drink. 

When pruning hydrangeas, prune hard, but no more than three double buds from the base of the plant. 

Generally, if a stem has flowered then it can be pruned hard, but if it hasn’t flowered and the foliage has a point then don’t prune as this is next year’s flower bud. 

Hydrangeas are shade-loving plants that love morning sun and a south-east facing site in moist, good-quality soil. The colours range from white, blue, pink and all shades between. 

For blue hydrangea flowers, use a blueing agent, available at the nurseries, or add iron chelates to the soil several times throughout the year.

For pink flowers, add lime to the soil to raise the pH to 6-7. Hydrangeas are shallow-rooted plants and now is a perfect time to dig up and divide large clumps to make more plants. 

When dividing, use a sharp spade to sever plants and roots with a clean cut, trim roots relative to the size of the stems and place into good-quality potting mix with compost and water well. 

For a little while they will be sticks in a pot but by spring, foliage will appear and they will grow into new plants.

INDOOR plants close to the windows at night need to be moved as they can burn. Indoor plants need a draft-free area to grow and sufficient daylight. 

CANBERRA soils are notoriously heavy in clay and don’t drain well. With all the rain we have had, now’s a good time to increase organic matter to these soils and add mulch to finish. 

PREPARATION for any tree to be planted in winter needs to happen now before bringing the tree home for planting. 

Be generous with digging the hole and make sure it is at least double the size of the pot, add a lot of organic matter and check the drainage before planting a tree. 

Place a bucket of water in a good size hole and see how fast the water dissipates into the soil below. If there is still water in the hole after a few hours, then the soil will need more drainage before planting. Alternatively, if the water drains too quickly more organic matter might be needed to hold moisture around the root zones of the plant. 

One-sided bottlebrush… a tough native plant that’s in flower now. Photo: Jackie Warburton

ONE-sided bottlebrush (Calothamnus quadrifidus) is a wonderfully tough native plant that’s in flower now. It’s an evergreen shrub with feathery like leaves that are attractive to nectar-feeding birds and perfect as a screening bush for under the powerlines. 

While endemic to WA, it copes surprisingly well in our Canberra winters. It is relatively quick growing and grows to about 2.5 metres tall. 

If space is limited, a dwarf form might be suitable that only grows to a metre tall. They can be a little hard to come by, but look out for it and plant when the big frosts are over in spring around October. 

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Jackie Warburton

Jackie Warburton

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