Hydrangeas need some help overwintering

Hydrangeas need some help overwintering

Tracey FitzgibbonQ: What if any tips for overwintering hydrangeas in Rio Rancho? I have two that are in a happy place with irrigation and partial shade. They are Seaside Serenade Cape May hydrangeas. – WB, Rio Rancho

A: I Googled your hydrangea variety and the photos shown with the plant description show a lovely plant. I remember seeing big flower beds planted with hydrangeas outside the buildings where the USS Constitution is docked in Boston. The beds were overflowing with these sturdy, fairly large leaf, stocky shrubs sporting great globe-shaped blooms, some a soft pink and others a brilliant white color.

I’m thrilled that your hydrangeas are preforming well for you.

It does sound like you have them planted in a location that, for this time of year, suits them. I’m concerned that it’ll be the winter months that could cause them difficulty.

My bible, the Sunset Western Garden, had some not-so-good news as to these hydrangeas being able to successfully overwinter here in this zone. Several varieties of hydrangea are zoned to survive here, but I worry that your selection isn’t one of them.

I think yours is a garden hydrangea, H. macrophylla. The bible says they are a great performers in areas where the winters are fairly mild, but disappointing where the plants freeze to the ground every year. That could spell disaster for them.

So I believe there are a few steps you can take to maybe offset the winter temperatures and it’ll all depend on mulching. Once the plants head into dormancy, I suggest that you spread a stout layer of bark chips about 6 inches up the plants’ main trunk. You want to sort of bury it.

Next, I suggest you get a piece of horse fence and encircle the hydrangea plant. You’ll effectively create a tube cylinder to surround the plant. Consider lining the tube with burlap and then snuggly, but not crammed in, fill the tube with straw so the whole plant is covered and insulated.

Now, if we’re blessed with rain or snow through the winter months, that’ll be a good thing. If not, you’ll want to water the base of the planting (not the tube) to keep the roots moist. Every two weeks, again with no other precipitation, give the hydrangea a drink.

The soil moisture could keep the plant’s roots insulated and alive during the winter months.

Next spring as the weather moderates, go ahead and de-tube the plant, pulling away all the straw. As it gets warmer, unbury the base of the plant to its original height and hope for the best.

I know it’s sometimes heartwrenching to plant something, have it thrive, only to fail during the winter. But who knows, planted in your perfect micro-climate you just might be able to enjoy they for seasons to come.

Q: I just put in a new lawn in our entryway (about 20 by 25 feet). I did a little research and settled on zoysia grass seed. It sounded like it’s hale and hardy, and would be thick and good with our three dogs. I talked to a couple of lawn companies and most didn’t seem to know anything about zoysia grass. Is it a good grass seed for the Placitas area? – BW, Placitas

A: From the research I did, I know that zoysia is defined as a warm season grass, meaning that it’ll be green and lush during the heat of the year, and for the most part brown out during the winter, acting a lot like Bermuda grass.

My concern was/is that my bible doesn’t show it as zoning here in our clime.

Also, having to deal with traffic from three dogs could be hard. Will they use that area to pee? Or just as a way to get to from here to there? If it’ll be an area of relief for the dogs, you’ll want to get in the habit of hosing the spots to be sure to wash the urine through so the roots aren’t burned. It’s recommended overseeding in early autumn with perennial rye seed to keep a greener look longer, too.

Then, as I was reading up on the use of zoysia, found it is used often on golf courses.

I think perhaps you could call any of the golf courses in New Mexico and ask to speak to the groundskeepers. Maybe what grasses used might be listed on the golf course website too. Certainly they’d be able to tell you if zoysia grows well here (I can see it growing great in southern and southeastern New Mexico).

My hope is that it works well for you and the dogs, but I’m not confident in the least as to your success.

Meanwhile, aim to be happy while you’re out there Diggin’ In.

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to features@abqjournal.com.


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