How to make hydrangeas blue, and other questions.

Thought that I would answer a few of the questions I frequently get, mostly at Wegmans, about plant problems and gardening in general. It is too late to prune your hydrangeas this year? That question persists through the summer and into the late fall. I want to talk about the French hydrangea, the one that comes from the florist shop in April and May with those beautiful, huge pink, white or blue blooms. The time to prune those beautiful hydrangeas is a few weeks after they bloom. Do not shear them, but cut back the flowering stems, depending on the size of the plant, 8 to 18 inches. Never cut them back to the ground level; it might be a couple of years before they get enough growth to bloom again.

Of course, the big question about hydrangeas is always, “How can I make my hydrangea flowers blue?” Color depends on the acidity of the soil. The more acid the soil, the brighter the blue. Give me a call and I will talk about it.

Some folks seem to find that moss is a problem in their lawns and want to get rid of it. Last year, I had two enormous maple trees that totally shaded my lawn. I loved them because they shaded and cooled my house from the warm setting sun in the summer. I did not have a whole lot of grass; I had moss. Moss grew on the stone walls around the beds, moss grew in the seams between the patio blocks and moss grew where there should have been lawn. I knew the problem, but I liked the shade. Let’s face it: We all know that moss grows on the north side of a tree because it is cooler, damper and darker there. Well I cut the trees last fall and this year — almost no moss in the yard. Since most of us cannot chop trees down to get rid of mosses, there are commercial sprays that will do the job.

As a side note, chopping the trees opened my yard to a lot of sunlight and shrubbery that grew very slowly; shrubbery that struggled suddenly sprang to life with all that brightness. This year, I had a veritable jungle and had to do a lot of pruning. Yes, sunlight matters.

Squirrels getting you down, eating all your bird seed and chasing those wrens, nuthatches and cardinals away? I always remember that my mom never had problems with them. Here’s a solution: Mix two tablespoons each of cayenne pepper, hot sauce and chili powder with a single tablespoon of Murphy’s Oil Soap and stir into a quart of water. Put it into a handheld sprayer with a wide nozzle and spray the plants that are in the squirrels’ pathways and around your bird feeders. The birds do not mind it, but the squirrels show their disgust by staying out of your area.

It is wonderful to have a flower garden. It is fun to sit on the porch or deck and admire the flowers. But chances are that you are out there only a few hours every week. Why not pick an armful, trim some branches from the foliage hedge and make some bouquets to enjoy in the house?

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