I admit it doesn't take a whole to push me over the cliff of insanity when it comes to flowers, but last week's hydrangea conference gave me a final shove.
The Central Savannah River Area Hydrangea Society held the conference with three expert speakers _ Josh Kardos, plant breeder at Plant Introductions Inc. which I recently wrote about, Mike Sikes, horticulturist for the Gardener's Confidence Collection at McCorkle Nurseries where I fall in love twice a year, and Ted Stephens, horticulturist and founder of Nurseries Caroliniana Inc. where I too often find a plant I cannot live without.
You would think speaking to a group of hydrangea lovers with years of experience might be intimidating, but there's something about being in the company of people who share your love and enthusiasm for the subject at hand that is a joy.
The society was gracious in allowing me to crash the meeting for a while. I got to hear Sikes talk about hydrangeas in the past, present and future. It's incredible how beloved the hydrangea is. He quoted from a book published in 1950s that spoke of how hydrangeas were grown around the world. And that was then.
As beloved as the old varieties are _ and some of them are so beautiful they can make you heart skip a beat _ McCorkles is marketing many of the new varieties being breed.
Sikes said he thinks the renewed popularity of the hydrangea is due to aging baby boomers who are tired of working on their knees with perennial and annuals. Maybe, but as he also pointed out, the hydrangea is bold, beautiful and romantic.
I mean, who can see Vaughn's Lillie with football-size flower heads and not want one? And the Bella Anna that is coming from Plant Introductions is so incredibility delicate but is also strong and disease resistant. If you don't have Lady in Red or the Midnight Dutches with their beautiful stems go immediately to the nursery and take a look. Resist if you can but know that few have.
The new hydrangea breeds have and will continue to improve with stronger stems, larger flower heads, reblooming, great fall colors, eye-catching foliage, bi-colors and varieties of compact plants for the smaller gardens many folks have today, Sikes predicted.
If your budget won't let you splurge on new hydrangeas right now, hit the hydrangea gardens at Pendleton King Park soon. There are more than 75 varieties. Admire but don't pick.
If you want to join the pack of hydrangea lovers, check out the local society's Web site: http://www.csrahydrangeasociety.org. You will find great information on all things hydrangeas and kindred spirits.
Oh, and before you go hydrangea crazy, remember the new chores for July:
Water, water, water. Remember you need at least one inch each week, maybe two for the new plantings. Pots will probably need watering at least once if not twice a day. However, do not _ upon punishment from the water police _ run the automatic sprinklers three times a week just because you can. One deep watering once a week is the goal.
You can plant gladiolus now to have blooms into the fall.
Continue to fertilize your summer vegetables. Watch out for hornworms on tomatoes.
Plant pumpkins seeds now for pumpkins for Halloween.
You can fertilize your lawn unless you have fescue or zoysia.
Perennials can be planted in shady areas but putting in new plants in full sun sties is a no-no. The soil is so hot the roots won't grow and the plant will sit there baking. Trust the gnome who has killed many flowers this time of year.
It's also time to start backing off the fertilizer. Plants are having a tough enough time in this heat. Adding new grow may be too much for a plant to handle.
Prune back fall-bloomers and you will have fuller plants with stronger stems.
If you went crazy at McCorkle's last week like some of us, hold off planting until it gets cooler. Make sure they don't dry out while waiting for cooler days though.
Think of cooler temperatures that will come someday _ you can start preparing for your fall vegetable garden.
(thanks to Sid Mullis for the Augusta area "Garden Calendar," and Walter Reeves and Erica Glasener for "Month-By-Month Gardening in Georgia.")