A Guide to Pruning Hydrangea

As a landscape designer, I am often questioned as to when and how to prune the various types of hydrangea. The next welcome addition to your landscape could be one of the many show-stopping varieties of this plant and proper pruning is the key to successful blooms!

Hydrangea ‘Nikko Blue’

Generally, hydrangea either bloom on the “old wood” of the previous season, “new wood” of the current season or a combination of both. There are many types of hydrangea including the mopheads, lacecap, panicle, mountain, smooth, oakleaf and climbing. The Mopheads (Hydrangea macrophylla) have been the most widely planted hydrangea in home landscapes over the years and are usually blue or pink in color with large leaves. Hydrangea ‘Nikko Blue’ is very well known in the landscape for its large blue ball-shaped flowers that bloom towards the later part of the summer and deepen in color as they mature. ‘Nikko Blue’ Hydrangea does bloom on old wood, which means that if you are looking to prune your plant it needs to be done immediately after flowering before the fall. Hydrangea ‘Nikko Blue’ grows best in moist, well-drained soil in partial shade. It reaches 3-5 feet in height and is hardy to USDA Zone 5. 

‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangea

A newer alternative to the “old fashioned” variety of hydrangea is the Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’ collection, which blooms on both old and new wood and ‘All Summer Beauty’ that blooms on the new growth of the season. Both of the later mentioned also have a much longer bloom time and repeatedly bloom throughout the summer. Each of these plants grows to approximately 3-5 feet in height, each grows best in partially shaded conditions (afternoon shade) and moist well drained soil and are hardy to USDA Zone 5. Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ in the Endless Summer Collection displays white blooms that turn pink with age. For these varieties that bloom on the “new wood” of the season, spent blooms and dead wood from the inner portion of the plant can be pruned out in either fall or early spring.

Dwarf Hydrangea ‘Pia’

Hydrangea ‘Pia’ is a miniature French hybrid with broad pink flowers growing only to 2 to 3 feet in height, a good candidate for small spaces in zones 5-9. ‘Pia’ grows best in partial sun with afternoon shade and prefers a rich organic soil. Pia hydrangea bloom on old wood and generally need little to no pruning; however, if needed, prune immediately after flowering by cutting back flowering stems to a point of healthy buds. An alternate that blooms on the new wood of the season is the Cityline Series from Proven Winners, a dwarf hydrangea hybrid that matures to just 2-3′ tall by 3-4′ wide.

Hydrangea ‘Tokyo Delight”

Another variety of Hydrangea ‘macrophylla’ is the Lacecap Hydrangea that displays a smaller inner circle of lace-like flowers surrounded by a ring of larger showier flowers. A favorite is Hydrangea ‘Tokyo Delight’ that displays beautiful cobalt blue flowers with an inner ring of delicate white flowers, grows to 4-6 feet and blooms late July through August, prefers afternoon shade, moist well drained soil and is hardy to USDA Zone 6. Prune Hydrangea ‘Tokyo Delight’ immediately after bloom since new buds form on the older wood from the previous season. An alternate lacecap hydrangea that blooms on both old and new wood is Hydrangea ‘Twist-n-Shout’ from the Endless Summer collection with beautiful blooms that turn to a purple-blue in a more acidic soil. Twist-n-Shout’ is hardy is USDA zones 4-9, grows 3-5 feet tall by wide and like all plants in the Endless Summer Collection, produces blooms on both old and new wood.

‘Pee Gee’ Hydrangea Tree Form

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ or the ‘Peegee’ Hydrangea is a personal favorite of mine for extremely large pyramidal white blooms in July throughout fall and abundant fragrance in the garden. Hydrangea ‘Peegee’ can be grown as a shrub or tree form and can serve as either a group planting or as a single specimen in a landscape design. Hydrangea ‘Grandiflora’ also grows 3-5 feet or higher in its tree form. This particular hydrangea can grow well in full to partial sun and blooms on new wood. Sent to the US from Japan in 1861 this beauty is a showpiece in the garden and is hardy in Zones 4-8.

Hydrangea ‘Tardivia’

Panicle hydrangea are known for being the most cold hardy and are very tolerant of pruning.  They can reach a height of ten to fifteen feet or can be pruned to keep more compact.  For a similar look to ‘Peegee’ with creamy-white panicle-shaped blooms and a more open look is Hydrangea ‘Tardivia’. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ is a newer introduction with beautiful elongated lime colored panicles that bloom in late summer and last through fall. Hydrangea ‘Tardivia’ and ‘Limelight’ (6-8 feet high by wide) both do best in full to partial sun and bloom on new wood. Hydrangea ‘Little Lime’ is a more compact version of ‘Limelight’ and also blooms on the new wood of the season.

‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’, a native of the U.S., is a more shade tolerant hydrangea that produces showy ball shaped white blooms in summer, grows 3-5 feet in height and is hardy to USDA Zone 3. ‘Annabelle’ blooms on new wood and can be severely pruned in winter in order to restore shape. 

Oakleaf Hydrangea

The last two varieties of hydrangea are Hydrangea quercifolia or ‘Oakleaf ‘Hydrangea and Climbing Hydrangea. The Oakleaf hydrangea serves as an excellent plant for massing in a woodland setting. The name ‘Oakleaf’ comes from the oak-shaped leaves that turn a bright mahogany red in fall for a brilliant display. The upright panicles of large white flowers appear in June and the plant has a rounded habit, grows 4-6 feet in height and is hardy to USDA Zone 5. Hydrangea quercifolia does well in partial shade in a well drained most soil. This hydrangea blooms on old wood and should be pruned immediately after flowering. Climbing Hydrangea (H. anomala petiolaris) is an upcoming variety becoming more popular in the landscape. As the name implies this hydrangea once established produces vigorous vines and a profusion of lightly scented blooms. Climbing Hydrangea bloom on “old wood” from the previous season.

For more gardening tips Visit my Author Page

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer 

Landscape Design Combinations

Dream, Garden, Grow!-Musings of a Lifetime Gardener

Lee Miller@Landscape Design By Lee 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Early Detection & Treatment of Spruce Needle Cast Disease

Some spruce trees, such as Colorado Blue Spruce may be susceptible to environmental stress. The recent pattern of milder than usual winters and cool spring temperatures combined with wet conditions in the northeast have favored development of a fungal disease known as “needle cast”. Early detection and proper diagnosis is important in the treatment of this fungal disease and to ensure the health of your tree.

Identifying Needle Cast

The best proactive means for preventing needle cast disease is to plant your Blue Spruce in the proper location and provide proper care. Blue Spruce prefer to be located in a well-drained soil in an area of full sun, meaning the plant should be receiving at least six hours of sunlight daily. A southern or western exposure suits this best. Prevent irrigation from directly spraying on the foliage of the plant. Constant moisture on foliage or over-watering can be a direct invitation for needle cast. Drip irrigation is recommended where possible, allowing the soil to dry between watering. Proper planting height is of course also necessary. Plant the tree at grade or slightly above the grade so that the root flare is visible. Do not plant too deeply. It is best that the lower branches have some air circulation above the ground.

The type of needle cast affecting Colorado Blue Spruce in the northeast is mainly Rhizosphaera needle cast (caused by the fungus Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii). While some browning and dropping of older needles in spruce is common, needle cast disease is noted by a distinct brownish-purple discoloration which appears on needles (usually towards the bottom of the tree) mostly in late summer, followed by the eventual death and dropping of older needles. In addition, the presence of black fruiting bodies on new growth in early spring is a sure sign. Typically, infections start near the bottom of the tree where foliage dries more slowly and progresses upwards. Lower branches may lose so many needles that growth at the tips stops, resulting in the death of the entire branch (photo below). Newer current growth may show no signs of the disease until during autumn and into spring.

Advanced Needle Cast Disease

Should your tree show signs of early needle cast, it is treatable. Needle cast can be effectively controlled with fungicides containing chlorothalonil. For Rhizosphaera needle cast, two properly-timed applications per year for at least two consecutive years (sometimes three) are required for control. The first application should occur when new needles are half elongated (around Memorial Day depending upon location) followed by a second application three to four weeks after the first. The timing of the two applications should be the same for the second and third year. Since needle cast is fungal and spread through spores, removal of branches showing early signs can prevent further infection, but the tree should still be treated with a fungicide and monitored on a regular basis.

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the best method of preventing needle cast starts with proper planning, planting and monitoring. Early detection of any kind of disease leads to better results and remedies any further issues down the road. These tips also apply to dwarf forms of Blue Spruce, such as Picea pungens ‘Globosa’ (Globe Blue Spruce). Norway and Serbian Spruce are less likely to be damaged by needle cast and ‘Hoopsii’ and ‘Fat Albert’ cultivars of Colorado Blue Spruce are more resistant to the disease.

For more gardening tips Visit my Author Page

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer Landscape Design Combinations
Dream, Garden, Grow!-Musings of a Lifetime Gardener

Lee Miller@Landscape Design By Lee 2020. All Rights Reserved.

After many years of hybridizing and the production of more cold hardy varieties, Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) can be successfully grown here in the Northeast. These showy trees are a personal favorite of mine due to their beautiful long lasting blooms that start at the end of the summer and last well into Fall, a bloom period of approximately 120 days!   Just as other flowering trees and shrubs are reaching the end of their bloom cycle the stately Crape Myrtle ‘Lagerstroemia indica’ starts its spectacular show. I often use these beautiful trees as an eye catching element in my designs as they serve nicely as an anchor plant in a foundation planting or as a focal point in an island bed or backyard garden.

(Photo: Lagerstromeia indica ‘Sioux’)

There are many varieties of this beautiful tree ranging in size from ‘Pocomoke’ and ’Chickasaw’, which are dwarf varieties, topping off at approximately 5 feet to ‘Natchez’ (White),‘Tuscarora’ (Coral Pink),‘Muskogee’ (Lavender) and ‘Catawba’ (Purple) ranging at a height between 12-20 feet. A personal favorite of mine is Crape Myrtle ’Sioux’, a medium variety that ranges in height to approximately 12-15 feet. The medium-pink flowers of the ‘Sioux’ Crape Myrtle begin late in July and last well into October and are an elegant display not to be missed. Three other varieties of Lagerstroemia worth mentioning are ‘Tonto’ and ‘Dynamite’, both known for their vibrant red flowers and medium height of 12-15 feet and ‘Zuni’ (Purple) at a smaller 8-9 feet in stature.

Lagerstromeia Crape Myrtle Muskogee
(Photo: Lagerstroemia indica ‘Muskogee’)

HARDINESS AND GROWING CONDITIONS: Lagerstroemia are a hardy to zones 7-9 and are “deer resistant”, meaning that deer will most likely avoid them in their diet. They grow best in full sunlight in a well-drained soil with a pH of 5.0-6.5. These trees require little to no pruning but can be pruned to maintain a more compact shape or to remove any dead branches that may result from a harsh winter.  If you are going to prune wait until late winter or early spring after the last frost. The plants are dormant in winter and any flowering occurs on new growth so pruning will encourage new flower producing branches. Remove any dead branches, suckers growing from the base or weak twiggy branches and allow strong leader branches to keep the framework of the tree.

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Natchez’

TRANSPLANTING:  If you are planning on transplanting your Crape Myrtle tree the best time to transplant in the northeast is in mid April or mid September through mid October.  Roots need time to become established before the summer heat or winter cold set in. Dig a hole slightly wider than the root ball and make sure the tree sits at the height of the surface or slightly above.  Apply a layer of mulch around the tree to protect the roots and keep well watered until established.  Crape Myrtle are somewhat sensitive to cold so there may be some branch die back in the first season until the plant becomes well established.

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Tuscarora’

Depending on the preference of the grower Crape Myrtle can be planted as either a multi-trunk or singular-trunk form and can be displayed as either a shrub or tree in the landscape.  An important note worth mentioning is that Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) are among the last plants to push out their new growth so if they appear to be dead at the end of winter going into spring just give them some time to come into their glory. Since they are later to push out their leaves they do benefit from an early spring feeding of a high phosphorus-lower nitrogen 5-10-5 formula to promote good foliage growth and an abundance of blooms in July-August. Crape Myrtles are not susceptible to insects or disease but as in any landscape planting they should be monitored and properly maintained to keep them in good health.

If you are looking for a long blooming, deer resistant, low maintenance tree to add color to your garden then Crape Myrtle may be the tree for you. I for one would highly recommend this beautiful plant as a welcome addition to any formal or informal landscape.
For more gardening tips and design ideas, visit my books on Amazon:

Book Announcement! My First Published Book!

FotorCreated BOOK PROMO 2 600 pixAfter two years of working on my book I am excited to announce that it is finally published! A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer is a comprehensive guide to gardening in plant hardiness zones 3-9.  My goal for the book is to share information on a number of gardening topics based on my experiences as a landscape designer over the years.BOOK PHOTO

A Little Bit About the Book:

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening is a comprehensive guide of valuable information on plants hardy in a range of zones from 3-9, and gardening techniques backed up by my own personal experiences as a professional landscape designer, along with answers to frequently asked questions. Learn about landscape design principles, butterfly gardening, deer resistant plants, long blooming perennials, globe and weeping evergreens, flowering trees and shrubs, native plantings, shade gardening and more. Whether you are a novice or experienced gardener, A Guide to Northeastern Gardening will help you to create your own dream garden. Come along on my journey into the world of gardening!

A Little Bit About the Author:

Lee Miller is a professional landscape/garden designer involved in the horticultural industry since 1996. Having started a gardening blog in 2010, she is the author of over 150 articles on general gardening, landscape design principles, gardening tips, planting, pruning, garden maintenance, feature plants and more. Her published book, “A Guide to Northeastern Gardening”, is an accumulation of information touching on a wide variety of gardening topics, all backed up by her own personal experiences.

Previews and further information are available on the following links:

Updated for 2016: Now in Amazon Softcover!

Amazon Kindle

Also here is a link to the full story behind the author and the book. I hope to share my gardening experiences with you!

As Always…Happy Gardening!

2015 Lee@ A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance.

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Late Summer Garden Rejuvenation: Get More Blooms from Your Dayliles

garden clean up 2
Late Summer Garden Rejuvenation

It has been a busy Sunday afternoon in August with the summer temperatures starting to cool and a cooler than usual September in the forecast.  I took the time today to give the garden a face lift and rejuvenate some of my fading perennials. By the time late July and August roll around various perennials are starting to show signs of fall mode with yellowing and dying foliage as they are starting to go dormant.  Perennials such as daylily go dormant at the end of summer into fall but there are methods to extend the bloom time right into mid to late September.  With certain species of long blooming daylily such as ‘Stella D Oro’ there is a trick I learned initially by accident.

daylily rejuvenation
Daylily Rejuvenation-Growth Going Dormant

I had some late summer garden maintenance done a few years ago and the crew had cut the yellowing daylilies back to about four inches from the ground.  At first I was taken by surprise but within a couple of weeks I had brand new vibrant green foliage and blooms that lasted well into fall. From that time on I continued to follow this ritual of cutting back my lilies starting at the end of July and into mid-August so that I could enjoy constant blooms.  The procedure is quite simple and I stage the rejuvenation at different times for the various locations of lilies in my garden.  Starting at the end of July and into late August I carefully remove expired yellowed foliage on my perennial daylilies down to new growth which is approximately four to five inches above the ground.   I actually perform this by hand but you can also use pruning shears and if there are any blooms on the plant you can leave them to enjoy. This ritual of removing dead foliage stimulates the plant to produce healthy new leaves and blooms and also prevents the onset of fungal disease that can occur at this time of year with decaying foliage.

Late Summer Garden Rejuvenation of Daylilies
Late Summer Garden Rejuvenation of Daylilies-Just Cut Back

I also remove the expired scapes (bloom bearing stalks) from the plants as soon as they turn brown throughout the entire season which stimulates new blooms.  The photograph on the left shows how the stalks should appear when you remove them. It is easy to know when this should be done since the stalks with seed heads will very easily pull out without any effort.  The photograph on the right shows newly cut foliage right after rejuvenation. Once your daylilies are cut back be sure they continue to receive watering.   In no time you will have plants that appear as they do in early spring bursting with beautiful new growth and flowers. Once the plants have had their final bloom into the fall allow the foliage to die completely back and then remove any decaying debris from around the plant and apply a thin layer of mulch.

rejuvenated 1 month ago
Rejuvenated Daylily After One Month

This method also works with other varieties of daylily with a shorter bloom time such as ‘Pardon Me’ and ‘Sammy Russell’ but should be performed in July after these plants are done blooming. Other perennials such a Salvia also benefit from a mid-late summer pruning which is explained in this article.  If you are looking to extend the enjoyment of your summer garden rejuvenation is a simple and quick process well worth the time for it will prolong your enjoyment of blooms well into fall.

As Always…Happy Gardening!

 Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Proper Mulching Technique and the Dangers of “VOLCANO MULCH”

volcano mulch
Volcano Mulching

Recently I have been noticing a rash of trees that have become victim to the dangers of “volcano mulching”.  Volcano mulching refers to the piling up of mulch around the base of trees causing moisture to build up around the trunk, rotting out the tree and leading to a slow death by suffocation due to lack of oxygen exchange to the roots.

mulch line
Photograph 2 (Mulch Line)

Proper mulching involves adding a protective layer of organic mulch approximately 2-4 inches thick, keeping the mulch about six inches away from the base of trees so to avoid build up.  Mulch has many advantages including the addition of organic matter to the soil, allowing moisture retention for the plant and helping as a weed barrier to keep weeds down as well as adding an attractive finishing touch to garden beds.

Signs of tree suffocation are indicated by a darkening of the trunk with patches of blacked spots going up the tree.  In Photograph 2 you can see where approximately six inches of mulch had been piled up on this tree causing the tree to already start rotting. When removing the mulch it should be to the level of the tree collar (where the base of the tree starts to flare out). Even routine mulching can gradually build up so it is recommended to remove some of the older mulch if necessary before applying a new fresh layer.  This tree should now be fine since the mulch was removed and the base of the tree will be allowed to heal and the health of the tree restored.

 As Always…Happy Gardening!

 Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Winter Damaged Hydrangea & Crape Myrtle-How to Treat

Winter Damage to Hydrangea & Crape Myrtle

This past winter has been recorded to be one of the worst for winter damage to foliage of plants in the past 25 years. I have witnessed winter damaged Hydrangea and Crape Myrtle on many properties I have visited and have been getting many inquiries as to how to remedy the damage that has occurred. Chances are that your plants will fully recover so I am passing on this useful information.

hydrangea winter die back
Hydrangea Winter Damage

If your hydrangea are sprouting new growth from the bottom only with no new sprouts on the upper stems and visible shoots on bare wood have a dark dried up appearance then they are not viable. To remedy cut back all dead wood down to where new growth is occurring.  If your variety of hydrangea blooms on old wood you may not get blooms this year but your hydrangea should fully recover.

crape myrtle winter damage
Crape Myrtle Winter Damage

In the case of Crape Myrtles most of them survived but have dead top growth. It is advisable to wait until the end of June/beginning of July to cut back branches to new growth in order to allow the plant to sprout as much new foliage as possible. Other plants showing winter damage besides hydrangea and crape myrtle include butterfly bush and roses.  Use the same practice to remove expired growth.

Butterfly Bush Winter Damage
Butterfly Bush Winter Damage

 Due to the unusually harsh winter plant growth is delayed by approximately two to three weeks this season.   New growth will have a slow start this spring but with some patience and proper care your plants should show full recovery.

  As Always…Happy Gardening!

 Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Four Season Fabulosity!

This is another fine post from Fine Foliage on foliage combinations for planters and some of these are my favorites so I had to share!

Fine Foliage

IMG_0585 I’m a lazy gardener – or at least I prefer to choose how much work to do rather than feeling overwhelmed by a ‘to do’ list. I suspect I’m not alone…………..

So here is a container for you that looks this good ALL YEAR! This would be a perfect combo on a shady porch where you can enjoy the lush foliage and see the seasonal changes. That’s right – even though all the plants here are evergreen they all change in some way during the year, either in color or because they have flowers. See the plant profiles below to see how they strut their stuff.

Clockwise from top;

Paprika coral bells(Heuchera) – spicy round leaves add a punch of heat to this combo. White flowers in spring combine with extra hot colors for a show stopping display. Zones 4-9

Silver dragon lily turf (Liriope spicata

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The Art of Layering

This is a wonderful post showing how combining foliage really is a form of art. I love your combinations and will be sharing this with my readers!

Fine Foliage

IMG_0486 Both Christina and I design container gardens as part of our businesses. We love what we do and we do something different every time! I was asked once if I ever got stuck for ideas and to be honest I never have. You see even if I find myself reaching for a few of my favorite plants (again) I know I’ll combine them in new ways. But there’s another design layer to consider; the context .

You see the container design is not an isolated entity but rather is part of a larger scene. Whether on a front porch or set within a vast garden, we have the opportunity to establish a relationship between the container garden and its surroundings.

That really came home to me as I watched noted photographer David Perry at a photo shoot in my garden recently. I had been asked to design ten containers for…

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Long Island Garden: June Blooms

Peony ‘Karl Rosenfeld’

The month of June can be a bouquet of color in your garden with the proper spring blooming perennials.   Combining bright colors such as pinks and purples along with a backdrop of colorful evergreens in hues of blues and golds can really make the garden “pop”.  Here are a few examples of combining warm with cool colors in the landscape.

salvia 2
Evergreen & Perennial Garden

Cool Colors:  Purple (Salvia May Night), Blue (Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar)

Warm Colors:  Caramel (Heuchera Caramel), Gold (Chamaecyparis Gold Mop)

Double Red Knock Out Rose

Warm Color:  Double Knock Out Rose (Red)

Siberian Iris

Cool Color:  Blue (Siberian Iris)

Double Knock Out Roses and Nepeta
Double Knock Out Roses and Nepeta

Cool Colors:  Lavender/Blue (Nepeta Walkers Low)         Warm Colors:  Red (Double Knock Out Rose)

Combining perennials and evergreens on opposite sides of the color wheel will help to create a balance for a  landscape that offers dramatic curb appeal.  These combinations along with later summer blooming perennials can add interest to the garden throughout the entire season.  For more on colorful perennials also visit Color in the Garden Part III Perennials.

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2013, All Rights Reserved

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