Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Rest of the Problem....

Just the other day I wrote about the constant wilting of my Endless Summer hydrangeas, regardless of whether they needed water or not. Given morning sun and afternoon shade, they should have been happy. While they grew fairly large and lush, given the cramped space I had put them in, they only bloomed pink instead of blue and rarely bloomed at all. They wilted every morning and spent each afternoon recovering.

Through reader feedback and some research, I figured a few things out: 1) the concrete foundation was leaching lime into the soil, causing the soil to become slightly alkaline, therefore giving me pink flowers and 2) cramped hydrangeas don't bloom well. But there was something else that kept bothering me. The leaves directly in front of our large bay window suffered the most wilting. The leaves in front of the side windows, which are covered by lined curtains I keep closed to keep the house cool and those shaded by the giant viburnum, barely wilted at all.


This picture was taken in late afternoon on an overcast day. By this time, the hydrangeas had recovered from their daily wilt and looked fine. The abelia closest to the obedient plants always develops its varigation later than the other two. 

Being a science teacher, I knew there was a rational explanation for this but it seemed elusive and I was growing frustrated. So I did what I teach my students to do during every lab we conduct: I went outside and observed the shrubs, looking for obvious clues and then using those to help me decipher the problem. I'm sure to my neighbors, I just looked like I was pacing in front of my shrubs, mutering to myself. That's ok. They're used to it!!

My favorite part of sudden discoveries is the feeling of every part finally sliding into place to create a finished whole. My windows are treated with reflective film to help keep the house cool. Because the largest part of the bay window isn't covered by a lined curtain and has greater surface area than the side windows, the amount of infrared light that is reflected back into the garden is much greater. Infrared light is felt as heat by plants and people. I had created a heat island between the clematis and viburnum, which caused the hydranegas to wilt every day, even when the temps were mild. Once I had figured out the problem, it had a simple solution - pull out the hydrangeas and replace them with something that can take hot temps.

One hydrangea is headed for the back garden into a long bed that is being completely redesigned and replanted this fall. The other two are being given to a wonderful friend with a massive garden. In their place I'm putting two 'Froebel' spireas. It's hard to find a shrub tougher than a spirea and they can take most of whatever Mother Nature dishes out. The hot pink blooms will brighten up my blah beige siding and their foliage will complement the other plantings in the front garden.

Mystery solved. Hooray!


Froebel spirea has pink flowers and beautiful reddish fall foliage. It does well in high heat, clay soil and both mildly alkaline to mildly acidic soil.

16 comments:

  1. well...hooray for scientific process!! Glad the mystery is solved.

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  2. That was good detective work figuring that one out like you did! I think they appreciate your mystery solving skills.
    Also, thank you for your nice comment...much appreciated!

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  3. Very impressive! I love a good mystery, especially whenthere's a solution. Kudos for your scientific reasoning. I'm glad your hydrangeas are going to better places.

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  4. Jennifer@threedogsinagarden
    Your background in science has certainly come in handy! Most people think spirea are too common. I like them and find them to be very dependable.

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  5. Jennifer@threedogsinagarden
    I was thinking that a nice alternative to the spirea might be a Korean Lilac. (Assuming that there is enough sunlight.) I have one out the front. It always looks neat and is about 4 1/2 feet tall after 8 years. It has a scent that stops traffic. (Literally! A passing motorist pulled over to ask about the source of the scent.) The flowers are smaller than a standard lilac and are pale mauve-pink.

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  6. That poor hydrangea was trying to tell you all along it was too hot, too hot. If plants could talk. I want to see a post next year with the Froebel spirea in bloom, filling that space, looking bright, colorful and happy! Nice choice.

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  7. Good deduction and looking at it from the plants perspective. One other consideration is that a foundation has quick drainage for the sake of the structure and the water the plant received went right into the foundation perforated drainage. Larger plants like the Viburnum grow more massive root systems and can weather this a bit better. Your deduction is very on target and most people do not realize how much these low-e windows reflect heat and that the angle reflected is going back to the ground. So your hydrangea may have been getting a double whammy.

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  8. Great detective work! I don't think I ever would have considered the reflective coating on the windows. Amazing how a small detail can affect your plants.

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  9. I would suggest a broadleaf evergreen over a spirea. As the spirea has no winter interest.

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  10. I am glad you figured out the muystery! Spireas are terrific, low maintenance plants. I love my Anthony Waterer spirea, also a pink blooming variety, and it has beautiful fall foliage. It rewards me greatly for the little work I put into it. I hope your spirea will be as successful!

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  11. Hooray for perseverance! and great detective work. I am not a huge spirea fan, perhaps a weigela?

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  12. Hi dear,

    Thanks so much for stopping by. Thought of you yesterday when talking with a bunch of devoted butterfly gardeners.

    Yes, Belfast is fabulous. That is where my best friend (Lynn Karlin) lives.

    Joys to you,

    Sharon

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  13. What excellent detective work! I do love that "ah hah" moment. Glad you have solved your mystery, hope your hydrangeas flourish in their new homes.

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  14. Good detective work! Your hydrangeas will no doubt thank you by looking more beautiful in their new garden spot.

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  15. greetings from the Amish community of Lebanon,Pa. Richard from Amish Stories.

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  16. Casa Mariposa-Thank You for visiting my blog. I have read this and found the information very valuable. While in my daily work role as an arborist I am often able to point this out. I do have some heat zones in my yard. I have roses in front of my living room windows. They do - on a scale of 1-10 I would say 6. This time of year in Denver, the blossoms just don't last long in this location. I too, have pink hydrangeas that are beautiful in the am and wilt in the pm. They receive slight morning sun and majority of their day is in shade. They are in a bed bordered by a brick wall (I built) and our driveway. My rock garden is a slower process as I try things out to determine who performs well. So doing this I am able to remove those that don't and plant mimics of the ones that do. I do love my rock garden though. Your blog gave me some food for thought.

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