Success-With-Hydrangeas-featured-image Reviews

‘Success With Hydrangeas, A Gardeners Guide’ by Lorraine Ballato: Book Review


If the number of proliferating hydrangea cultivars is any sign, hydrangeas are among the most popular shrubs being sought at garden centers, and with good reason. They are not difficult to grow and come in many sizes, with a wide range of color and flower forms.  The only trouble for gardeners is coming to discern the differences between species. In her book, Success with Hydrangeas, Lorraine Ballato lays out how to handle each species.

FOUR SECTIONS TO ENLIGHTENMENT

Section One : Getting to Know Hydrangeas

I confess, that although I love hydrangeas and have three paniculata hydrangeas in my own garden I’ve had trouble understanding the differences between H. paniculata, H.macrophylla, H. serrata, H. quercifolia, and H. arborescens. I was able to recognize H. petiolaris (the vining hydrangea) on my own. Happily, Lorraine Ballato’s explanations will clear up any confusion, whether you just started gardening or have been for years.

Every aspect of each species is covered – from types and colors of flowers, to shapes and sizes of foliage and need for sun or shade. And, as is most necessary, we need information about pruning each species. I think pruning shrubs and trees is always tricky. You have to remember which plants bloom on new wood and which on old wood. To prune most effectively it is necessary to know when the plant is dormant, and this often requires knowing what temperatures affect dormancy and when buds are set. Ballato very clearly explains all this, and the information is easily found again if you are like me and have trouble keeping every detail in mind.

Section Two: Giving Hydrangeas the Best Care

Fertilizing, watering, mulching, and transplanting are the four activities that affect any plant in our gardens so some instructions will be very familiar. Even so, how many of us who know about the importance of a soil test ever make use of this knowledge? It is good to have reminders about each of the activities.

Ballato explains how to identify problems that can be cured by fertilizing, and gives specific information about different fertilizers and how they will affect specific hydrangeas.

We are more familiar with the need to water carefully – not too much and not too little. We are reminded that there is more to mulching than keeping down weeds and conserving moisture. Mulch is always breaking down, thus increasing the organic matter in our soil (which is a good thing). The type of mulch can also affect the acidity of our soil.

I wouldn’t like to transplant a mature hydrangea myself so I appreciated the clear instructions. Later in the book there is a section on propagation and I was glad to learn about taking cuttings and layering. During the summer I noticed that my yellow twig dogwood, Cornus sericea had low branches touching the ground that took root. I got an unexpected lesson in how easy it is to use the layering technique to create a new plant.

Section Three: Troubleshooting Hydrangea Problems

This section gives full information about fungal diseases and how to treat them. Root rot and bacterial diseases are also covered.

Insects can be a problem. Ballato touches on leaf rollers, aphids, white flies, spider mites and scale, along with appropriate treatments. I am a devotee of Milky Spore disease to treat Japanese beetles, but Ballato provides five other ways to get rid of them, including handpicking.

Section Four: Hydrangeas in the Landscape

Hydrangeas can be used many ways in the domestic landscape, from large hedges to planting in handsome pots. Suggestions are given about the best species for different areas.

The book ends with a good glossary and an index for reference.

RECOMMENDATION

Success With Hydrangeas: A Gardeners Guide is an excellent book, both for the novice and the experienced gardener. Beautiful photographs help when first learning about hydrangeas and information is organized and clear. This means it can be used a reference book when you have a specific problem or need specific information. Lorraine Ballato, an Advanced Master Gardener, has been teaching, speaking and writing about gardens for many years and understands what both new and experienced gardeners need to know.

WHERE TO BUY

Success With Hydrangeas: A Gardener’s Guide by Lorraine Ballato, published by B&B Publications, is available at Amazon Prime as a paperback for $24.95 and at local bookstores.

And now, over to you – are you a fan of hydrangeas? What’s something you would like to learn about them? Let us know in the comments below!

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