Hydrangeas in the North: Getting Blooms in the Colder Climates

by Tim Boebel (self-published, 2011, 119 pgs.).

Through extensive trial and error, local hydrangea expert Tim Boebel has developed a unique method for coaxing healthy blooms from hydrangeas that are forced to endure Western New York’s harsh winter weather. Those of us who have been puzzled by our hydrangeas’ odd behavior¾lack of blooms, intermittent blooms, blooms on just one side of the shrub, etc.¾need to read this clear and concise guide to getting our hydrangeas to flourish, even after a severe winter.

Profusely illustrated with color photos, Hydrangeas in the North is a gardening guide that hydrangea lovers will want to read from cover to cover. Engagingly written, the book focuses primarily on macrophylla cultivars, but also discusses serrata, arborescens, paniculata, and quercifolia hydrangeas.

In addition to an A-to-Z guide to the hydrangea varieties that do well in northern climates, Boebel also provides the secrets of his own particular method for getting hydrangeas to bloom after cold winters. Laid out step by step, this method demystifies the blooming process and provides specific pruning advice that starts in summer and extends into the fall. Winter care is also covered. Then there are specific, easy steps to follow in the spring to ensure that your hydrangeas will flourish all summer. Thus Boebel’s method is applied throughout the seasons, but the steps are simple and he provides helpful illustrations that make the process easy to apply in practice.

The book also includes advice on selecting and siting new plants, as well as considering sun, heat, moisture, and wind. Boebel provides helpful guidance on dealing with various soil types as well as guidelines for fertilization. For those with little or no garden space, a chapter is devoted to growing macrophylla hydrangeas as outdoor container plants.

This is a must-read for local hydrangea lovers and just might convert those who were not considering hydrangeas for their yards. The number of hydrangea varieties available to the average home gardener has skyrocketed over the past decade. Not all of these varieties are well suited to our climate. However, Boebel’s own spectacular Finger Lakes hydrangea garden in living proof that many of these new varieties will flourish here if certain easy steps are followed.

Reviewed by Andrea Kingston, RCGC library volunteer, November 2011.