zone 7a - Winter Protection? Please help...

jemboyschAugust 27, 2008

I live in Eastern/Central Jersey - about 8 miles from the beach and I have several hydrangeas that I am not sure how or if I should winter protect. First, my Nikko Blue - I have mine on the South corner of the East side of my home, which I hear should be a great spot for it, but does that mean I can skip the WP? How about my re-bloomers; Penny Mac, Forever and Ever (2) and Blushing Bride? I'd like to get the most blooms I can next summer, but I have always been a minimum fuss gardener, so don't want to do more than I need to. Also, how long BEFORE the first frost do I cover them? And what if we have one of those mild November/Decembers like we sometimes do? Are my shrubs going to get tricked into sprouting under there if they get too hot inside their protective homes? Thank you to anyone who can help me with these questions. I've read many posts but I didn't see these topics for my zone covered.



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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Hello, Jm. The ones you listed should do fine in your zone without winter protection, Jm. Just mulch them with 3-4" of any type of acidic mulch.

Your sometimes mild weather is like our whole winter. Hydrangeas here probably have as hard a time being dormant as someone who sleeps by someone who snores. Our temperatures are mild but fluctuate quite a bit, upwards and downwards. I sometimes worry that plants will start leafing out early!

It almost happened on a warm winter when temps stayed into the 70s until December. And then suddenly, ker plunk! Down into the high 20s for almost a week. As a result of this type of climate, the weather killed hydrangea flower buds even though I am in Zone 8 (bordering 7).

You can help the plant by mulching it with 3-4" of any type of acidic mulch (apply it past the drip line if you are very concerned), discontinuing fertilizers starting in August-September, planting in a location where a structure protects from winter's drying winds and researching hydrangeas that do well in coastal gardens (Ayesha, Blue Wave, Lanarth White, Mme Emille Mouilliere, Seafoam, etc.

But like you, I like to be a minimum fuss gardener. So, while I take some precautions, I let Mother Nature do her thing.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 8:35PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

I do my gardening in a zone 5/6. I have to protect all of the Macrophyllas if I'm going to get any flowers.

I would bet that you shouldn't have too much trouble over the actual winter months. These plants can take the extremes of cold that you should be expecting. The real problem for you ( and me, too, actually) is the fluctuations. It's Luis' "ker plunks" that end up getting us.

Dirr has said that he sees better flowering in a place like Cape Cod than he sees in Georgia, even though Georgia is a much higher zone. That's because, at Cape Cod, you don't get the ker plunks. The ocean, the native habitat of these Macrophyllas, keeps the temperature moderate. No ker plunks.

Being relatively close to the ocean might save you somewhat. At least in many years.

You don't need to worry so much about doing something before the first frost unless it happens like tomorrow or something. As long as the weather follows a moderate path into the winter, you wouldn't have any problem at all. I don't do anything here until after the frosts come.

The real problem for you, I would bet, is next Spring. That's when the damage is likely to happen. Typical for us people away from the moderating ocean, just like interior Georgia, is for a nice long spell of warm weather in Spring, fooling the plants into thinking that it's all over, with the buds opening up, only to get zapped with the ker plunk that follows.

If you want to take your chances and do a minimal amount of work maybe you should consider not doing anything elaborate over the winter, but be ready to run out in the Spring when we get that night or two of cold and cover the plants with sheets of plastic and/or some other insulating material.

Nobody said it was going to be easy. Fun maybe, but not easy.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 7:40AM
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Hi Hay - 'was waiting & so happy to read on this ... your expertise!!! Â;) If I ever post photos of your 'Over-wintering' influence - no doubt ... as my dh calls me - "a glut for H punishments"!

For the 1st time, Nikko produced as many blossoms (tho pink/lavender) in '07 as when I first received her from my kids in 1990! This year is a different story, in spite of the even, more serious O-W efforts & all old canes survived. New/fat canes zoomed from the ground, so aggressively that the old ones were practically left in the dust! They slowly joined in, with the summons of the sun, but oh, ever so p..o..k..e..y... managed a few $-size-pink blooms! Could it be, she exhausted her energies last season ... an off year perhaps, like some fruit trees or those thug-canes, in the center, used them all up?

BTW, 3 of those new fat/sturdy center canes, produced gigantic blossoms (8-12") ... I'd much rather have ES-size ones & a few more.

Will very much await your thoughts, Hay!!!

Luis - do jump in any time ... 'value your thoughts too!!!


    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 12:05PM
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"BTW, 3 of those new fat/sturdy center canes, produced gigantic blossoms (8-12")"

Am I reading you right - new growth produced blooms on a Nikko blue? Now maybe this resolves some of my confusion on the Nikkos, because I do remember hearing things like this before. But most say they only bloom on old wood.
Luis and Hay - thanks for the answers - I think I'll see what happens with the 4" of mulch at drip line for all my new friends. BUT would like to hear what you think of TIA's comments.
Thanks all!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 5:16PM
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In response to your wonderings re: blooms on new canes - I was told that those canes may have sprouted out of old canes barely under the top soil or mulch. I have read the same observations from at least 2 other Nikko owners.

I have also observed this occurrence, on a few of my Lacecaps, known to produce blooms only on old woods ... same explanation from experts/experienced were given ... 'guess it makes sense due to the thick mulch that I leave under.

I hope this clears your "confusion" as it did mine.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 9:53PM
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hayseedman(z5/6 Ct.)

Ditas, sorry you had to wait for so long, and even more sorry that I don't have any answer for you about the blooming. I've never had that sort of thing happen to me.

I once got a bunch of Hydrangeas at an end of year sale and just for fun pruned them all back really hard in the late Fall just to see what would happen. The next year, some of them bloomed a lot and some of them hardly bloomed at all. I'm still trying to understand that one.

Hay, thinking about winter.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2008 at 9:05AM
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