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How to retrieve Hydrangea after frost damage

  • How to retrieve Hydrangea after frost damage

It's hard to reconcile the heat-wave of yesterday (27 degrees) with the frosts we have been having, up until a couple of weeks ago, isn't it!

With the weather suddenly turning warm, hopefully lots of us will be getting outside and taking a good look at our gardens, and you might be horrified to find your shrubby Hydrangeas with blackened, burnt-looking foliage - as per the picture above.

Don't worry: this is only frost damage, and it's the reason for the classic garden care statement “Don't prune your Hydrangeas until all risk of frost is past” which is, of course, almost impossible to predict.

This year, the winter was mild, and many of us pruned our Hydrangeas a little bit too early: including one Client of mine, who decided she couldn't stand the mess any longer and cut them all back in early April. They sprouted like mad things, and a couple of weeks ago they were lush, green bushes.

Then of course we had some frosts, and lo! and behold, we now have frost-blackened foliage, and she is regretting her haste.

However, all is not lost: the damage looks considerable, but Hydrangeas are very forgiving, and all you have to do is remove the section which is damaged, going back down each stem individually to the next pair of fat, un-damaged, buds.

Cut the stem off cleanly with sharp secateurs, just above the next pair of buds, many of which will already be producing leaves.

Suddenly, all the nasty damaged foliage is gone: the plant might be a few inches lower than it was, but the newly exposed buds will now spring into life: in a couple of weeks, you won't even know that your Hydrangea had been damaged.

Unless we get another frost, of course..... !

Comments (1)

  1. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    Hi Rachel - interesting what you say about fluctuating temperatures. We lived for a while in New England where they don't really have a spring. Winter lasts through to May and there are no leaves on anything until about this time. I desperately missed the English spring while I was there and remember one time coming back to London in March and finding St James' Park seemed tropical. London tropical? Crazy you might think. But it's all relative.

    So in New England the plants have wised up. They don't put out leaves until the weather switches ... and that it does: perfect hot, cloud-free weather every day it seems from the end of May - the leaves all come out in a period of a week or two around Memorial Day.

    No, the English Spring is a curious (and lovely) thing and tempts a lot of plants from other parts of the world to leaf and bud too soon. Take for example the Birch Betula ermanii from N.E. Asia and N. Japan which at the northern part of its range can withstand -30 degrees in winter and +35 in summer, but can stlll be caught over here by a late English frost.

    So where do Hydrangeas come from? Southern and eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas and Indonesia) and the Americas. Not used to it you see. For all its beguiling charm, the English spring is tougher than it looks.

    • How to retrieve Hydrangea after frost damage

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