Jun 26 2009

Hydrangea Festival becoming island tradition

Ayesha hydrangeaAnother successful Hydrangea Festival squeezed in between this past week’s torrential downpours, and the rare opportunity to picnic in the sunshine and to speak one-on-one with local horticulturists brought hundreds of visitors from across the Lowcountry to Rosebank Farms.
For the fourth year in a row, farm figurehead Sidi Limehouse and his crew went out of their way to prepare a delicious southern spread, complete with squash casserole, marinated mini tomatoes (including yellow teardrops, black cherry and cherry), coleslaw, corn on the cob, pulled pork, rolls and sweet tea. All of the vegetables came from the farm, and the hog was provided by a local farmer.

As for the hydrangeas, farm employees Louise Bennett and Sheila Larson had their hands full an hour before the festival even began. By 10am, the official start of the event, more than half of the potted hydrangeas had been sold and more were being carted off by the armload every minute. The hydrangeas at Rosebank Farms are particularly sought after due to their meticulous cultivation. Each variety has been bred to the specific climate of the sea islands and their spectacular appearances – full, lush blossoms and wild ranges of color – are priceless accents to any botanical bed.
This year, the farms’ top sellers were the Oakleaf and the pink Ayesha, which has a tendency to turn a rich red-violet in the island soil.

Coloring your hydrangea:
Pink/red blossoms: Grow in alkaline soil. As South Carolina’s soil tends toward the acidic, its hard to grow a truly pink blossom and this color is often only achieved in potted plants. To create more alkaline soil, add dolomitic lime several times a year. The ph should stay between 6.0 and 6.2. Anything above 6.4 might cause an iron deficiency.
Blue: Grow in acidic soil. To create more acidic soil around your hydrangea, add 1/2 oz (1 Tbsp) of aluminum sulfate per gallon of water around your hydrangeas for at least 2-3 years throughout the growing season. Water well in advance of adding the aluminum sulfate and be cautious not to burn the roots. For a more organic approach, adding coffee grounds to your soil will also increase the acidity of your soil, as well as adding fruit peels, leftover raw vegetables and grass clippings.
White hydrangeas can not be changed to pink or blue.

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