Hydrangeas have had a brilliant comeback in recent years. The magnificent snowball hydrangea Annabelle, which is one of the forest hydrangeas and has round, creamy white flower heads, has contributed to this. It thrives in the form of 1 to 1.5 meter high and just as wide shrubs, which, with a little luck, can make the magical flower balls appear well into November even in shady locations. Depending on the variety, with good care, the thick snowballs, which consist of countless, star-shaped flowers, reach a full 40 cm in diameter. All these advantages make the Annabelle ball hydrangea an ideal candidate for decorative bedding and as an impressive natural wonder in the tub on the balcony and terrace.
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As the experienced gardener knows from the hydrangea plants, the ball hydrangea Annabelle is also very thirsty. Water therefore plays an important role in care:
- Water regularly with rainwater.
- In summer, it is best to water in the morning and evening.
- Give the dose of water directly to the roots.
- Avoid the formation of waterlogging through drainage.
- Give special hydrangea fertilizers every 4 weeks.
- Blue grain fertilizer is not suitable due to the high phosphorus content.
Since the snowball hydrangea only tolerates calcareous water well, experts advise using collected rainwater. If you have no way of doing this, ask the local waterworks about the hardness of the tap water. If the value is above 14 ° dH (degree of German hardness), it is decalcified by hand. To do this, the water is poured into a barrel and a cotton bag with peat is hung in it overnight, which makes the irrigation water softer.
The snowball hydrangea Annabelle needs to be pruned annually to about 15 cm above the ground. In any case, at least one pair of eyes must remain on the shoot. Since this type of hydrangea lets its flowers appear on the annual wood, the lush growth is supported in this way. The best time for pruning is in March or April, just before new growth. Since the hard-working hobby gardener is very busy with all kinds of gardening work at this time, nothing speaks against pruning the ball hydrangea in winter during a frost-free period. It should be noted, however, that even when they are withered, the flower balls are extremely decorative when they are covered with snow.
In the flower vase, Annabelle creates a picturesque appearance in every living room. The more mature the flowers are, the longer they will stay in the vase. Therefore, the flowering branches should not be cut before mid or late August. Experienced gardening enthusiasts carefully grasp the flower ball with their hands beforehand. If it still feels tender and soft, wait a while until the desired firmness has developed. If the stem end is too lignified, it is shortened a little, the green part is cut diagonally and split so that the flowering branch can absorb sufficient water and nutrients. If the flower water is renewed regularly, the beautiful bouquet will be preserved for a particularly long time.
The best location conditions
As a forest hydrangea, the snowball hydrangea Annabelle prefers a location in light shade, such as under trees or at the edge of the wood. She doesn’t like blazing midday sun, because then the spherical flowers and light green leaves are threatened with damage from sunburn. In addition, the location is well chosen if the following conditions prevail:
- Some sunshine in the morning and in the evening.
- Humous, fresh and well-drained potting soil.
- The ideal pH value is 5.5 to 6.
- Use moor bed or rhododendron soil in the bucket.
- Don’t forget drainage against waterlogging.
Incidentally, the Annabelle snowball hydrangea can be planted all year round. The best time to do this, however, is early spring, because then the fast-growing shrub will delight gardeners with its beautiful flowers in the first year.
Basically, the ball hydrangea is hardy to -25 ° Celsius. Nevertheless, it is advisable to protect the roots in the bed with a thick layer of leaves, straw or brushwood in the cold season. In their first winter, young plants are additionally covered with a sackcloth cover. Since Annabelle is very popular as a container plant, protection from frost and snow is necessary in this case, because there is a risk that the root ball in the container will freeze through completely. In addition to taking precautions against frost damage by covering the roots and sackcloth over the branches, the bucket is also placed on a wooden or styrofoam block in a place protected from the wind. Where there is enough space for a bright winter quarter, the snowball hydrangea can easily get through the cold season at 16 ° to 18 ° Celsius. During this time the hydrangea is not exactly as thirsty as in spring and summer; nevertheless, it must not dry out. Therefore, it receives some water in the bed on frost-free days and is watered from time to time in the winter hostel.
Nobody wants to do without the prestigious Annabelle ball hydrangea anytime soon. Therefore, the topic of propagation is extremely interesting for the majority of hobby gardeners. Different methods are available:
The annual pruning in March or April automatically provides suitable cuttings in abundance. The strongest are cut so that they have two eyes in the upper and lower parts over a length of 15 cm to 20 cm. The lower end is cut at an angle, the upper end straight. Half of the cuttings are placed in the growing medium, where they take root within a short period of time. It is important to note that they are always kept slightly moist during this phase. By the way, cuttings can be cut until June or July.
The Annabelle snowball hydrangea is the perfect candidate for subsidence propagation. For this purpose, the least possible woody shoot is pulled to the ground in the course of the summer. There it is covered with earth in a gutter that was drawn in advance with a spade. Several stones prevent the lowering device from bouncing up again. The driving force still has to look out. If the shoot is scratched lightly in two or three places beforehand, this promotes rooting. As soon as its own root system has formed on the sinker, it is cut off from the mother plant and can be planted in a new location.
Tried and tested dried flower
If you want to keep the beautiful white flower balls in the long term, you can turn them into dried flowers. The cheapest method is as follows:
- Cut off the fully bloomed branches generously.
- Hang upside down on a string in an airy, dry place.
- The flowers must not touch.
- The drying process is completed after 2 to 3 months.
The disadvantage of this approach is that the snowball hydrangeas are very brittle. Sprayed with hairspray, they get a little more firmness. The following procedure with silica gel is somewhat more expensive, but much faster. Everyone has already discovered the pellets as an addition to high-quality electronic devices in small bags. There they have the task of absorbing any liquid. This property can also be used for drying the snowball hydrangea:
- Buy silica gel in the craft store or online shop.
- Cut off the blooming ball hydrangea.
- Cover the bottom with the beads in a container.
- Place the branch on top and cover with the silica gel.
- Close the jar with a lid.
If placed in a warm place, the drying process is already completed after a week.
Diseases and pests
Hydrangeas are naturally robust and resilient subshrubs. This also applies to the snowball hydrangea Annabelle. If problems arise, they are usually due to errors or deficiencies in maintenance. If the leaves turn yellow, this is due to waterlogging, which causes the roots to rot and inhibits the supply of nutrients. If the ball hydrangea does not want to bloom at all, it is too much in the shade, because a little sunshine every now and then is vital for the plant. Regardless of loving care, it can still lead to an infestation by pests or a fungal infection.
seem ubiquitous, especially in summer when the weather is dry, and they also attract flocks of ants. The experienced hobby gardener therefore regularly checks his snowball hydrangeas in order to act immediately in the event of an infestation. The following biological control agents provide a remedy:
- Spray milk water from 1 liter of water and 1/2 liter of milk.
- Set up sticky traps with pheromones.
- Let the tobacco leaves ferment in water, strain and spread the liquid manure.
- Use insecticides containing neem.
- Hang up nesting boxes for titmice.
- Spray tansy manure from 30 g of plant parts and 10 liters of water on the plants.
- Nettle manure also helps against aphids.
- Plant savory between the hydrangea bushes.
- Spread lacewing larvae on the infected bushes.
By the way, aphids are a delicacy for ear peasants. The beneficial insects are attracted by an inverted flower pot filled with wood wool. The nocturnal animals spend the day here and hunt for aphids at dusk. Ladybugs also like aphids to eat. Their use is so effective that their larvae – like the lacewing larvae – are now available in specialist shops.
This particularly stubborn fungal infection does not stop at snowball hydrangea. The following environmentally conscious control methods have been positively reported:
- Milk water, as well as in the fight against aphids.
- Cut off infected parts of the plant and burn.
- Put in broths made from tansy, nettle, garlic or onion.
- Water preferably early in the morning.
- Spread bark mulch under adult bushes.
- Plant as airy as possible.
Bark mulch should not be spread under young Annabelle bushes, because this permanently removes nitrogen from the soil, which inhibits the growth of plants in the first few years. On the other hand, bark mulch supports the resistance to powdery mildew on the fully grown snowball hydrangea.
If all biological methods are unsuccessful, the only option left is insecticides and fungicides, some of which are composed of chemical components. The online database of the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety provides information about which preparations are currently approved for use in the home garden.
Natural spectacle, as if created by an artist’s hand
The snowball hydrangea Annabelle is one of the most striking design elements for the well-tended garden. The bushy, growing subshrub enchants the viewer with its huge, bright white flower balls, which at first glance look as if an artist had lent a hand here. Since these hydrangea plants are pleasantly easy to care for, robust and resilient, they have taken many a gardener’s heart by storm. Its adaptability with regard to the location is seen as particularly advantageous, because the ball hydrangea blooms continuously from June to October even in light shade.