Why did my Pinky Winky not get pinky…?

(Question)

I have two quesions about my Pinky Winky, a hydrangea tree.
It was planted in summer, 2016/ fertilized well in spring.
Since the original tree was heavier at one side (see the pic: left one is younger tree with more branches toward the south – left hand-), I replanted after turning about 180 degree this spring after enrich the soil. (Right pic: September 2021)

1. I believe that the replant was successful, but I’m not sure if the tree is growing in a great shape having branches more evenly than now.

2. Every summer the flowers showed beautiful gradation, but not this summer. Entire tree looks much darker. (dark green colored leaves and wine-red colored flower with less gradation) Why? Weather condition? Watered too much?

(Answer)

Dear Gardener,

Your Pinky Winky deciduous ‘tree’ (flowering shrub that has been pruned as a one-stem ‘standard’) has a scientific name of Hydrangea paniculata. Pinky Winky is loved not only for its name, but for its abundant, robust, cone-shaped panicles, that perform a thrilling white-to-pink two-toned colour show during the growing season.

Your first question:

Although one does not HAVE to prune Pinky Winky, you may consider shaping your tree for both visual and physical balance. Pinky Winky grow on new wood — so in the spring, when you see new buds, it’s time to prune. Below last year’s blossom, follow down the stem to the first bud node, and cut just above it, called a ‘heading cut’. That bud will become leaves, then stems, then flowers. Where a stem might be longer, and off-balance, then let your secateurs travel further down the stem, and make a heading cut above the next bud node; and so on, until you feel the tree is balanced.

Second question:

  • Your Pinky Winky has plenty of space to capture air flow, and receive sufficient sun exposure;
  • You have applied a flat mulch layer around the root zone (and NOT a mound) as protection from cold exposure in winter;
  • Both the leaf and blossom growth are rich and full, so the root system must be well watered: hydrangeas are gluttons for water;
  • Pinky Winky is known for not being particular about soil PH levels, so there is generally no need to fertilize. You mention “fertilized well” when first planting, and also “enriching the soil” when re-positioning. What type of fertilizer did you feed¬† your Pinky Winky? A high nitrogen fertilizer could possibly (likely) have promoted thicker, darker, leaf production. While gardeners often ask about a complete lack of blossoms, this is thankfully not your issue. Your Pinky Winky, in fact, is thriving. But the deep reddish-toned panicles could be a result, too, of nitrogen fertilizer. Suggest letting this season play out, continue watering, and diarize to forego fertilizing next spring.