The Hydrangea


My climbing hydrangea has filled out the fence nicely

I love my garden and there are particular favorites:  peonies, astilbes, feathery yarrow…but nothing compares to the hydrangea for me. I have different varieties scattered in my flower beds, and one bed dedicated entirely to hydrangeas. After waiting patiently for the last 5 years, my climbing hydrangea (which has done an incredible job of growing along the fence) FINALLY has a teeny, tiny little blossom on it this year. I almost feel like a new parent! Can’t wait to see it in bloom!

Many people share my love of hydrangeas. I found this really nice article from Georgia Raimondi, in her book “The Passionate Gardener.”

The Hydrangea

Long after the petals of my spring-flowering shrubs have faded, 
my hydrangeas begin to bloom and fill the garden with billowy 
blossoms of sky blue, rosy pink, and creamy white. This old-fashioned
plant with branches laden with voluptuous blossoms graces many summer
gardens where it produces armfuls of flowers. Hydrangeas lend an air of 
gentility to a garden, and their long-blooming flowers also provide
spectacular color throughout all the hot days of summer.

The name hydrangea is derived from the Greek words for water (hydro) and
bowl or vessel (angeion). But my first hydrangea made me think of another
word derived from Greek: chameleon.

A friend in the fashion industry gave me my first hydrangea. She had
selected a specific plant because its glorious color recalled a particu-
larly shocking pink that we had discovered on a trip to Paris. But imagine
my shock next season when my hot pink plant produced blooms of heavenly
blue. After some research I discovered that this striking metamorphosis was
not due to hocus-pocus but to a chemical interaction between the soil and
the plant. Acidic soil encourages the hydrangea to absorb aluminum which
accounts for its blueness. When the soil is more alkaline, aluminum absorb-
tion is prevented, and pink blooms abound. Mopheads -- the type my friend had 
given me -- are the least stable of the hydrangeas and most readily change
color according to the pH of the soil.

Thus enlightened, my shock gave way to delight, and hydrangeas have since 
become a stalwart of my garden. Their luxurious blossoms are quite hardy --
I leave some on the bush through the winter to hold an echo of summer through
the year. The cut flowers respond well to drying, and add texture and richness
to arrangements and wreaths. At Christmas, they make attractive and unex-
pected ornaments on the tree.

There are more than 500 hydrangea cultivars including various climbers and
shrubs with diverse foliage and flowers. With so many elegant choices, you
are sure to find a botanical chameleon of your own to enhance your garden with
its extravagant blooms, air of old-fashioned gentility, and chromatic magic.

Planting Tips

Lush shrubs of macrophylia hydrangea with abundant blooms are easy to
***Happiest in morning sun but will also flower abundantly in light shade
***Will thrive in almost any well-drained soil.
***To manipulate color, remember that deep blue results from acidic soil
((pH between 4.0 and 5.5) and rich pink from alkaline (7.3 to 7.5). Increase
alkalinity with cautious additions of lime. Increase acidity with peat moss,
aluminum sulfate, or sulfur. (Pee gee hydrangea slowly turn from white to
soft pink to rusty bronze, irrespective of the soil's pH).

The teeny, tiny little bud that has finally appeared on my climber!


The Marigold Mile

This article was originally printed in our Summer 2012 newsletter. The Marigold Mile has been a sanctioned ongoing project for OCMGA for 10 years, and on this 10th anniversary, we want to recognize the incredible job being done by these volunteers.


downloadHave you seen this sign? It is located just south of the Skyline Bridge on South Oneida Street in Appleton. The Marigold Mile is a 501C3 non-profit. Volunteers plant orange and yellow Inca Marigolds along both sides of the street from the next block south of this sign and ending at Calumet Street. It has been here since the 1990’s, but has only been an OCMGA Sanctioned Project since 2009.

It was started by Fox Valley Nursery with a planting of marigolds in front of their business. Soon other businesses such as Walgreens, Mary’s Place, and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital wanted the flowers planted along their boulevards. South Appleton Area Business Association supported it and with adequate funding planted marigolds in front of all the houses and businesses in this area from the 1990’s until 2007 when they disbanded. In 2008, Mike Turner became a MGV and volunteered to help the Mile. In 2009, Mike had the Marigold Mile sanctioned for OCMGA.

A little history on the marigold flower: it was first discovered growing wild in ancient Mexico by Cortez, who took seeds back to Spain. Devout Spaniards placed these flowers at the altar of the Virgin Mary—hence the name Mary’s Gold, which became Marigold. They have become a symbol of friendship around the world.


2efa4742ac9af7254b9a81e01528331eThis is a City Beautification Project that is seen by thousands of people every year walking and driving past. Children who volunteer usually once a year for their schools or churches or organizations get the biggest kick out of seeing how something they planted grow from a small seedling to huge colored flowers in just a number of weeks. Those kids tell their relatives and neighbors to come and see their flowers.

The Marigold Mile’s biggest donor of services is Fox Valley Nursery. They buy the marigolds and take in donations to cover the expenses yearly for the Mile, supply the tools, wagons and wheel barrows, storage, refreshments and even parking for the volunteers.

Other groups who have volunteered in the past are the Girl and Boy Scouts, Action Painting and Carpet Care, The Hmong Alliance Church, OC Youth Correctional Center, but the group who volunteers faithfully and almost whenever needed are the OCMGV’s. Whether planting, weeding or removing them in the fall, I can always count on MGVs and their sons and daughters to help out.


2019 update: visit the website for The Marigold Mile and learn about volunteer opportunities.

Read about John Law, “The Man Behind the Mile” here.


Give this Vegetable some Love!

An analysis of whether young people liked or disliked Brussels sprouts was undertaken by John Trinkaus of New York and reported under the title “Taste Preference For Brussels Sprouts: An Informal Look” in the journal of Psychological Reports in December 1991. A survey of 442 business students revealed that about 50 percent reported a dislike of sprouts, 10 percent liked them, and 40 percent were indifferent. Older students were more likely to like them than younger ones.

Clearly none of these students had Brussels sprouts prepared properly because, when they’re done right, they’re delicious! The Brussels sprout is a member of the Gemmifera Group of cabbages, grown for its edible buds. The leaf vegetables are typically 1.5–4.0 cm in diameter and look like miniature cabbages. The Brussels sprout has long been popular in Brussels, Belgium, and may have gained its name there.

brussels-sprouts-annotation-728682fab93242ed8198fbf93499faeeIf you’re looking for an extremely nutrient-dense food that’s also tasty and easy to prepare, look no further than Brussels sprouts. … Plus, Brussels sprouts are a good source of fiber, manganese, potassium, choline, and B vitamins. They even contain protein.

This is a great addition to your late summer garden as the plants need cool weather. If you don’t have room for a big garden, they can be grown in pots.
Let’s look to the good old Farmer’s Almanac for instructions on how to grow and harvest this wonderfully nutritious vegetable.

Easier Way to Divide Plants

by OCMGA Treasurer Tom Wentzel

One of the toughest gardening chores is dividing grasses, daylilies and particularly peonies. Here’s a tip that I saw on Victory Garden several years ago. There’s a wood working tool called a reciprocating saw. It is commonly referred to by the brand name “Sawzall” from Milwaukee Tool Company.

Get a couple 12” long demolition blades. As you can see in the photo, they have very course teeth.


With the tool turned on, shove the blade into the ground to its full length a few inches from the perimeter of the plant that you are dividing. Cut a circle around the plant. Peony roots are as tough as tree roots, so these will take a bit more effort. Smaller clumps can be removed at this time with a shovel. For larger plants, cut thorough the diameter of the circle dividing the clump in half prior to digging the clump out. Similarly you can cut an “X” in the circle dividing the clump into 4. Once the clump is out of the ground, the saw can be used to further divide the plant.

The Sawzall has become one of my favorite gardening tools. It works great for tree pruning.



The powerful antioxidants in strawberries may work against free radicals, inhibiting tumor growth and decreasing inflammation in the body. Due to their high potassium content, strawberries are recommended to those with high blood pressure to help negate the effects of sodium in the body.


One of the true joys of summer is fresh fruits and vegetables. Because it ripens early, the strawberry is often equated with summer. Grown on every continent except Antarctica, the strawberry is technically a “false fruit.” Strictly speaking, each of the seeds on the outside is a fruit in its own right. On average, there are two hundred seeds on every strawberry.

Nobody knows why they are called “strawberries.” The name comes from the Old English ‘streawberige,’ where the streaw may refer to the straw-like runners sent out by the plant, or it may have been a refernce to the seeds “strewn” around the fruit.

  • In America, the “World’s Largest Strawberry” can be seen atop City Hall in Strawberry Point, Iowa.
  • In 1995, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that strawberries may be sold either by weight or volume, but not both by the same store at the same time.
  • In Europe, the town of Wepion, Belgium is home to the “Musee de la Fraise” or Strawberry Museum.
  • Pregnant women used to avoid strawberries, for fear their babies would have strawberry birthmarks.
  • Strawberry juice combined with honey is said to be a good treatment for sunburn: rub it into the skin and rinse with warm water and lemon juice.
  • Strawberry quotation: “Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.” — William Butler, physician, writing in praise of strawberry around 1600.

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants, as well as being low calorie and just plain delicious!

Cool as a Cucumber

english-versus-regular-cucumbers-2355806-FINAL-5bc8a4eec9e77c0051c08105In September 1997, researchers threw five hundred cucumbers into the Irish Sea to gain information about the tidal currents. The cucumbers were painted five different colors for identification purposes. The reason for the research was to find out why sheep droppings were being washed up on English beaches. Cucumbers were selected for their hydrodynamic similarity to sheep droppings.

Cucumbers were known to the ancient Egyptians, who enjoyed a drink made from fermented cucumbers. The Roman emperor Tiberius also enjoyed cucumbers, which he grew in carts that slaves wheeled around so that the vegetables could catch the sun.

Cucumbers are about 95 percent water. The skin is the most nutritious part. The inside of a cucumber can be as much as 20ºF cooler than the outside temperature.

The word for “cucumber shaped” is “cucumiform,” not to be confused with “cuculliform,” which means “hood shaped.”

The world’s longest cucumber was grown by John Hammond of Clacton-on-Sea. It was 46 inches long. The world record for ‘Vegetable Cutting’ also featured a cucumber: in 1998 Professor Dr S. Ramesh Babu set a record by slicing an 11-inch cucumber into 120,060 pieces in two hours fifty-two minutes twenty-one seconds.

The cucumber is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, along with squash and different kinds of melon. Cucumbers are high in water and low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. They have a mild, refreshing taste and a high water content. There are just 16 calories in a cup of cucumber with its peel (15 without). You will get about 4 percent of your daily potassium, 3 percent of your daily fiber and 4 percent of your daily vitamin C.

Grow your best batch of cucumbers by following some good growing tips:

National Pollinator Week

If you love to eat, you need to help protect our pollinators. Without them, there would be no beautiful vegetables. The flowers and trees also rely on these wonderful winged creatures to spread seeds and fertilizer. With more and more areas being bulldozed and covered with concrete, we need to help our pollinator friends by including in our gardens the types of plants that they need for nourishment.

During National Pollinator Week — and throughout the year — think about protecting these helpful creatures. Additionally, you’ll be able to enjoy the birds, butterflies, and bees flitting through your gardens. Take a minute to review our post from pollinator week in 2015.