In the cool northwest, summertime means hydrangeas; and boy, do we have hydrangeas!
We've been growing hydrangeas (H. macrophylla)
in our coastal Arcata fields for over a decade, and in the last few years we've planted new hybridized varieties. These are bred for better performance, allowing us to bring some amazing hydrangea attributes to the cut flower market: manageable bloom heads in a range of sizes, strong stems, amazing vase life, and of course, a gorgeous array of color.
The color variations we are producing are off-the-charts. Coloration of these plants is dependent upon their specific variety as well as the acidity of the soil or water. A pH of 5 or below produces shades of blue and lavender, while a pH of 7 or higher will give us vibrant pinks. Just take a look at the different colors we get by changing the pH of Everlasting Opal:
|Everlasting Opal, from pink to blue|
I love walking through the hoops just to see the range of colors within one variety. One of my favorite varieties right now is Amethyst, and looking at its kaleidoscopic coloration, you can see why:
Soil pH aside, the most important element to growing long-stemmed, colorful blooms is temperature and light. H. macrophylla
is native to the maritime climate of coastal Japan, which means they love our coastal setting here in Humboldt County where the ever-present ocean breeze dissipates the heat. Hydrangeas like to keep cool, and they also need a little bit of shade. We cover our open hoop houses with shade cloth, which gives the plants just enough sunlight to grow and develop, while also allowing the coastal air to circulate freely. This environmental setting encourages long stem length and complete coloring of the florets. In winter, we keep the dormant plants uncovered, where the Humboldt rainfall nourishes the shrubs for production the following spring.
We've seen a lot of success with one crop-tending practice in particular, known as Fertigation. We inject fertilizers and soil amendments into our irrigation system, distributing the enhanced solution among the crops using a computer program. This allows us to regulate the amount of nutrients each variety receives, helping us to be more efficient with our natural resources while also controlling the resulting end product.
Our hydrangeas are ready and will continue to be in production through the end of the summer; then, fresh hydrangeas will give way to the gorgeous, marbled tones of Antiqued Hydrangeas
Thanks to both innovative plant breeding and the growing techniques of our knowledgeable flower farmers, Sun Valley continues to bring improvements and advancements to the Hydrangea Cut Flower Market. By exploring new varieties and analyzing our growing methods we naturally follow one of our guiding principles, "Continuously improve and innovate." And what a wonderful world of color this practice has brought to both us and you!