For the latest updates,
                                               check out the
                               Hydrangeas in the North
                                           Facebook page.

Click on the Books tab above
for more information.

“How do I get my hydrangeas to bloom?”      

That’s the burning question I set out to answer so many years ago

. I’d been a
Garden Center Manager in different cities and capacities in the Northeast since 1990, and I swear I’d been asked that question a million times. The problem was that a reliable answer didn’t exist. Everything we knew about growing hydrangeas came from books written in warm climates—the South or Northwest, Europe, Japan, New Zealand. And no one had as yet come up with a way for Northerners to get consistent blooms on these plants. But I couldn’t just tell my customers that, because by the late 1990’s I had personally sold thousands of hydrangeas, and (cheers to Martha Stewart) hydrangeas had become the biggest-selling plant at the garden center! I didn’t just WANT to find a solution to this problem, I HAD to. So I started a collection of hydrangeas on which to experiment that now totals over 400 cultivars, and after years of tests and trials with these plants, I've come up with a solution for the Northerner who wants her hydrangeas to actually bloom.
Photos: Right - Hydrangea macrophylla 'Mathilda Gutges'
              Below Right - Hydrangea paniculata 'Bobo' with lotus

'Today's Hydrangeas' Sneak Peek

My first garden center job was in the Buffalo, NY area. I was fresh out of college with a degree in English Education (not that I’m a teacher at heart, I was more interested in writing, but trying to keep it practical…) and found that quite contrary to the dreams of my advisers, there were precisely 3 English teaching positions available in the entire state! I subbed a bit then went looking for a summer job. I fell in love with horticulture immediately. So much so I was promoted to Nursery Manager by fall. After moving to Central Virginia, I picked up a similar position, and found that even in that mild climate hydrangeas are often reluctant to bloom.

The problem is that they bloom on old wood—at least those of the species most in demand ('macrophylla,' to be exact). Couple that with the inability of their ‘old wood’ to survive winter temperatures under 10F or so and you begin to feel the frustration of us who know what wind chills of -20F feel like. And how those hydrangeas love to tease us by being root-hardy enough to shoot back up every spring with such lush, dark green foliage. So to come up with a method for getting these plants to bloom in the North, I had to find a way to:

                  1. Get them to set flower buds close to the ground
    2. Protect those buds for the winter
    3. Ensure those buds express their blooms

The video below demonstrates the method I developed, but keep in mind that it is ONLY FOR MACROPHYLLA HYDRANGEAS GROWN IN CLIMATES WHERE THEIR STEMS SUFFER SIGNIFICANT DIE-BACK EACH WINTER. Basically, this is for everyone living in USDA Growing Zones 3 through 7A, which is roughly the top half of the continental United States! I’ve found that this method works for most MACROPHYLLA cultivars, but I must admit that there are a handful which seem pretty much incapable of blooming unless the buds at the tips of their branches survive the winter completely intact. I’ve also found that my hydrangeas give me more blooms with each year that I use this method on them. 

Tim Boebel's Method for Macrophylla Hydrangeas in the North

For a NEWLY UPDATED printable handout of these steps, click the image below.


The pictures below are of my daughter, Eva. The top three were taken in 2005, when she was just 6 years old. Note that she is planting a shasta daisy in an empty garden bed. Now look at the picture below, from 2017, and note the shasta daisy in the background. Yes, it’s the one she had planted 12 years earlier!

Seeing the progression of this young girl along with the progression of the garden should stir something in us, a sense that people are supposed to grow and mature inside very similarly to the way a garden grows. That is what drives most of us to garden. When we lose touch with that truth, we forget our love of gardening, to our detriment. Not that we have to continue gardening to continue to grow inside. Some of us leave our gardens because of physical limitations, yet the garden still grows within; others turn toward outward service to those less fortunate, knowing that the inner garden is what matters most. We continue to cultivate what is good, and discard what in us is weed.

Work the soil,
work the soul-