Hydrangeas can brighten up shady spots in the yard

Good to Know

Hydrangeas can brighten up shady spots in the yard

Nothing brings cottage charm to a home landscape quite like hydrangeas. Whether hugging the foundation of a clapboard-covered home in a quaint small town in New England or nestled along a white picket fence in a tree-lined neighborhood of the South, these deciduous flowering shrubs have found a home throughout most of the U.S.

Not too particular about where they grow, hydrangeas can be easy to maintain. Most varieties love the morning sun but prefer protection from the harsh afternoon rays. Although some hydrangeas grow well in the shade, the location must be bright.

Often these shade-loving hydrangeas are seen in woodland settings surrounded by hostas. Their large, mop-like flowers shine in the dappled shade of overhead trees. Carefully consider the placement of these shrubs to avoid competition with tree roots for water and nutrition.

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There are five main types of hydrangeas in North America: bigleaf, panicle, smooth, oakleaf and climbing.

Lacecap, a type of bigleaf hydrangea, have flowers shaped like flat caps with frilly edges.

Panicle hydrangeas, often called tree hydrangeas, have strong stems and are often pruned into the shape of a tree.

Oakleaf hydrangeas have leaves that resemble those of oak trees. This variety is one of the best choices for that somewhat shady spot in your yard.

Watch this video: Horticulturalist Mark Viette offers suggestions on how best to prune summer-blooming hydrangeas for maximum floral display in this clip from Real Virginia.

Depending on the variety, hydrangeas can start blooming in the spring and hold their blooms throughout the summer into early fall.

Some hydrangeas bloom on old wood, and some varieties bloom on new. Hydrangeas that bloom on new wood can be pruned in late winter or early spring. If buds form on the branches in the fall, that means the hydrangea blooms on old wood. Pruning, if desired, should be done next summer after blooming—not in the spring—to avoid removing the buds that will produce flowers.

Oakleaf hydrangeas prefer not to be pruned unless damaged or overgrown. To keep the plant tidy, you may remove the dead flowers by pruning directly under the bloom.

Oakleaf hydrangeas have leaves that resemble those of oak trees. This variety is one of the best choices for that somewhat shady spot in your yard. (Click to Tweet)
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Wooded property is a natural for growing mushrooms

Mark Jones of Sharondale Farm in Albemarle County grows a variety of mushrooms that he sells at farmers markets and to restaurants and grocers.

Jones grows them outside in the woods and in a climate-controlled building on sawdust blocks to have mushrooms available year-round.

Shiitake mushrooms are easy to grow in your backyard, especially if you have woods near your home.

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Grow your own shiitake mushrooms at home

  • To start, use a white oak log and mushroom culture, Jones said.
  • Transfer the mushroom culture to organic rye grain, and then transfer the grain to sawdust spawn. “It is important to make sure the grain and sawdust are sterilized so the culture stays pure,” Jones said.
  • The next step is to put the sawdust spawn into the log. To do this, use a drill to place holes in the log. Jones suggests using a diamond pattern, and space out the holes. Place the sawdust in each shaft, and seal them with melted cheese wax, applied with a cloth dauber.
  • Take culture-treated logs to the woods, and place them close to the ground, ensuring sufficient room for airflow around them. It takes six to 12 months for a log to mature once inoculated, Jones said.
  • After the logs have matured, soak them for 24 hours in non-chlorinated water. “If you have non-well water, you need to let the water evaporate for a day or so because of the chlorine in the water,” Jones said.
  • Stack or prop the logs so they can dry, in an area that receives about 75% shade.

“The best site for mushroom production would be in an area with dappled sunlight because direct sunlight will dry out the logs,” Jones said. “They also need to be in a well-drained, small space so that there is air around the logs.”

Jones said each log should produce three to four harvests per year for about three to five years.

“The best site for mushroom production would be in an area with dappled sunlight because direct sunlight will dry out the logs.” (Click to Tweet)

Chesapeake Ray Fajitas

Comparing Chesapeake ray to tuna, both have red flesh and are meatier than other types of fish. Ray costs considerably less, though. So why not pick up some the next time you're at the seafood counter? Here's a recipe for ray fajitas.

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Serve Chesapeake ray for dinner, and help preserve the shellfish industry

Every spring, as the temperature in the Atlantic Ocean along Virginia’s coast warms, large schools of rays swarm the Chesapeake Bay.

As they migrate into the bay, the rays devour shellfish that help filter the water and would otherwise be marketable for food.

“I’ve seen acres of oysters wiped out in a matter of hours by these cow-nosed rays,” said Mike Hutt, who grew up near the bay. And now Hutt, executive director of the Virginia Marine Products Board, is trying to stop them from damaging the state’s valuable shellfish industry.

The plan is to create and develop a market for the ray as a food source through restaurant, retail and food service sales, Hutt said.

The VMPB renamed the cow-nosed ray Chesapeake ray to help market it. Hutt and seafood marketing specialist Joseph Cardwell have been working with chefs, seafood distributors and grocery stores to spread the word that ray is a nutritious, edible product.

Hutt said ray takes on the flavors of whatever it is cooked with. “It can be sautéed, grilled, fried, pan-seared, steamed or broiled.”

And with 22 grams of protein and only 100 calories in a 4-ounce serving, ray can be part of a healthy diet.