Pink hydrangeas associated with low aluminum in soil

Q: My hydrangeas are more pink than usual this year. Do you know why?Helen Rice, email

A: I could suggest theories, but I’m not sure they hold water. Hydrangea flower color is determined by the amount of aluminum present in the flower petals. More aluminum in the soil equals a blue-er bloom. Perhaps last year’s drought damaged the shrub roots so not as much aluminum was absorbed this spring. Perhaps the March freeze damaged the top flower buds and the secondary flower buds were not able to absorb aluminum as they normally would in most years. This may be one of those garden mysteries that has no answer. You can promote blue flowers in the future by adding a couple of tablespoons of aluminum sulfate to a gallon of water and pouring it around your hydrangeas.

Q: If you apply pre-emergent in August, can you overseed fescue in October?Clark Connelly, email

A: Sure you can, but you won’t get any weed control from the pre-emergent you put down in August. Most winter weeds germinate in October, just like your fescue does. In your situation, perfect your seed planting, fertilizing and watering techniques to help the healthy fescue control weeds. This is better than putting out a pre-emergent to control weeds in a thinly growing fescue lawn that needs reseeding.

Q: When is it best to fertilize my summer blooming perennials?Stella Marie Russell, email

A: If you use a liquid fertilizer, fertilize one time at planting, once six weeks later, and another time six weeks after that. Of course, a timed-release granular fertilizer, like Osmocote, can last up to six months before it stops supplying nutrients to your plants. The latter is more expensive, but you never have to rack your memory trying to recall when you last fed your flowers.

Q:Please evaluate pine straw versus chip mulch in attracting snakes to an area.Deborah Rosser, email

A: Whenever you have a nuisance creature in your landscape, the first question to ask is this: “Why is it here and not somewhere else?” Snakes come to an area where they can find things to eat (like crickets, toads and worms) or where they can find shelter in a stack of firewood or a pile of stones. I suppose a thick layer of pine straw would offer more shelter and food sources than a layer of chips would. But I would not be surprised to see a wandering snake in either material.

Q: I’m looking for a plant with the name “Walter” to plant in my garden to honor my great-grandfather. Any suggestions?Kathy Aprile, email

A: I have an evergreen Walter viburnum, Viburnum obovatum, and a Walter dogwood, Cornus walteri, in my landscape. The viburnum is 4 feet high and 4 feet wide, but it can grow much larger. The dogwood is a small 20-foot-tall tree. Both have been trouble-free for several years. They may be hard to find locally, but I’ll bet you could find them online for planting this fall.

Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on News 95.5 FM and AM750 WSB. Visit his website,, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Fan Page at for more garden tips.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Living

‘American Idol’ Atlanta auditions at Infinite Energy draw first and second-round hopefuls
‘American Idol’ Atlanta auditions at Infinite Energy draw first and second-round hopefuls

“American Idol” Thursday held its final early-round auditions at Infinite Energy Arena before the three celebrity judges start vetting the talent. Patrick Lynn, the supervising producer who has overseen “Idol” auditions since the show’s launch in 2002, said in an interview that the audition date was added on the schedule...
CDC approves nasal-spray vaccine for flu season
CDC approves nasal-spray vaccine for flu season

After advising the public to avoid the nasal-spray version of the flu vaccine for the past two years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now giving it the green light. A favorite of the needle-averse, the spray did not appear to work as well against H1N1, a strain of the flu, in the past few seasons, the CDC said. But it’s expected...
HPV-related cancer rates are rising. Vaccine rates are rising, too

Cancers linked to the human papillomavirus have increased significantly over the last 15 years in the United States, with throat cancer now the most common HPV-related malignancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 43,000 people developed HPV-associated cancer in 2015, compared with about 30,000 in 1999, the CDC...
Lab-approved ways to disaster-proof your home
Lab-approved ways to disaster-proof your home

Whether you’re an owner or a renter, stay one step ahead of fires, leaks, floods and worse with our expert advice to avoid costly repairs and keep your family safe. Four ways to fireproof the fam In a recent survey, you told us that unexpected flames are your No. 1 home concern. Follow this checklist to ease your fire fears: 1. Assess your equipment...
Huge clinical trial collapses, research on alcohol remains befuddling

Research on alcohol consumption is in a pickle. There’s no question that pounding one drink after another is bad for your health. Things get murkier when it comes to “moderate” drinking. What does that mean? What’s the limit? Can a health-conscious person serenely order a second round? The alcohol industry has long embraced...
More Stories