Blue Hydrangeas: Do Coffee Grounds Work?

The blue hydrangeas are in full bloom this week. The blooms always seem bluer the closer you get to the ocean. I’ve always thought the blue was partly due to our soil and we tend to have cooler, foggy nights.

This spring I decided to test a theory to make the flowers bluer by adding coffee grounds to the base of the roots. To obtain blue hydrangeas aluminum must be present in the soil. You can add aluminum sulfate if your soils lacks it…I’ve also heard theories of throwing a handful of old rusty nails in the soil before planting the shrubs. By adding organic matter such as coffee, vegetable peels, the pH is lowered which helps deliver the aluminum to the plant. (source:

Did I notice a difference? I think I’m lucky that my hydrangeas are naturally a beautiful blue which must mean we have a lot of natural aluminum in our soil. Do they look a tad darker with the introduction of coffee, maybe? I do have more blooms with pure blue rather then a mix of blue/purple tones.

The first and second photos are from this year and the bottom from summer 2011 (more photos here). I don’t notice much of a difference…but a good way to use up excess coffee grounds when you don’t have a compost heap. Either way I think the organic matter is good for the garden, right?

Summer 2012

Summer 2011 (more photos here)

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Planters With Rocks or Hosta in Border Garden

So remember my front garden border? First I planted Endless Summer Hydrangeas but was inpatient and thought they weren’t doing well so I pulled them out–in hindsight I should have left them alone. Then, I planted boxwoods. The boxwoods got burnt or peed on and overall just haven’t been happy in the space.

My new plan was to plant the boxwoods in zinc planters and move to our someday brick patio/driveway. The planters I originally wanted were absurdly expensive. And then this spring Terrain started carrying fiberglass versions–they look like zinc, have a drainage hole, frost-proof, affordable and are relatively light. Terrain offers a number of different styles but I thought the Manor Planter fit the style of my house. I got four ON SALE a few weeks ago.

Next spring, we are planning to brick our driveway and put up a fence along the whole side of our house (similar to this old photo we found) pending historic society approval. I figure I can scatter the boxwoods around the driveway and decorate the space like a patio in the summer months and then rearrange in the winter so we can pull our car into the driveway.

A few weeks ago Greg and I were digging up the boxwoods and I started to think I kinda liked the way the planters looked resting in the front garden bed. Maybe it dressed the space up or the height added something that lacks in the space currently. And then I thought, what about laying small gray river rocks on the ground and leaving the planters there?

But here’s where my idea gets tricky. Next spring the house is getting painted, shutters added, and window boxes are going on the front of the house. I think once the exterior is complete the planters will be too cluttered and tall in the space. So maybe the idea doesn’t work for the long-term but maybe they can stay put for this summer?

My hostas I planted in the back of my house have done great but I planted them way too close together. I was thinking I could break the plants apart and move them to the front garden once the boxwoods planters got moved to the back brick patio. And add in some ferns in the back for height?

Ug, so annoying! And yes, I feel like the crazy plant lady in town! I wish I had a simple solution that would have worked the first time around. Below some photos and inspiration.

Boxwoods in fiberglass planters.

Hostas in my back garden growing too close together.

A rock path at the Lee Mansion in Marblehead, Ma.

A rock path next to a brick sidewalk in Salem, MA

Beautiful brick driveway with zinc planters in Salem, MA

Shade garden in Salem, MA

Inspiration for my fence project in Marblehead, MA. Note the fence can be opened and closed over the driveway. Good for kids!

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Gray Rock Garden Paths
Brick Driveway with Hosta Border
Old Photos of House with Fence

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