Helping hands on the hydrangeas
By Jeff Eason
Around the turn of the century, America was fascinated by all things “oriental,” the now non-PC word for people and objects from Asia.
The popularity of Japanese ink and paint prints, pottery from China, silk fabrics with images of dragons and other Asian images reached a fever pitch as these exotic things began to be imported in record numbers.
The Asian sensation even led to the increased popularity of the hydrangea, a flowering shrub many species of which were imported from Japan and other countries.
Whether that craze led Bertha Cone to instruct her gardeners to construct a massive hydrangea garden next to Bass Lake is anybody’s guess. Planted in the early part of the 20th century, the hydrangea garden at one time had more than 1,000 of the bushes, and their blooms could’ve been easily seen from the front porch of the Cone Manor.
Last week a group of master gardeners, led by Paige Patterson, traveled to Cone Manor to prune the hydrangeas.
“Pruning them back makes them fuller and prettier and keeps them from shading each other out,” said Patterson. “We’ve also put down some lime into the soil because the pH level was too acidic.”
Patterson, the consumer horticultural agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, led a group of 18 master gardeners and master gardener students on the hydrangea project at Bass Lake. According to Patterson, the group worked on approximately 700 hydrangea bushes.
“One of the requirements of the Master Gardener program is that you have to complete 40 hours of volunteer service, and then complete 20 hours a year afterward,” said Patterson.
The Master Gardener program’s hydrangea project at Bass Lake is being conducted in conjunction with the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. The foundation originally began funding and promoting the project in 2010, after the hydrangeas at Bass Lake had been neglected for decades.