Friday, August 29, 2014

"High" on 'Drangeas

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer'

If plant popularity is directly proportional to the number of new varieties debuting annually, Hydrangeas are HOT, HOT, HOT. Exciting new varieties are popping up like mushrooms after a summer rain.

Why all the Hydrangea excitement?

  • Something-for-everyone range of flower forms including mophead (softball), panicle (cone-shaped) and lacecap (flat-topped donut with a lacy, open center). Flowers not only last a long time, but many develop interesting seed heads for winter interest.
  • Sun or partial shade tolerance. If you're putting them in sun in hot summer climates, find a site with some afternoon shade. But do give them at least 4-5 hours of sun. Don't test their shade tolerance by placing them in an hour of dappled sun and expect great flowering. They'll have great foliage instead. If you have little sun plant Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). 
  • Fabulous color range of white and creams, pinks, blues, lilacs and in-between.
  • Many paniculatas (cone-shaped flowers) are available as shrubs or single-trunk trees called "standards".
  • They're very easy care, low maintenance plants.

Some amazing varieties worthy of consideration for your garden:

Annabelle (H. arborescens)  The grande dame of hardiness, versatility and performance. Softball-sized, long-lasting heads of creamy white in midsummer. Flowers on both new and old wood. Shade tolerant. 5' tall and wide.

Bobo (H. paniculata)  Just a flower-making dwarf powerhouse, even when young. The creamy white flowers, like all paniculatas, are cone-shaped. Strong stems support the masses of flowers well. Sun, partial shade. 3' tall, 4' wide. Rock hardy, blooms on new growth. Love it- have six myself!

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer'

Endless Summer (H. macrophylla)  The standard for "mophead" Hydrangeas. Has the potential to bloom on both new and old wood. Nice medium pink flowers (if grown in alkaline soil), but blue in acid soils. 3-4' tall and wide.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

Limelight (H. paniculata)  Chartreuse-green, cone-shaped flowers in midsummer on a vigorous plant that can be 7' tall and wide. Flowers are green, pink and burgundy in fall before they age to fish-scale brown. Very strong stems support the sizable flowers well. Sun/partial shade.

Little Lime (H. paniculata)  Small-space gardeners will appreciate this petite version of Limelight that grows only 4' tall and wide. It brings to the garden proportionately smaller flowers, but masses of them, with the same unique color as its namesake. Sun/partial shade.

Pinky Winky (H. paniculata)  Big cone-shaped flowers open white, quickly start turning pink at the base, all the while growing new white tips at the end. Really different, really pretty. Blooms on new growth. 7' tall and wide. Sun/partial shade.
Strawberry Sundae (H. paniculata)  Another choice dwarf for people with small spaces. Beautiful, dense white flowers that gradually change to strawberry pink (bottom up) as you might well have suspected. Blooms on new growth. 4' tall, 5' wide. Sun/partial shade.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Twist-n-Shout'
Twist-n-Shout (H. paniculata)  Distinctive "lacecap" flowers have a row or more of large sterile flowers surrounding a loosely open center of fertile flowers. Subtle, as Hydrangeas go. Pink when soil is alkaline, blue when acid. 4' tall and wide. The red stems and burgundy-red fall color are unusual for Hydrangea.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Vanilla Strawberry'
Vanilla Strawberry (H. paniculata)  The progression from white to pink and strawberry red is a tasty feast for the eyes. 6' tall, 5' wide. Sun/partial shade.

It's o.k. to be plant addicted. If you feel like you're bordering on Hydrangea obsessive, tell people you're a collector. They'll just think you're charming and eccentric.