Glorious Hydrangeas

The nursery is filled with glorious, blooming Hydrangeas.  They are in full bloom and look amazing!  I really like Hydrangeas.  I have 9 in my tiny yard.  Hydrangeas add summer color to part shade areas.  There are even a few varieties that will tolerate full sun.  There is even a Hydrangea vine, one of my personal favorites for it’s peeling bark, white lace-cap flowers and fat buds in the spring.  There have been a number of new varieties introduced in the last few years, including the most popular one for 2011, Vanilla Strawberry Pee Gee Hydrangea.  We just received a second shipment of these and have just a few left.

A little Hydrangea 101…The most sun tolerant of the Hydrangeas are the Pee Gee type (H. paniculata hybrids), the serratas, the Oak-leaf type (H. quercifolia) and the Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens/Annabelle) with adequate water.  Pee Gees have cone-shaped flowers in cream tones that become pink as they age.  They grow 4-6 feet tall. There are a number of great varieties including: Pinky Winky, Vanilla Strawberry, Limelight (flowers start out greenish), and Little Lime (a shorter version of Limelight).  I just planted a Little Lime in a pot.  The cream Pee Gee is also available as a tree.  Hydrangea serrata hybrids are fuzzy-leaved and have a flat flower clusters that. The Oak-leaf Hydrangea also has cone-shaped flowers in cream.  The leaves are shaped like an oak leaf, hence the name.  The bark peels and the leaves turn bright red in the fall, giving it 4 season interest.  (All Hydrangeas lose their leaves in the winter).  They grow 4-6 feet tall.  This winter I transplanted a Snow Queen Oak-leaf into the ground from a ceramic container.  It had become root bound.  It’s doing great in it’s new location and I replaced it with Little Lime in the pot.

The big-leaved Hydrangeas (mop-head and lace-caps) prefer partial shade.  Anytime that you would sunburn, Hydrangeas would prefer to have protection from the hot sun.  There are many wonderful varieties in this category.  Karen Hopson loves all of the lace-cap types but she selected “Kardinal” as her current favorite.  This variety is looking wonderful at the nursery.  The Lace-caps have an ephemeral beauty, all subtle lines and soft contours.  In opposition are the explosively lush and outrageous mop-heads.  Theirs are the grand, glorious blooms, round and symetrical.  Both Lace-caps and Mop-heads are available in blue, pink and white.  Their color is dependent on the pH of the soil.  Acidic soil (our most common soil in Oregon) makes the flowers blue, if you want pink flowers then you need to make the soil alkaline by adding lime or wood ashes.  As for the white, I’m not sure that pH is a factor.  It is said that Epsom Salts (Magnesium sulfate) will enhance the whiteness of the flower.  Lace-cap flowers are flat with the sexual portion of the flower in the middle.  The part that we humans appreciate ring the center.  In the mop-heads, that glorious portion makes up the whole.  It is a round circle of glory.  There are a number of different varieties that make things interesting.  One of the more unique is Lemon Daddy, which has a golden foliage.  It really wakes up a shady area.

The climbing Hydrangea is one of my favorites.  Growing up, we had a climbing Hydrangea outside the bathroom window.  In the winter the peeling bark would be interesting to view.  As spring began, the fat buds would swell and open with succulent green growth.  That growth would be followed with flower buds, finally opening into flat clusters of creamy, white flowers.  After the flowers faded, the clusters remained and added interest until the foliage turned yellow and fell off.  I was always immensely charmed by this plant.  It was one of the first I knew I needed to plant at my new house.  It is also very vigorous.  It may start off slowly but it makes up for it in longevity.  I thought I could contain it with a very simple trellis.  It has grown beyond that.  It is different than my Akebia and Honeysuckle, which really need to be severely contained.  The climbing Hydrangea will not be a weed or grow where you don’t want it to, unless you let it.  It will, however, overtake anything you do not protect.

I am enamored with Hydrangeas.  They are wonderful plants.  The only drawbacks I see are snails/slugs and drought.  Definitely bait or protect if you know you have slugs/snails.  It doesn’t matter how tall the plant, I have seen them climb that far.  As to drought, if Hydrangeas are in the full sun, they will tend to wilt without adequate water.  Those planted in partial shade will wilt in a drought situation.

Hydrangeas are star performers in the summer landscape.  They can add a lot of interest by way of flowers and foliage.  If you haven’t tried them, you should.  If you have and they have performed well, you should add more.  Always go with a winner!

About Brenda Powell

I'm one of the owners of a family-owned retail nursery. I have a degree in horticulture from Oregon State University. I love to garden and read. My technically savvy but horticulturally challenged husband, Mitch, spends most of his time as slave labor in the garden. Thank goodness he adores me! My goal in this blog is to share my enjoyment of gardening, my love of nature, and my addiction to books. Did I mention I like to cook, too?
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