Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Not your Granny's hydrangeas

Developed over 50 years ago, Glowing Embers only blooms once but is still a favorite

Colorful, low maintenance and long-flowering, hydrangeas have all the qualities you could ask for in a garden plant.

They aren’t fussy as long as you provide sun and moisture as your zone dictates. They aren’t plagued by pests or diseases for the most part. They’re attractive at virtually every stage, even aging gracefully. And they display extravagant clusters of delicate papery flowers that light up the landscape between June and October. 

Endless Summer
Small wonder these versatile shrubs have long been stalwarts of the midsummer garden.

 An old favorite is transformed

The hydrangea family is a relatively small one with around one hundred species in existence. For most people, the French hydrangeas with their bright blue and pink flowers (determined by the pH of the soil) have been the most familiar.

Then in 2003, a Midwest plant breeder introduced a new repeat-blooming variety and the hydrangea world was forever transformed.

The bigleaf hydrangea Endless Summer not only produced billowy blossoms from early summer through fall, it was also exceptionally hardy blooming reliably from zone 9 to 4.

On the heels of Endless Summer came more tantalizing hydrangea varieties including the Forever & Ever series, Invincibelle Spirit and Incrediball.

Annabelle was a parent to both Incrediball and Invincibelle Spirit
Forever & Ever hydrangeas bloom on new wood so if they die back to the ground, they will return to bloom again the next year.

Invincibelle Spirit is the first arborescens variety to produce pink flowers. It was developed by Dr. Tom Ranney who works at the Mountain Horticultural Center at North Carolina State University, and a then-graduate student, Richard Olsen.

Lacecap hydrangea Twist-n-Shout
While hiking through the Blue Ridge one day, Mr. Olsen spied a pink lacecap hydrangea that became an important part of their hydrangea breeding program. The eventual result was a spectacular rebloomer that produces 8-inch bright pink flowers for four months or longer.


These new varieties are just the beginning.

Today, nine years after Endless Summer arrived on the scene, you can find hydrangeas in tempting shades of white, cream, pink, blue, amethyst and red. And you'll find lacecap and oakleaf shapes as well as the familiar mophead.

Starting over with fresh, new faces

 Nikko Blues were showoffs in our Maryland garden
We didn’t know it at first but while we were living in Maryland, boaters going up and down our creek dubbed our place “the hydrangea house. ” It’s funny because I thought of it as a rose cottage, but from the water, they saw a solid hedge of blue blooms all across the back of our white Cape Cod from June through August.

I can’t take much credit for the display because we inherited most of the bushes. They weren’t anything special – mostly the old fashioned Nikko Blue. But despite bitter winter winds and summer droughts, they were always spectacular.

Forever & Ever Red
When we moved to the mountains we brought some of the Nikko cuttings with us and also added the original Endless Summer along with Forever & Ever Red and Fantasia.

The first year I wondered if we’d made a mistake with the newer plants. The Nikko cuttings took off like crazy but every afternoon I could hear the blooms of Endless Summer hitting the ground as they wilted in the afternoon sun.

 This year has been a different story.

Yummy Vanilla Strawberry
The Endless Summers have tripled in size and are covered in showy blue powder puffs. Forever & Ever Red offers vivid color against dark green leaves and makes a great combination with the new Raspberry Dazzle dwarf crape myrtle.

I had a space available towards the back of the border and decided to try a variety other than mopheads. Vanilla Strawberry is a relative of the classic PeeGee hydrangea and grows to 7 feet in height with a spread of 4-5 feet.

It is said to deliver a summer-long parade of huge flower heads that change from white to pink to strawberry red, sometimes with all three shades showing off on the plant at once.

It sounds like it's going to be a refreshing summer sorbet.

My grandmother would've thought it was delicious.


Casa Mariposa said...

Your hydrangeas are gorgeous!! I had to pull mine because they were growing in a heat island of reflected heat and spent all morning wilting and all afternoon recovering while I watered incessantly. I still miss them. I would love to find a spot for a Vanilla Strawberry peegee.

Randy said...

Does the plenty of sun go for the deep south too? I always thought I needed shade so I've waited to plant them. I'm in zone 8a.

Lynn Hunt said...

I'm sorry to hear you had to take out your hydrangeas but it does sound like they were never going to be happy sweltering in the heat. I'll keep you posted on Vanilla Strawberry -- I have high hopes for it!

Lynn Hunt said...

You may be right about the sunny deep south. I know I've seen warnings that some hydrangeas are not suitable for the southwest. I'll do some digging for you and see which of the newer varieties will work for your zone. It would be a shame to plant one and then be disappointed!

Lynn Hunt said...

I've checked on sun requirements per Randy's question and my research shows PeeGee hydrangeas do well in the sunny south. Vanilla Strawberry is supposed to tolerate full sun in zones 4-8. If anyone has a hydrangea success story in the deep south, do let us know!

Anonymous said...

What beautiful Hydrangeas! I had to pull my endless summer after the 3rd year. I think I had then where they just got too much evening sun. Your pictures make me want to find a better location and try again!

Lynn Hunt said...

Thank you thegardendiary! I think the ideal situation is with morning sun and afternoon shade although my Nikkos in Maryland had just the opposite. Good luck! Hope you can find a variety that doesn't mind sunny afternoons.

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Lynn, I love hydrangeas and am amazed at all the different varieties. I have really looked longingly at Vanilla Strawberry!!

Lynn Hunt said...

Janet, when Vanilla Strawberry blooms I'll be sure to post some photos. Fingers crossed it lives up to expectations!

HolleyGarden said...

I love hydrangeas, and have often wondered where the lacecaps came from. Learned something new today! The picture of your hydrangeas in your Maryland garden are just stunning! I love all colors of hydrangeas, but have to admit the blue are my favorite.

Lynn Hunt said...

HollyGarden, welcome and thank you for your lovely comment. We have wild hydrangeas here in the mountains that look like lacecaps. I didn't post a picture of them but perhaps I should. They don't last too long but are pretty. I'm with you -- I love the blues!

Sunil Patel said...

Hi Lynn,

You've got some really cracking hydrangea shrubs. I like to think that if you put food colouring in the water, that's the colour the flowers will be. Unfortunately I've been told to stay away from hydrangeas from the other half but I would like to have a climbing hydrangea on the house.


tina said...

Love the house with the hedge of hydrangeas. My kind of landscape!

Lynn Hunt said...

On a recent garden tour I saw an amazing climbing hydrangea that was about 30 years old. It completely covered a section of the house (they are pretty but it would be best to avoid house eating hydrangeas when you select one!) Thanks for your thoughts.

Lynn Hunt said...

Thanks Tina! A couple of years ago an artist friend asked to paint the hydrangeas when they were in full bloom. Of course we ended up purchasing the painting and now that we've moved away I'm so glad we did!

Kukkaiselämää said...

No wonder if your house was called hydrangea house! Stunning blue flowers in the front of your house.

Lynn Hunt said...

Thank you Satu! These hydrangeas were actually across the back of the house but the local people called it "the front" because it faced the river. We never got used to that expression!

I visited your blog and and enjoyed seeing your lovely garden in Finland. What beautiful flowers you grow there. And I love the ability to translate your blog to English. I will be visiting you again soon!

Anita Revell said...

These are all simply fabulous! I am in total awe of your amazing handiwork and endless talents resulting in a myriad of exquisite blooms and blossoms.

Lynn Hunt said...

Bless you, Anita. So glad you enjoyed the blooms. I miss the ones in Maryland but the new additions here are coming along well. Still waiting for my new Vanilla Strawberry to turn colors but it is loaded with blossoms.

sensiblegardening said...

I love your bear picture. We also have black bear and it's not uncommon for them to come up onto the porch and sit and look through the windows for a spell.

Lynn Hunt said...

Sensiblegardening, this was the first time I'd seen the bear and if he decided to sit and visit I likely would've fainted!!

Post a Comment