Hydrangeas

See also: Native Plants, Trees and Shrubs
Ryan Gainey hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Ryan Gainey') solves the primary issue many gardeners experience with the most commonly grown smooth hydrangea, 'Annabelle' (Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'). Annebelle has floppy stems from the weight of the huge white flowers.

Ryan Gainey hydrangea

Ryan Gainey hydrangea flowers in early summer - Click for larger.

A specimen introduced by noted Atlanta garden designer Ryan Gainey, his namesake is a lower-growing cultivar with stronger stems, darker foliage, and smaller flowers than Annabelle hydrangea.

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See also: Native Plants, oakleaf hydrangea
'Little Honey' oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is unexpectedly great. I had seen photographs in catalogs for years and had reservations. So often mutations and sports of plants are nothing more than curiosities ill-suited for the garden.

My skepticism was unfounded, as 'Little Honey' is beautiful when viewed in person. Leaves are softly colored yet vibrant.

Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea

Little Honey oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey'). Click for larger.

Take extra care with where you plant 'Little Honey' oakleaf hydrangea in the garden. In my experience, 'Little Honey' is not as tolerant of afternoon sun as the darker-leaved species.

'Little Honey' oakleaf hydrangea is a sport of the Pee Wee hydrangea. David Jarzynka discovered the unusually colored hydrangea in Olympia, Washington in 1999. It was patented as 'Little Honey' oakleaf hydrangea in 2001 after two years of evaluation.

Continue reading ‘Oakleaf Hydrangea ‘Little Honey’’

Hydrangea macrophylla Geoffrey Chadbund is described as having florets that vary in color from violet and fuchsia across the spectrum to rose red.

This diversity in reported flower colors was a relief, as the photographs I took years ago in the Atlanta Botanical Garden revealed flowers that were lavender. Comparisons online revealed lots of rose-colored and pink versions of Geoffrey Chadbund. I have long experience with mophead hydrangeas and their changeable nature according to pH...I just didn't immediately draw the parallel with Geoffrey Chadbund...a lacecap hydrangea.

Hydrangeas have variable flower colors according to the pH of the soil (acidic=blue, alkaline=pink). Geoffrey Chadbund follows this trend, and the flower color will be heavily influenced by soil pH.

hydrangea macrophylla geoffrey chadbund

Late summer blooms of hydrangea Geoffrey Chadbund

Notes about cultivation of Hydrangea macrophylla Geoffrey Chadbund:
Geoffrey Chadbund is a lacecap hydrangea and many of the lacecaps are fairly tender when it comes to winter hardiness. Geoffrey Chadbund in particular lacks cold hardiness, limited to zone 6 and warmer.

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See also: Native Plants
Annabelle hydrangea (Hydrangea aborescens Annabelle) can get a bit floppy. A good rain will cause stems to bend miserably, sending the huge (and heavy) flowers into the ground. It is a sad sight I'll grant you, but with some patience and strategic planting Annabelle is worth it.

Native to the eastern United States and known as smooth hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens grows 5'-10'. The native species bears flowers that are less showy than Annabelle.

hydrangea arborescens annabelle

Annabelle hydrangea is a stunner in the right conditions.

Shade is strongly preferred, as are moist soils. You will find Hydrangea arborescens growing in the natural landscape along streams. Hydrangea arborescens' leaves will droop miserably in dry, sunny spaces. Annabelle hydrangea can reportedly be grown in full sun at its northern limits, although constant moisture is required.

I strongly recommend planting Annabelle hydrangea in areas of the garden shaded from the afternoon sun. The flowers, when they come, will light up your landscape.

Continue reading ‘Annabelle Hydrangea in the Garden’

See also: Native Plants
Oakleaf hydrangea is my hero. There is no question landscape architects are enamored with oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia).  The virtues of this native plant are numerous and yet oakleaf hydrangea has not become so saturated in its use as to become mundane.  If every landscape in every garden I walked by had oakleaf hydrangea, it would be okay.

oakleaf-hydrangea-quercifolia

Oakleaf hydrangea flower. Click for larger.

Here are the reasons oakleaf hydrangea is my favorite:

Continue reading ‘Oakleaf hydrangea: my favorite plant’

A disclaimer is in order here as I captured the photographs of Hydrangea macrophylla 'Pia' as the blooms began to age to this lovely dusky lavender. The blooms at their height are actually pink. Hydrangeas with colored blooms are normally blue in acidic soils and pink in alkaline. Hydrangea macrophylla 'Pia' is notable in that the flowers will stay pink even in acid soils, a rarity in hydrangeas.

Pia is a dwarf hydrangea, only reaching 2-3 feet in height/width, with mounded habit. Flowers grow to about 4" or so.  See a photograph of Pia at height of bloom at the Missouri Botanical Garden.  Hardiness is zone 5-9, although in colder zones, Hydrangea macrophylla cultivars will often die to the ground in winter.  Growth will resume from the root ball when spring arrives, although flowers will arrive later in the season.

hydrangea pia

Click for photograph of blooms and leaves of Hydrangea macrophylla 'Pia'.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Pia' prefers moist, rich soil.
Gardeners are often confused by the catch-all phrases 'partial shade' or 'partial sun'. In truth, it is the time of day the sun exposure occurs that is often most important. Garden roses can survive nicely in the south with as little as a few hours of sun a day…so long as the sun occurs in the afternoon. With hydrangea, it is the opposite:  avoid afternoon sun if possible, as the leaves will droop miserably.  Unless the conditions are truly adverse the leaves will eventually perk up, but why stress a plant needlessly.  If morning sun is provided bloom will be enhanced, although many hydrangea cultivars can bloom well in some of the darkest reaches of the garden.

Hydrangea macrophylla are at their most beautiful in the early morning or in the late afternoon shady spot, so always take extra care in selecting the planting spot.

Planting and growing oakleaf hydrangea is easy, but there is one crucial factor that will make or break your effort to grow the sublime Hydrangea quercifolia.

Assuming one doesn't plant oakleaf hydrangea in a desert, your chances of success are high.  Oakleaf hydrangea prefers neutral to acidic soil, amended with lots of pinebark or coarse material, and protection from afternoon sun.

oakleaf hydrangea containers

Oakleaf hydranges ready for fall planting.

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is, in my estimation, the perfect garden plant. Native to the American south...four season interest...easy to grow...found in relatively few gardens...blooms that last forever while aging more gracefully than most of us can dare to hope.

Oakleaf hydrangea can handle more sun than mophead or lacecap hydrangeas when established; if the goal is optimal growing conditions, forego areas with strong afternoon sun.

Your oakleaf hydrangea died.  An explanation.
In my experience the greatest killer of oakleaf hydrangea is poor drainage caused by planting too deeply.  Often, the damage is done in winter, when roots are not as active and the plant is dormant.  I suspect that many a gardener has been unpleasantly surprised when spring comes and their oakleaf hydrangea has not awoken from spring.

Plant oakleaf hydrangea a little high.
You do not have to go to the length of mounding recommended for planting rhododenron, but recognize that soil often settles after planting and adjust accordingly.

Planting oakleaf hydrangea so that the root ball is a couple of inches above soil level will do wonders for ensuring your plant thrives.
New gardeners plant too deep, when almost all garden plants (tomatoes are an exception) can benefit from being planted absolutely no deeper than the existing soil level, and in fact, just a little higher.