Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hydrangea 101

Hydrangea 101

     Everyone loves hydrangeas but there are so many varieties and so much to know about them. When they bloom, how they bloom, old wood new wood, to cover not to cover, to cut back or stake, sun requirements, water requirements, zone requirements. All sorts of questions go along with these majestic bloomers, its hard to keep it straight. All the ones I will discuss work well for our zone 5 (Chicago Area), however there are a few that might need additional care to make them happy in Chicago, don’t worry I will give you tips for those. This will be a three part series.

Part I
     ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) are big white round flowers (up to 10” across) that bloom profusely in the Chicago area. These bloom off of new wood so they can be cut back. However, their seed heads do add winter interest to the landscape so pruning can also be done in early spring. These hydrangeas prefer morning sun or filtered sun all day. They like adequate moisture, they want to be moist but not wet, and they fail in drought conditions. Other arborescen varieties include ‘Invincibelle Spirit’, ‘Incrediball’ and ‘White Dome’. ‘Invincibelle Spirit’ is the first pink blooming hydrangea aborescens which purchase also benefits breast cancer research. ‘Incrediball’ Hydrangea blooms a flower which is over 12” wide and on sturdier, stouter stems so it’s less floppy than ‘Annabelle.’ Unlike Mophead, flower color is not determined by the acidity or PH of the soil.
     PeeGee Hydrangea (hydrangea paniculata 'Grandiflora’) have large white flowers when they first bloom and fade to pink. These too have awesome fall and winter interest. They are extremely long blooming and have nice conical shapes. Their flowers are great dried both in the house and for fall and winter outdoor containers. Use them alone or add them to arrangements to create elegance. Just like ‘Annabelles’, their color does not change due to acidity levels of the soil. PeeGees flower off of new wood but are extremely hardy up to zone 3 and will keep their old wood. So, regular pruning will help maintain their shape. These large magnificent plants are great focal points in the garden and prefer to be in a part sun area, however they can tolerate full sun but always require consistent moisture. Varieties include the tried and true ‘Tardiva’ and ‘Unique’. Gaining popularity is ‘Limelight’ because of its erect shape and flowers going from white to chartreuse to pink. A smaller version of ‘Limelight’ is ‘Little Lamb’. Varieties that turn pink quicker include ‘Quick Fire’ and ‘Pinky Winky’. And for a more bold pink color ‘Pink Diamond’ is the plant for you. Don’t forget these varieties can be easily trained into a standard or tree like shape to add an interesting element to the garden.

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