The OTHER Hydrangeas
We all think we know hydrangeas. Lovely billowing blue flowers cover the plants in early Summer, delighting us for a few weeks. We worry about when to prune them and go into despair if a late freeze kills the buds, meaning no flowers for ANOTHER year. It is the price we are willing to pay to have hydrangea macrophylla in our yards and gardens.
There is another, DIFFERENT hydrangea, one that doesn’t care about late freezes or when you prune it, one that just blooms every year no matter what, and, as a bonus, doesn’t seem interesting to deer or bugs. It is hydrangea paniculata Grandiflora, or P.G. hydrangea. P.G. hydrangeas have been snubbed for years by gardeners, mostly seen lurking in the backyards of old farmhouses or standing guard in an old cemetery. Finally plant breeders have started to take an interest in their toughness and adaptability and have come up with some exciting new varieties to choose from. Most P.G.s come into bloom just when things in the Summer garden are sliding into the doldrums. The daylilies are just about finished, the crape myrtles aren’t quite out yet, foliage is looking tired, not much going on. The P.G.s burst out, their bright white flowers shining against their clean, fresh foliage, happy to be there. As an added bonus, many of them will develop a pink blush to their flowers as they mature that extends their attractiveness, and if they are picked and dried in their “pink stage” their dried blooms will look lovely for many months.
Left on their own, P.G.s will become a very large, impressive shrub. However, because they bloom on new wood, they can be pruned heavily in late winter to be kept much smaller.
There are now many varieties to choose from, and new ones coming out all the time. In my yard I have “Limelight”, “Vanilla Strawberry”, “Quickfireâ, “Pinky Winky” (my favorite, even though I hate the name), “The Swan”, “Phantom”and “Bobo”. There are also new dwarf varieties, with smaller flower trusses and shorter stature. I expect I will run out of space long before I run out of varieties I would like to have.
Audrey Ruccio – Master Gardener Extension Volunteer, Habersham County