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Garden Guru

Hydrangeas

Jim Boxberger Jr., Monticello Farm Home & Garden, Columnist
Posted 6/25/21

This time of year, customers are coming in and looking for whatever is blooming now. For our summer residents, forsythia, azaleas, quince and the like that have already past bloom are of no …

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Hydrangeas

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This time of year, customers are coming in and looking for whatever is blooming now. For our summer residents, forsythia, azaleas, quince and the like that have already past bloom are of no interest.

So the go-to-plant for summer blooming is hydrangea. There are hundreds of varieites of hydrangea that are hardy for our area, that come in many different sizes and colors. There are five main families of hydrangea and all have different characteristics.

The variety that has been around the longest are the paniculatas. Hydrangea paniculata, has been around for hundreds of years, with the most popular being the Hydrangea paniculata Grandiflora or Peegee hydrangea for short.

Peegee is a large shrub or small tree from Asia that is best grown in organically rich, moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade, but they adapt to most soil types. There are dozens of Peegee hydrangea trees on the side hill of the Liberty cemetery. It is a vigorous grower and can reach up to 25 feet tall but can be pruned shorter to maintain a better shape.

It is one of the hardiest hydrangeas and tolerates most growing conditions and is the most deer resistant variety. Paniculatas come in many different sizes although they are white bloomers with some varieties turning reddish as the blooms mature while others dry to a bronze color, which is great for dried flower arrangements.

Hydrangea arborescens, smooth hydrangea, is another outstanding native hydrangea with large, disc-like blooms. The flower colors include greenish, white or pink.

The stems on this hydrangea are strong, and hold up to even the strongest summer storms without bending or flopping. It makes an excellent cut flower and dries well, too. And because smooth hydrangeas are so hardy, you can rely on it to bloom every year no matter where you plant it, no matter how you prune it

By far the most popular hydrangea in the past twenty years or so has been the hydrangea macrophylla, or big-leaf hydrangea. This reblooming hydrangea produces an incredible display of large mophead-type blossoms that can range from white to pink or blue.

There are many different varieties and many are pH determinant, meaning depending on soil pH they will bloom pink, purple or blue. The beautiful blossoms make excellent cut flowers for bringing indoors, and they are long-lasting. The heaviest blooming is in summer, but most varieties are reblooming and will continue to bloom into early fall.

Hydrangea serrata, mountain hydrangeas, are extremely hardy, but mostly underused. These unique hydrangeas fare better in cold weather than their cousins, big-leaf hydrangeas, making them the perfect choice for landscapes and gardens in zone 5.

Large, lacecap flowers come in a variety of colors which are set off by lustrous, deep green foliage. These reblooming hydrangeas begin blooming in early summer on old wood and continue to produce flowers on new wood through autumn, ensuring a showy, abundant display.

The last of the hydrangea types is certainly not the least. Hydrangea quercifolia, or oakleaf hydrangeas, are aggressive growers that will shine in your landscape every summer as pyramids of white to pink flowers explode into bloom in July against the backdrop of deep green foliage.

As the flowers age some varieties will begin to turn dark pink to red so that by September they are a showy ruby-pink color. Add in spectacular burgundy colored fall foliage and you have a plant that screams to be enjoyed each summer and fall!

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