Hydrangeas can add drama to the garden whether pink, white, green or red. They make great cut flowers! Early spring is a perfect time to plant Hydrangeas because the ground is still cool so they are less likely to get stressed.
Hydrangeas are basically low maintenance shrubs and highlight the summer and fall gardens. Just prune occasionally for shape and they will serve you well. The key with Hydrangeas is to site them properly to start with so they have the appropriate room to grow and don’t need pruning. You should however remove spent flowers and dead wood. They prefer sun and some shade. If you do need to prune it should be done after the years’ bloom cycle has ended to ensure blossoms for next year for some that is late summer or even late winter.
I’ll try to explain some of the many varieties of Hydrangeas:
Hydrangea Paniculata – Blooms on new wood and has large coned shaped flowers and are very cold hardy.
‘Quick Fire’ – turns a lovely rosey-pink in fall and blooms up to a month earlier than other Hydrangeas; ‘Bobo’ – compact with lime green and violet blooms; ‘Pinky Winky’ – has large white panicles that turn turns pink at the base during the fall creating a two-toned effect; ‘Pink Diamond’ – white blooms fade to pink and ‘Limelight’ – huge, bright lime green panicles that changes to deep pink, red and burgundy in fall.
Hydrangea Quercifolia – Oakleaf Hydrangeas – These have a lovely, peeling bark on older stems and a felt like bark on newer stems. They start out white and turn pink as the season progresses and have amazing burgundy red leaves in fall. Shown below is ‘Alice’ which I use in my garden in a group of 3. Give it lots of room to spread out! The inflorescences are about 10-14″ long. Others to consider: ‘Snowflake’; ‘Ruby Slippers’ and ‘Gatsby Moon’
Hydrangea macrophylla- “Bigleaf Hydrangeas” – these have large round mophead flowers particularly in June, July and August. They have beautiful dark green leaves and can provide some but not great fall color. Also in this category are the Lacecaps.
Flower color can be determined often by the acidity (blue-purple) or alkalinity (pink or red) of your soil. Some of these bloom on new growth as well as last year’s stems. So prune right after flowering to be safe if in doubt which you have. Deadheading spent blossoms unless you are going to dry them will help produce more blossoms.
‘Endless Summer – Bloomstruck’; ‘Nikko Blue’; ‘ColorFantasy’; and ‘Vanilla Strawberry’
Hydrangea arborescens or ‘Smooth Hydrangeas’ – which bloom May – June on new wood so they are good for colder climates although there is little fall leaf color. Most notably ‘Annabelle’ is one of the most hardy with large inflorescenses. Also ‘Incrediball’ is another variety
Yet another popular Hydrangea anomala petiolaris: the Climbing Hydrangea: This Hydrangea has lovely white lacecap blossoms and a thick vine that also produces horizontal branches and nice thick green leaves and clings to any structure. The bark is also distinctive with its cinnamon colored bark that exfoliates and is lovely in winter.
A good source for Hydrangeas is White Flower Farm since they also ship if you are not in the CT area. www.whiteflowerfarm.com