PHOTO PROVIDED BY VISIONS PHOTOGRAPHY
When I began gardening, friends tried to steer me away from hydrangea. “They are hard to grow”; “They are a lot of work”; “They won’t bloom next year,” they all said. What they didn’t tell me was how gratifying it would be when they did bloom and how beautiful they could be! Let me share some basic hydrangea tips to help you enjoy growing this incomparable garden standout.
There are four types grown in Michigan.
As the name implies, these have large, glossy leaves. Bigleaf hydrangea tend to have the showiest flowers: either round “mop heads” that look like blue, pink or purple balls, or flat “lace caps” that have small, sterile flowers surrounded by bursts of fertile flowers.
The ever popular Bigleaf hydrangea are the ones I receive the most questions about. Older varieties of this type typically bloom only on last year’s growth. This means that if the branches die back or if you make the mistake of pruning them in the spring, your plant will not flower. Newer varieties introduced in the past ten years have the ability to bloom on both new and old growth, so if our tough Michigan winters cause winter die-back, these plants will still flower. It is important to trim your Bigleaf hydrangea only after it is done blooming, or just before Labor Day, if it did not bloom. Resist the urge to trim down the branches in early spring, as these branches will likely leaf out in late May and bear flowers in summer.
This species is easily identified by the large, round, white flower that blooms in June. Annabelle leaves are coarse, and of a lighter green than those of a Bigleaf.
A classic sign of summer to any gardener: large, white flowers towering above the lush, green foliage of the Annabelle hydrangea. This is a very easy, low-maintenance plant that can grow just about anywhere. All Annabelle-type hydrangea bloom on new growth, allowing trimming to take place in fall or spring before new leaves emerge.
Large, cone-shaped flowers sit atop coarse green leaves shaped like those of an oak tree. The branches are showy, with exfoliating bark revealing several shades of brown.
For the best fall color, try planting Oakleaf hydrangea. Dark green leaves turn a rich burgundy beneath beautifully aging, deep pink flowers. Care for your Oakleaf hydrangea as you would a Bigleaf, trimming only when needed after flowering has finished. Plant them in areas sheltered from wind to protect flower buds from harsh winter weather.
Large, coned-shaped flowers on coarse, rounded leaves distinguish this hydrangea type. Blooms begin to appear in July and last through the remainder of summer and fall.
The workhorse of the hydrangea family is without doubt the Peegee; in fact, many say that the skill needed to grow this hydrangea is on par with that required to grow crabgrass. Peegee is adaptable to any growing site. Full sun or shade, moist or dry soil, they can take it. In my yard, I use the variety “Limelight” to create a living wall of showy, light green flowers that tower over my other hydrangea, providing them with afternoon shade.
As the popularity of hydrangea has increased, so has the number of new varieties available at your local garden center. Each year, those in the business work to research and select the best of the best to offer to our customers.
Below is a sneak peek of the three hydrangea varieties that Wojo’s Greenhouse is excited about for 2014:
This variety has even the pickiest hydrangea admirers excited! A re-blooming Bigleaf hydrangea loaded with pink or blue blooms on dark green leaves and distinctive ruby stems, BloomStruck has very strong branches that hold masses of flowers upright throughout the summer.
Our first look at Bobo last fall convinced us that this flower is a great addition to our spring lineup. In July, Bobo is engulfed in creamy white flowers that gracefully age to light pink into the fall. Bobo is a compact Peegee hydrangea that only reaches three feet high and four feet wide, making it a perfect plant to tuck into tight places.
Another new re-blooming hydrangea introduced last summer, Everlasting Revolution is looking to change the way we view hydrangea. This Bigleaf variety flowers on both old and new growth, ensuring blooms no matter what wild Michigan winters throw our way. Everlasting Revolution stands out with its display of changing colors, creating brilliant combinations of pink, blue, and purple with touches of green as the flowers age.
With so many forms and varieties to choose from, finding places in your landscape to grow gorgeous hydrangeas should be fun and rewarding.
HYD BLOOM STRUCK (PURPLE) PHOTO COURTESY OF BAILEY NURSERIES INC. & BOBO (WHITE) PHOTO COURTESY OF PROVEN WINNERS
Joe Lutey is the Tree & Shrub Buyer & Nursery Manager at Wojo’s Garden Splendors.