Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Investing in Hydrangeas

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Wayne's White'
Hydrangeas offer some of the best garden value for the dollar: Months of blooms and, in some cases, stem and leaf color and a fall foliage show. You have the macrophylla (mophead and lacecaps), paniculata, quercifolia (oakleaf), serrata, and even the occasional aspera and arborescen. Every year, more new hydrangeas appear on the market. The hottest new characteristics are compact form (three feet tall and wide) and multi-colored blooms on the plant at the same time. I did a tally in my head and the number of Hydrangeas I have in my yard is … 40!

When most of my Hydrangeas were just starting to form buds, Twist-'n-Shout was already in full bloom. It blooms on new wood, but it blooms much earlier and more prolifically on old wood. It is a stunner with  bright blue, eight-inch wide lacecap blooms. Last year I was given a ‘Lemon Daddy’; its foliage is a lovely chartreuse. It has a few blooms forming and I suspect the mophead will be a light pink.‘Wayne’s White’ is one of my favorites. It’s a lacecap, but it seems to have fewer fertile flowers than other lacecaps, either that or they are just covered by the massive, showy, sterile flowers that open with a tinge of pink and age to pure white.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lemon Daddy'

‘Glowing Embers’ (a.k.a. ‘Alpengluhen’) is hard to beat for intense, magenta mophead flowers. It is reliable with dark green leaves and a nice size (about four feet tall and wide).  The dark purple-black stems of ‘Nigra’ beautifully offset its deep pink blooms. ‘Zebra’ is a compact mophead with white blooms and sturdy dark stems, and it is blessed with a much smaller stature than ‘Nigra’. This is its second year in my garden and I’m impressed. And of course, H. serrata 'Preziosa' offers dark maroon stems and lots of flowers.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Glowing Embers'
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Nigra'

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Zebra'

Hydrangea serrata 'Preziosa'
Regrettably, I’ve lost the tags on many varieties in my garden. I wish I knew the cultivar names of three in particular. One is a small-stature lacecap with intensely blue three-inch blooms. Another blue lacecap is a larger shrub with sterile blooms and bead-like fertile flowers that intensify in color as they mature. Another is a paniculata. Paniculatas often feature reddish stems with pyramid-shaped flowerheads. The one I’m so enamored with is rather course in texture with a balanced mix of creamy sterile and fertile flowers.
Unknown small stature lacecap Hydrangea

Unknown lacecap Hydrangea

Unknown Hydrangea paniculata
And then there is the oakleaf hydrangea ‘Snowflake’ with its double white blooms. It’s a bit floppy, but the blooms age beautifully and the leaves turn a lovely purplish red in the fall.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake'

There have been a few disappointments, too, but those I gave away and they are thriving in the gardens of friends. Few pests bother Hydrangeas and they make beautiful cut flowers. Other than a little fertilizer and some pruning, Hydrangeas are delightfully carefree. A nice mix of species and cultivars generally can be found in garden centers and a vast selection can be found at

Do you have a can’t-live-without-it Hydrangea?


  1. 40!!?! Are you serious? That's crazy.

    1. They are big, colorful, easy care and apparently irresistible to me. Just about every one I see I want to have, but I've run out of morning sun, afternoon shade locations...and they do need some amount of sun to bloom.

  2. I love H m Red Sensation, H m Zorro, H p Pink Diamond, H p Fire & Ice and H p Baby Lace. I can live without Bombshell as it becomes floppy. We usually nickname it DiveBomb.

    1. Fire & Ice was the only one of these I'd heard of, Treda. All lovely! And good to know about Bombshell flopping. I'm having some flopping with the lower branches of Nigra and Preziosa.