How I stopped worrying and learned to accept hydrangeas the way they are now

How I stopped worrying and learned to accept hydrangeas the way they are now

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H. macrophylla ‘Alpenglow’

If I was bitter, I’d say that the industry has done its best to destroy hydrangeas, at least the macrophyllas I used to buy, with their deep, true colors. I can’t find the two brilliant pink macrophyllas I bought many years ago—‘Alpenglow’ and ‘Princess Beatrix’—at any nursery anywhere these days. What I do see are endless rows of vapid, wishy-washy Endless Summer macrophylla hybrids, as well as the new Annabelle (arborescens) hybrids, and quite a number of paniculata hybrids. None of them offer the multiplicity of big, long-lasting, clearly hued blooms of those original two.

But there are more important things to be bitter about. I am getting rid of one of the Endless Summer hybrids I was talked into—Twist-n-Shout. This is an unattractive, lanky, and disappointing plant. The flatish blooms (when it has them) has are a sickly lavender (interior) and washed–out pink (exterior); they start slow and continue slower. I’ll keep the Blushing Bride ES hybrid; it does what it’s supposed to and doesn’t bother me as much.

‘Limelight’ in fall

On the paniculata side, the news is much better. I love ‘Limelight’ and have recently purchased ‘Little Limelight,’ and another newish paniculata, ‘Little Quick Fire.’ I also added a quercifolia to my collection. I’ve had a climber (petiolaris) for quite some time; it now covers ten feet around the pond.

H. petiolaris

Paniculatas seem to be the best compromise, and I’ve had to compromise after going through two bad winters and bloomless summers from my beloved macrophyllas. They provide large, abundant blooms on new wood and the changing colors are attractive. Arborescens are also thoroughly reliable; yes, they will flop, but not so badly if you cut them back very early in spring.

What I won’t do is fool around with the soil by adding lime or aluminum sulfate to it, because a. I’ve never heard of it working, and b. I don’t add anything but compost and mulch these days and those I just pile on top.

Your mileage may vary.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on October 6, 2016 at 8:39 am, in the category It’s the Plants, Darling.

One Comment
    • Kate
    • 14th July 2015

    Don’t forget about the serratas. Very hardy, some blooms on new wood, many beautiful cultivars. I can vouch for Tuff Stuff, Tiny Tuff Stuff, and Woodlanders as worthy and dependable garden plants. I don’t bother with macrophyllas except for a monster Lady in Red that is unstoppable. Agree that the paniculatas are wonderful in a whole other way, all that you suggested. Quick Fire is an incredible plant.

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