|Written by Nita-Jo Rountree, garden designer, past president of Northwest Horticultural Society for Molbak’s Garden+Home|
With the explosion of new cultivars coming on the market every year, hydrangeas are simply the hottest crop on the ornamental market. And here in the Pacific Northwest, we live in hydrangea heaven. They love our maritime climate, our low maintenance and have almost year-round beauty. It’s no wonder that hydrangeas have been garden staples for centuries, and now growers have been breeding an ever increasing number of versatile varieties. Recently developed repeat bloomers — those that bloom on both old and new wood — have become all the rage. This is particularly useful in colder climates where buds can freeze on old wood.
Most hydrangeas take sun or shade, wet or dry soil, acid or alkaline soil, and they are also remarkably almost disease and pest free. Except for the white varieties, flower color is determined by the amount of aluminum in the soil that is available to the plant. When the soil is alkaline, aluminum is readily available resulting in pink flowers. Conversely, acidic soils tie up the aluminum so that the flowers are shades of blue and lilac.
Below are hydrangea varieties that perform well in the Northwest and when combined will provide months of beauty in your garden. Remember to cut hydrangeas often and enjoy their showy blooms indoors.
Hydrangea “Endless Summer” was the first widely promoted “reblooming” hydrangea. It has either pink or blue mophead blooms up to eight inches in diameter. Another smaller grower is “Blushing Bride,” achieving 3’ x 3’, with pure white blooms that mature to either a slight pink or blue “blush” depending on soil. It blooms on old and new growth, and its dwarf size makes it ideal for growing in a container, as well as in the garden.
The first “reblooming” lace-cap hydrangea “Let’s Dance Starlight,” blooms on both old and new wood. It features brightly colored summer flowers and attractive, glossy foliage. Compact in nature, it requires only a little space and matures around 3’ x 3’. In this same series, “Moonlight” is a mophead sporting showy pink flowers and growing to 3-4’ x 3-4’. Both plants are disease-resistant and great for floral arrangements.
“Bella Anna” is an outstanding cultivar with large, eight-inch pink blooms, and it performs best with half-day to full sun. It blooms only on new wood, so is typically pruned down to 1’ high in late winter or early spring.
“Limelight” is a cultivar that begins its show in midsummer when plentiful flower clusters of rich chartreuse arise all over the large shrub. As they mature, they first turn pure white, then darken to shades of rosy pink. “Little Lime” is a dwarf form with the same flower power, but in a smaller package.
No doubt, there is a hydrangea that is perfectly suited for your outdoor room, no matter the size. No garden is complete without at least one, and more is better!
Want to learn more? Catch Nita-Jo at Molbak’s for a free seminar on Heavenly Hydrangeas July 7 from 10-11 a.m.