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Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Height of the Hydrangea Season

There is nothing more versatile and striking as a hydrangea in bloom. A high-impact shrub for any garden, its flowers bridge the gap of summer into early fall. Hydrangeas kick into gear when early blooming shrubs and mid-season perennials start to fade. The peak to late bloom transition of a hydrangea is a distinctive feature with this genus, making it a favorite for cut and dried flower arrangements.

There are various species and varieties to pick from but choose them carefully. Know your hardiness zone. Many of these hydrangeas, particularly the blue varieties that thrive on the Cape and the Islands perform best in zone 6 and 7 (i.e., Blue Mopheads and Blue Lacecaps.)

One of our favorites, hardy to zone 3 to 4, is a Paniculata Hydrangea variety called H. paniculata ‘Unique’ that has stunning blooms with complete and sterile flowers. It starts off brilliant white and slowly transitions to a faded pink to mauve tone. Part of its beauty is watching the color change; you’ll feel like you have two varieties of hydrangeas in your garden. Try a spectacular combination in your border by layering ‘Unique’ with a mid- to late-summer daylily (‘Strutters Ball), as shown in the photograph.

Another very robust variety that the floral industry has embraced is H. paniculata ‘Limelight’. Both the ‘Limelight’ and ‘Unique’ varieties require some elbow room to grow. A soft lime-green to white-hue flower, this variety should be protected from hot afternoon sun unless it has adequate moisture.

Hydrangeas have the three best features when selecting plant material for your garden: long-lasting visual impact, robust growing capacity at a reasonable price. You get a lot of bang for the buck!

Best time to plant: spring

Check out the American Hydrangea society at or a grower on Nantucket that we heard speak at a Master Gardener program, Mal Condon at He will give you lots of great tips on pruning and general cultural practices along with some of the latest and greatest varieties being developed. Have fun!
'Unique' Hydrangea combined with Daylily 'Strutters Ball' (From our garden)

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© 2009 Ann St. Jean-Bilowz/Bilowz Associates Inc. (including all photographs, unless otherwise noted in Annie's Gardening Corner are the property of Bilowz Associates Inc. and shall not be reproduced in any manner nor are they to be assigned to any third party without the expressed written permission and consent of Bilowz Associates Inc.)