Hydrangeas are one of the stars of summer landscapes. They’re so easy to grow, so dependable and so beautiful. Modern hydrangeas such as Endless Summer and Blushing Bride gained great attention in recent years and their popularity is well earned.
But they are not the only great choices among hydrangeas in today’s marketplace.
Others also will grab attention with their showy flowers, some of which are distinctly different from the garden hydrangeas we often call mop-heads for their globe-shaped blooms that begin to appear in late spring and early summer.
They are different and delightful. While many exist, here are just three of the best for the partly shady landscape.
The oak-leaf hydrangea is a deciduous, large shrub that really deserves to be called magnificent. Depending on the variety, they may be short, 4 to 5 feet tall or a more majestic 12 feet. The flowers are cone-shaped and creamy white, sometimes turning a soft pinky purple as they age later in summer.
The blooms typically emerge in May and remain at their peak for several weeks. But even after that, many kinds of oak-leafs turn a soft pinky purple as they age through the summer. Another asset is the fall foliage, which is a rich burgundy red and a great accompaniment to other autumn colors.
Limelight has really grabbed my attention in the last few years for its great performance in hot weather. Another tall deciduous shrub, Limelight grows 8 to 10 feet tall, bearing flowers from early to late summer. The abundant flowers have a bit of pale green early on, but then are mostly white.
Limelight does a good job of keeping the season going after the oak-leaf and mop-head hydrangeas are getting done. The white color is also cooling and lovely in hot-summer weather, making this a good choice near a patio or deck where people relax in the evening.
Tardiva blooms even later and can serve to round-off the hydrangea season in late summer and early autumn. The deciduous shrub rises about 10 feet or more and the blooms are elegant, white cones with foliage that also turns an interesting bronzy red in the autumn. Since the weather is usually still quite hot when Tardiva blooms, it gets bonus points for the cooling effect of its bright white flowers.
These three all bring important assets of low-maintenance, high-performing shrubs of generous size to a landscape. They make wonderful additions to a landscape for both summer and autumn beauty and do great work to enhance the hydrangea show in your garden. Keep in mind they all take space, so do not try to stuff them into a tight spot they will soon outgrow and require pruning that will keep the plants from achieving their true beauty as tall plants filled with blooms.
Q: I am going away soon and have some new hanging baskets that are so pretty. Will rainfall be enough to keep them going for two weeks?
A: No. These are valuable plants and you should not count on rainfall, which may or may not come, to keep the plants alive and well. Work an exchange with a friend or neighbor for vacation watering duty. Summer heat is here, and container gardens, including baskets, pots and boxes, almost always require daily watering to maintain the plants and keep them from wilting.