Paniculata Type Hydrangeas

On Monday I talked about hydrangea arborescens, a type of hydrangea that blooms on new wood. Once upon a time they were called snowball hydrangeas because they only bloomed in white. As my lovely hedge of pink hydrangeas shows, that’s no longer true. That variety is called Invincibelle Spirit. It was one of the first of the pink arborescens varieties. There are now deeper pink varieties, and “ruby” varieties–everything gets “newer” and “improved” in gardening.

But of course there are other varieties that bloom on new wood as well. One of the first that I have had was an old fashioned variety called “PeeGee” (which is short for paniculata grandiflora). The “old-fashioned” or non-hybrid types of these shrubs can get quite large–up to 20 feet tall and wide at maturity.

Of course, most of us don’t have lovely old mature specimens like this because we’ve planted them in the wrong spots so we are always cutting them back–which we can do–in the spring.

Newer dwarf varieties might only grow to 6-8′. This is my neighbor’s shrub. You can see that this is a later flowering variety as well. It only begins to bloom in August or so here in the frozen north, which is nice because not a lot is going on in the garden at that time.

Other cultivar types–which have a similar flower and leaf structure–are finishing up their bloom about now in my climate. Again, this is my same neighbor’s shrub. You can tell the blooms are nearing maturity by the blushing pink color they are taking on. I am not sure which cultivar this one might be. There are a few that are pink, like Vanilla Strawberry, Fire Light or Strawberry Sundae  but this one doesn’t appear to be those–it’s not pink enough. It’s still quite lovely though!

And the beauty of these is that if deer nibble them, or snow (or your snow plow) damages them or whatever might happen over the winter (should you live in the frozen north, as I do), it’s just fine. They do come back and bloom on new growth.

These plants are hardy to Zone 3, by the way, so they’ll take a lot more cold than my climate can dish out. They will also grow as far south as zone 8 (which these days isn’t as far south as we think). But again, in warmer climates, I know they’ll want more shade than we give them where I am!

 

Hydrangeas That Bloom on New Wood

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On Friday I talked about hydrangea macrophylla–big leaf hydrangea–without ever specifically calling them by name. Today I want to talk about some of the other types of hydrangeas, all of which bloom on “new” wood.

Maybe I need to make the “old wood” versus “new wood” distinction clear first though since we’re not all born with this knowledge.

If something blooms on old wood, that means that right now, this summer, 2019, it is setting its buds for bloom next year, in 2020. So if you were to prune it in the spring, 2020, or, like in my climate, if a hard freeze (or late snow) comes as the buds are unfurling and kills them, you lose the bloom for the year.

If something blooms on new wood, that means that the buds are formed in the same year that the plant blooms. The buds are formed in 2019 and the plant blooms in 2019. So you can prune in the spring without losing your bloom, and late freezes or snows are not a problem.

You can see why these hydrangeas that I mentioned in my prior post–the ones that bloom on old and new wood–have been game changers for us here in the “frozen north.” But as weather becomes less predictable, they will be more useful to more people, I think.

Several types of hydrangeas make the distinction a non-issue. These include the “Annabelle” types, and their hybrids (hydrangea arborescens), tardiva types, paniculata grandiflora types and their hybrids–there are a lot of choices.

The hedge of pink hydrangeas in the photo above is the original Invincible Spirit hydrangea, a type of hydrangea arborescens. It is about as easy care as it gets. All I ever have to do is to remove the spent flowers–and periodically I trim it back a little. That’s it.

But the beauty of these types of plants is that if you wanted to, you could cut them back hard in the spring, or, if there was a hard freeze, or heavy animal browse, it wouldn’t matter. They still bloom because they bloom on new wood.

On Friday I will have photos of some of the other types of hydrangeas that bloom on new wood and talk a little about them.

If I Had a Nickel…

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The title of this post comes from my saying back when I worked in retail gardening. The entire saying was “if I had a nickel for every hydrangea question, I could retire now and live comfortably the rest of my life.”

And that’s still true. No matter what I am lecturing on, I get hydrangea questions. It’s our #1 problem here in the “frozen north” as I speak of Connecticut and it’s made worse by the fact that so many of us vacation on Cape Cod, which is wrapping up its own hydrangea festival about now. We come back from our Cape vacations with serious hydrangea envy.

And what do we come back to? Most of us have at least one version of this is our yards.

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This is known as the hydrangea that blooms on “old wood. This one looks pretty good, actually. There’s a bud near the top–most of us only have buds or blooms concentrated in a ring around the bottom where the snow protected last year’s buds. All the other buds were killed off by the harsh winter.

The hydrangea in the photo at the top of the post is a “newer” variety, one that blooms on old and new wood so that even if winter kills all our buds, the new growth will still bud and bloom. You have probably heard of Endless Summer–that’s the one in the top photo. It has proven fairly easy care and fool-proof for me, but again, at lectures, I am hearing reports of it failing to bloom as well.

I figure anything that blooms in my heavy clay, on rock ledge, that stays soggy well into the spring and may or may not get eaten by deer, voles or rabbits as it’s trying to come back–and still blooms–is pretty darn foolproof. And mine is blooming again as I post this.

I should have started asking for nickels way back, though.

Missing Petals?

I used to have a border of rudbeckia in my wildlife garden. But as in any monoculture, it gradually became a habitat for four lined plant bugs that disfigured the foliage. When other insects started chewing the petals off the bright yellow flowers, I ripped the whole thing out.

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Of course a few have self-sown, but because there is no monoculture, and because they are mingling nicely with other plants (if not actually being overtaken by my supposedly dwarf hibiscus syriacus) I don’t have the problem with insects anymore.

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Interestingly enough, the insects that eat the flower petals seem to have found a container with some annual daisies in it. Almost as fast as the daisies open, their petals are gone.

Here’s a closer look at the damage.

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What’s causing this? In my case, I am sure it is earwigs. They are about the only pest of the numerous possibilities that I know that I have in abundance.

If you are seeing this sort of damage and aren’t sure what might be causing it (and don’t think earwigs are a possibility for you) some other possible causes are the notorious Japanese beetle, or believe it or not, striped or spotted cucumber beetles, which are pests of far more than cucumbers.

I did find a cucumber beetle of the striped variety in my vegetable garden (where I am not growing cucumbers) but 1 beetle is not doing all my damage, surely. I think he ventured over from a neighbor’s yard and probably went right back.

And as for Japanese beetles, this year, I haven’t seen beetles of any kind: not our “June bug” types, nor the asiatic garden beetles or the Japanese beetles. It’s a little odd. (But I am not complaining!)

The Summer of Fireflies

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Forgive the filthy glass door. I can’t bear down hard enough to wash it yet (after my surgery). Besides the fireflies sure don’t seem to mind. This is one of their favorite daytime resting places.

This summer they are so abundant, however, that they seem to have a lot of favorite resting places, so long as there’s shade.

One morning, I actually drove with one on my driver’s door window all the way to work! Luckily, I don’t have a long drive, it’s local roads, and I sure drove as near to the lower end of the speed limit as I could (you realize that many folks take speed limits and stop signs–and even traffic lights–as mere suggestions here. Or they’re for “other” people. )

Anyway, no fireflies were harmed. And I am getting quite a show in my yard this year!