Flowering this week – tree hydrangea of uncertain classification

Evergreen and frost tender but apparently loosely lumped in as Hydrangea aspera

Evergreen and frost tender but apparently loosely lumped in as Hydrangea aspera

This plant is a bit of a mystery but it is a hydrangea even though it is evergreen and of tree-like stature. Mark can not remember where he bought it from years ago, but it appears likely that it came from seed collected by a number of different New Zealand plantspeople at Monkey Bridge in China. At this stage it is loosely lumped into the family of hydrangea aspera even though most asperas are both deciduous and hardy. This is neither.

But it is very striking. It is now multi trunked, about 5 metres tall and 3 metres wide with large leaves and considerably larger lace cap flowers at this time of the year. Each flower can be 40cm across, sometimes more, and in a mix of soft antique colours – lilac, muted green and cream. It is most unusual. Alas it is also more difficult to strike from cutting than most hydrangeas so it is not readily available and you will have to search for it if you really want it. It is just as well that there are not many gardens in Taranaki that have space for a large, brittle, frost tender hydrangea which needs protection from both wind and cold but quickly attains the size of a tree.