Tag Archives: Hydrangea quercifolia “Snowflake”

Simple pleasures – hydrangeas in summer

One of the You-Me series of hydrangeas

One of the You-Me series of hydrangeas

What would a Tikorangi summer be without hydrangeas? They are one of the easiest and showiest of summer flowering plants here. Much of that is due to summer rain. We are blessed with both high sunshine hours (higher than Auckland, I like to point out) but also regular rainfall and hydrangeas do best in moist conditions.

We have the usual macrophylla mop tops which often feature in older gardens, with their big heads of blue or white. These we use more as background plants but hydrangeas are a large family and there are many more interesting variations than often realized.

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’

Most hydrangeas hail from Asia, particularly Japan, Korea and China but the oak leaf species, H. quercifolia, is a toughie from USA. The double form of this plant, ‘Snowflake’, is particularly showy. The abundant flower heads hang like cones, with each bloom forming multiple layers of petals down the stem. While it opens white, over time it ages through shades of soft green and antique pink before drying on the bush to a buff colour. It can look as if they are made from paper or silk and the flowers last right through the summer season into winter.

Hydrangea serrata ‘Preziosa’  changes flower colour through the season

Hydrangea serrata ‘Preziosa’  changes flower colour through the season

We looked at a vast collection of H. serrata in an English garden and were very taken with the more refined appearance of this branch of the family. We have had the serrata hybrid “Preziosa” in our garden for many years. It starts flowering in November, coming out lime green, ageing through cream to white before turning pink and then red by the end of the season, often showing a range of colours on the same bush at any one time. The serratas are generally colour stable, unlike many macrophyllas. I want more serratas when I find the right spaces, particularly the daintier lace-caps.

We prefer Schizophragma hydrangeoides to the climbing Hydrangea petiolaris

We prefer Schizophragma hydrangeoides to the climbing Hydrangea petiolaris

When it comes to climbers, we favour the close hydrangea relative, Schizophragma hydrangeoides, over the more common climbing Hydrangea petiolaris. We have them in pink and white and they dance in the breeze with a lightness that petiolaris lacks, as well as flowering more profusely in warmer climates. Give them something to climb up and they will stick themselves to it.

Hydrangea ‘Immaculata’ – a top performing compact, white macrophylla

Hydrangea ‘Immaculata’ – a top performing compact, white macrophylla

If you are a fan of macrophyllas, I can vouch for the top performance of “Immaculata” which is a compact growing bush with beautiful white mop top blooms. I am also extremely impressed by the new You-Me series that has come from a Japanese breeder. We have four different ones and they have names like “Forever” and “Eternity” and I lost the names so I don’t know which is which. But they are all very good with compact habit and such lovely flowers – semi-double lace-caps in the prettiest shades.

The magnificent tree hydrangea, probably a form of H. aspera

The magnificent tree hydrangea, probably a form of H. aspera

The season will close out for us with the huge, unusual, evergreen tree hydrangea that I see is now classified as belonging to the H. aspera (syn. villosa) group and sometimes given the cultivar name “Monkey Bridge”. At over five metres tall, it is large. It is also brittle so needs protection from wind. And somewhat frost tender. This is not a plant for everybody. But those huge lace-cap flower heads in early autumn are showstoppers and the flowering season lasts for a long time. Each flower head can measure up to half a metre across with colouring in subtle antique shades. I love it.

003 - CopyA word on the thorny matter of turning hydrangeas blue or pink… why bother? Gardening should be about working with nature, not trying to outwit it. In Taranaki, our hydrangeas are largely blue, very blue – the sort of blue that folk with pink hydrangeas envy. Yet I found myself charmed by the pink hydrangea display in a Canberra garden centre.

It is many of the macrophyllas that have colour determined by soil conditions. In acid soils (where rhododendrons thrive) they are blue, in alkaline soils they are more likely to be pink. It is actually to do with the available aluminium, an element that is usually strong in acid soils and absent from alkaline ones. Surely it is better to live with what we have and just admire the alternatives elsewhere?

The good news is that in a time of declining specialist, mail order nurseries, you can still source many of the less common hydrangea varieties as well as good selections of more usual types. Woodleigh Nursery was originally set up by Taranaki plantsman, hydrangea expert and personal friend, Glyn Church but is now in the capable hands of Janica and Quin Amoor. Their website is good and easy to use.

Hydrangeas are invaluable plants for easy-care summer gardens where there is enough moisture in the soils and, ideally, semi-shade. An annual winter prune tidies them up and gives larger blooms but you don’t even have to do that if you don’t want to.

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First published in the February issue of New Zealand Gardener and reprinted here with their permission. 

 

 

 

Plant Collector: Hydrangea quercifolia “Snowflake”

Hydrangea quercifolia "Snowflake"

Hydrangea quercifolia “Snowflake”

That is a real flower, not a silk or paper one and it is a hydrangea. It is often called the oak leaf hydrangea – oaks are quercus, hence the quercifolia. It is native to south eastern USA.

This particular plant, which I photographed in my sister’s garden last week, is surviving on benign neglect. It has its roots in the open but the plant has spread so that the flowers are under the cover of a carport, conditions it clearly relishes. We have it planted in woodland areas here but this plant was more spectacular. Apparently it started flowering in November and has been looking really good ever since. The flower heads are in long cones and while “Snowflake” is described as a double form, in fact it forms multiple layers of petals down the stems ageing from white to antique pink shades. In autumn, the foliage colours up to deep burgundy red shades before falling.

H. quercifolia is not fussy about soil types but it needs to be rich, moist and well drained even through summer. It will grow in sun or shade although it is probably easier to keep those moist conditions in semi shade. There are a number of different named cultivars, but “Snowflake” is probably the most spectacular. If you can’t source it from your local garden centre, then mail order hydrangea specialists Woodleigh Nursery have it available on their website.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Tikorangi Notes: Friday 23 December, 2011

Red dahlias for Christmas (but not for Plant Collector profiling)

Red dahlias for Christmas (but not for Plant Collector profiling)

Latest posts:
1) Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree (Abbie’s column) and why it may be a misnomer to brand the iconic pohutukawa as the New Zealand Christmas tree.
2) While the reasons why philadelphus is often referred to as mock orange blossom may elude me, the pure, fragrant beauty of the flowers at Christmas is above reproach.
3) Was there even life before basil?

The dainty Hydrangea quercifolia "Snowflake"

The dainty Hydrangea quercifolia "Snowflake"

Tikorangi Notes: Friday December 23, 2011
Just two days before Christmas and the sun is shining brightly, temperatures are rising and there is no wind. After the torrential downpours of last week, it feels like a little Christmas blessing. In the garden we are busy with a grooming round. Well, two of us are. Mark is determinedly following his own path of draining the settling pond which stops our stream in the park from silting up and doing a weeding round. He takes the lion’s share of responsibility for weeding here. Lloyd and I are titivating in preparation for a wedding to be held here on New Year’s Eve.

Other gardens focus on the wedding venue market but not us. Mark prefers people to come because they want to see the garden rather than to see the place used as a venue. I did a handful of weddings a few years ago – singlehandedly because Mark resolutely stuck to his principles and made himself scarce. But then I met… Bridezilla. That was my last ever booking. If I had known how demanding she would be, I would have trebled the price I quoted and even then I do not think that would have compensated for treating me like the hired help in my own garden.

But, we have a wedding coming and we agreed to this one because it is our daughter’s best friend. And it is proving to be a Major Event. Pride says we have to have the top gardens in immaculate condition, even though we know that guests are here for the event and few will do anything more than cast their eyes around and say, “Oh, very nice…”. Given that the colour scheme for the wedding is the wonderfully retro orange and brown, it is perhaps just as well that the dominant garden colour at this time is lush green. We are in the gentle hiatus between late spring flowers and summer lilies, though the hydrangeas are coming into their own.

The garden remains open for visiting each day. There is an honesty box if we are not around. Best wishes for Christmas to all who read this page.