KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
HYDRANGEAS ARE WHAT GARDENERS call "happy plants," never needing a lot of care.
"We don't do a lot to them," said Melissa Butler, curator of herbaceous plants at Norfolk Botanical Garden in Norfolk, Va. The 155-acre botanical garden includes the Kaufman Hydrangea Collection where you can see 200 different varieties of hydrangeas, all bursting with blooms now that warm weather has settled in.
"They're very tolerant as long as you prune them properly and give them adequate moisture. They like it a bit wet, not sopping, but moist."
You probably associate hydrangeas with the garden that your grandmother used to grow, but this versatile plant is staging a strong comeback, thanks to many new varieties.
During the past couple of years, the show stealer has been Endless Summer, the first-ever repeat-blooming macrophylla. It flowers on old and new wood, giving you mophead type pink blossoms all summer. The plant grows about 3 to 5 feet tall, making it ideal for small gardens or big pots.
"There are a couple of other rebloomers that do not have the advertising of Endless Summer," said Les Parks, nursery manager at Smithfield Gardens in Suffolk, Va. "There's Dooley, named after the famous Georgia football coach, and one called Penny Mac."
However, it's the Big Daddy rebloomer that's turning heads this summer. Big Daddy produces pink or blue flower heads that are 12 to 14 inches across.
Other new hydrangeas include the new Halo series by Hines. The plants go by heavenly names such as Angel Eyes, Angel Song, Angel Star and Angel Robe.
"Most of these are noted for their two-toned flower color of white and pink, blue or purple," said Parks.
"Several of them have serrated petal edges, and I have been impressed with all of them."
Hines also produces Sun Goddess, which has bright yellow to chartreuse foliage and pastel mophead flowers of pale pink or blue.
"We cannot keep it in stock," said Parks. "I tell people to let this one go blue or purple, because the pink flowers do not mix well with that color of foliage."
Limelight is a relatively new hydrangea paniculata (blooms are somewhat cone-shaped rather than ball-shaped). It has pale green flowers that mature to white.
"My customers who arrange flowers are fond of this because green flowers are trendy right now," said Parks.
This year's newcomer in hydrangeas is Lady in Red with red stems and veined dark-green leaves. Her flowers bloom with pinkish-white and bluish-white lacecaps (depending on your soil's acidity -- a lower pH level produces blue flowers) that mature to burgundy rose.
"It has a lace cap bloom that is not terribly impressive to me," says Parks. "I am waiting to see if the fall coloration lives up to its name."