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H. macrophylla ‘Alpenglow’

If I was bitter, I’d say that the industry has done its best to destroy hydrangeas, at least the macrophyllas I used to buy, with their deep, true colors. I can’t find the two brilliant pink macrophyllas I bought many years ago—‘Alpenglow’ and ‘Princess Beatrix’—at any nursery anywhere these days. What I do see are endless rows of vapid, wishy-washy Endless Summer macrophylla hybrids, as well as the new Annabelle (arborescens) hybrids, and quite a number of paniculata hybrids. None of them offer the multiplicity of big, long-lasting, clearly hued blooms of those original two.

But there are more important things to be bitter about. I am getting rid of one of the Endless Summer hybrids I was talked into—Twist-n-Shout. This is an unattractive, lanky, and disappointing plant. The flatish blooms (when it has them) has are a sickly lavender (interior) and washed–out pink (exterior); they start slow and continue slower. I’ll keep the Blushing Bride ES hybrid; it does what it’s supposed to and doesn’t bother me as much.

‘Limelight’ in fall

On the paniculata side, the news is much better. I love ‘Limelight’ and have recently purchased ‘Little Limelight,’ and another newish paniculata, ‘Little Quick Fire.’ I also added a quercifolia to my collection. I’ve had a climber (petiolaris) for quite some time; it now covers ten feet around the pond.

H. petiolaris

Paniculatas seem to be the best compromise, and I’ve had to compromise after going through two bad winters and bloomless summers from my beloved macrophyllas. They provide large, abundant blooms on new wood and the changing colors are attractive. Arborescens are also thoroughly reliable; yes, they will flop, but not so badly if you cut them back very early in spring.

What I won’t do is fool around with the soil by adding lime or aluminum sulfate to it, because a. I’ve never heard of it working, and b. I don’t add anything but compost and mulch these days and those I just pile on top.

Your mileage may vary.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on October 6, 2016 at 8:39 am, in the category It’s the Plants, Darling.


  1. Don’t forget about the serratas. Very hardy, some blooms on new wood, many beautiful cultivars. I can vouch for Tuff Stuff, Tiny Tuff Stuff, and Woodlanders as worthy and dependable garden plants. I don’t bother with macrophyllas except for a monster Lady in Red that is unstoppable. Agree that the paniculatas are wonderful in a whole other way, all that you suggested. Quick Fire is an incredible plant.

  2. Agree paniculatas are great-especially Quickfire & Little Quickfire. Also like Phantom. Kyushu is a great nectar plant in fall for Monarchs. Trying the dwarf Bobo & Bombshell- only their 2nd summer so we will see. Upshot- hydrangeas really give you flowers & structure in you garden.

  3. I am tired of endless macrophylla series being forced upon us – not least because it further sends some of the best cultivars to the back of the line and we are forced to search the gardens of friends and relatives for cuttings of old favorites if we want them. Yes there are good new introductions, but not THAT many good ones. Three years ago I stood in a large suburban DC nursery asking for “Tokyo Delight” after being wowed at Longwood. “You don’t want that,” one of the horticulturalists told me “You want Endless Summer.” (About a hundred of which it looked like he needed to move.) “No,” I said “I actually want Tokyo Delight.” Left the nursery and took some cuttings from a friend. Thank goodness they strike so well.

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