New-look hy­drangeas

Hy­drangeas are en­joy­ing a re­nais­sance, and there’s lots to love, says JEN­NIFER STACKHOUSE

Gardening Australia - - CONTENTS -

Yes, these are hy­drangeas and they’ve had some­thing of a makeover! Those cute dou­ble flowers, re­peat bloomers and plants that are com­pact enough to grow in con­tain­ers are the face of a new gen­er­a­tion of an old favourite.

Hy­drangea (Hy­drangea macro­phylla) is na­tive to Ja­pan, and that’s where some ex­cit­ing new breed­ing work has been taking place. Breed­ing has also been un­der­way in the US for sev­eral decades, and it was there that the mod­ern hy­drangea rev­o­lu­tion re­ally kicked off.

Back in 2004, Michael Dirr of Michael Dirr’s Plants in­tro­duced the first of the End­less Sum­mer col­lec­tion of hy­drangeas, which flower on new growth, mean­ing they keep flow­er­ing through sum­mer and into au­tumn. Gar­den­ers in the US wel­comed these re­peat-flow­er­ing plants with open arms, and they were soon avail­able in Aus­tralia. By 2011, some 18 mil­lion plants had been sold across the world. The suc­cess of End­less

Sum­mer has led to the re­lease of many other long-flow­er­ing va­ri­eties.

Not only does its long flow­er­ing make this a bet­ter per­former than older va­ri­eties, it also over­comes prob­lems that cause non-flow­er­ing. As tra­di­tional hy­drangeas flower on last sea­son’s growth, late or over-zeal­ous prun­ing can cause old-style hy­drangeas to fail to flower. Hard prun­ing in win­ter or late frost in spring can re­move the next sum­mer’s flowers. With End­less Sum­mer, the flowers form on new and old wood, so hard prun­ing or frost doesn’t stop flow­er­ing as new flow­er­ing wood is formed right through sum­mer.

COLOUR & FORM

H. macro­phylla is known for its vari­able flower colour – blue in acid soils and pink in al­ka­line con­di­tions. This vari­a­tion is due to the avail­abil­ity of alu­minium ions in the soil. The greater avail­abil­ity of alu­minium in acid soils leads to in­creased blue coloura­tion in the flowers. End­less Sum­mer and other mod­ern hy­drangea va­ri­eties con­tinue to ex­hibit blue tones in acid soils and pink in al­ka­line.

As well as hav­ing a range of colour forms, H. macro­phylla has two types of flower heads. Com­monly grown and seen in gar­dens are mop­head va­ri­eties that pro­duce flower heads made up of a mass of small, in­fer­tile flowers. Dain­tier and less fa­mil­iar are lace­cap hy­drangeas, which have a cen­tral clus­ter of fer­tile flowers sur­rounded by a fringe of in­fer­tile flowers.

Lace­caps are part of mod­ern hy­drangea breed­ing, and it was in lace­caps that the next big thing in hy­drangea de­vel­op­ment oc­curred, with the ap­pear­ance of plants with bi­colour flowers.

Anthony Tes­se­laar In­ter­na­tional un­veiled the pretty lace­cap hy­drangeas ‘Straw­ber­ries & Cream’ (head of pink ster­ile flowers sur­round­ing a cen­tre of white fer­tile flowers) and ‘Blue­ber­ries & Cream’ (blue ster­ile flowers sur­round­ing a cen­tre of pale blue fer­tile flowers), which grow to about 1m high and wide.

These com­pact va­ri­eties are now mar­keted around the world for gar­dens and con­tain­ers, and for use in­doors as flow­er­ing pot plants. It is rec­om­mended to re­turn the plants to a shel­tered spot out­doors af­ter they have been in­side in a brightly lit spot for four to six weeks.

DOU­BLE FLOWERS

In 2016, dou­ble hy­drangeas ar­rived in Aus­tralia. They are very pretty with high vis­ual ap­peal and it’s no won­der they sold out quickly in their first year of re­lease.

‘Love’ has heads of small, round, dou­ble pale pink (or pale blue) flowers, ‘Per­fec­tion’ has bright pink (or blue) dou­ble flowers and ‘Miss Saori’ has white or green-tinged dou­ble flowers edged in deep rose pink, with fo­liage that de­vel­ops deep crim­son au­tumn tones. They are ideal for pots as they grow about 1m high and wide.

These hy­drangeas were bred in Ja­pan and have won awards around the world. Breeder Ry­oji Irie named ‘Miss Saori’ for his wife, and this beau­ti­ful new va­ri­ety was awarded Plant of the Year at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2014. They are grown in Aus­tralia by Sprint Hor­ti­cul­ture and sold un­der the Tea Time la­bel.

LONG FLOW­ER­ING

And new hy­drangeas keep on com­ing.

New this year for Aus­tralia is ‘Mag­i­cal Rev­o­lu­tion’, a hy­drangea that promises blooms for 150 days. That’s al­most six months of flow­er­ing, from late spring to au­tumn. Flowers are pink or blue (de­pend­ing on soil pH) but age to pink then bur­gundy. Long-lived flower heads form on com­pact plants 60–70cm high and wide.

‘Mag­i­cal Rev­o­lu­tion’ is an ideal gift and grows well in con­tain­ers. It can be kept in­doors in a brightly lit spot and is use­ful for nar­row, shaded spots out­side, such as be­tween the drive­way and fence. Ex­pect to see them in nurs­eries at Christ­mas.

LEFTEnd­less Sum­mer ‘Bailmer’ ow­ers on old and new growth, with large blooms that are pink or blue, de­pend­ing on soil pH.

TOP TO BOT­TOM End­less Sum­mer ‘Blush­ing Bride’; bright pink dou­ble ‘Per­fec­tion’; award-win­ning ‘Miss Saori’; ‘Love’ has round, pale pink or blue dou­ble flowers; the com­pact lace­cap ‘Straw­ber­ries & Cream’ hy­drangea.

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