Plant of the month
Oak-leaved hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) provide double the joy in your garden – in summer they bear lovely showy blooms and in autumn the foliage boasts the most beautiful hues.
This shrub’s blooms are just like the well-known mophead hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), with a cluster of small flowers forming one large bloom. This species, however, carries its flowers in a conical creamy-white cluster. In autumn the leaves turn a gorgeous shade of bronze. Plant a few of these shrubs together for added impact.
Oak-leaved hydrangeas like moist but well-drained, fertile soil. Prepare the planting hole well by adding plenty of compost, a handful of bonemeal and fertiliser such as Atlantic Fertilisers Bio Ganic All Purpose.
This shrub also makes a good hedge plant and does equally well in sun and semi-shade, although its leaves may scorch in full sun.
In the hot summer months, it needs plenty of water; drench the soil at least three times a week and add mulch around the stem. In winter, when it is dormant, water less frequently. Oak-leaved hydrangeas are fairly disease-resistant.
This plant doesn’t need much pruning. Once it is established, cut back the old wood by about one-third down to soil level in autumn or early winter after it has flowered; it will reshoot. If you want to tidy up the shrub, lightly trim the rest of the stems. The more you cut back, the bigger the leaves will be the following growing season.
Oak-leaved hydrangeas make excellent cut flowers; choose mature flower clusters on which most of the little blooms are already open, as younger flowers wilt sooner. Don’t trim off the dead blooms after the flowering season; as the flowers age, they turn brown and paper-like, adding to the plant’s appeal for a few more months.
Take hardwood cuttings in winter, or softwood cuttings from the new season’s growth in late spring; plant in pots in compost-rich soil and transplant when they have sufficient roots. Older stems touching the ground will also form roots; chop off these stems with a spade in winter and plant them elsewhere in the garden.
The leaves of Hydrangea quercifolia turn an attractive bronze in autumn.