Grumpy is one giant goosebump right now! He's just itching to introduce you to three of the latest and greatest hydrangeas to be introduced in the last 6 months! None of them are French hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla). None of them are blue. And none of them keep you up nights wondering when to prune. In fact, the average gardener will find these easier to grow than French hydrangea, because they take more sun and don't need as much water. Let's meet them, shall we?
The one that raises Grumpy's blood pressure the most (oh, I can feel those cranial arteries pulsating right now!) is First Editions Vanilla Strawberry. Look at its flowers up top.
Vanilla Strawberry is a selection of panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea panculata). You're probably familiar with its famous cousin, 'Pee Gee' hydrangea, which is planted all over the place and makes a good substitute for crepe myrtle up north where crepe myrtle isn't hardy. 'Pee Gee' is often trained into a small tree 15 to 20 feet tall. Its globular flower clusters emerge white in summer, then age to pink by fall. The foliage turns a nice yellow in autumn.
According to the folks who developed it, Bailey Nurseries in Minnesota, Vanilla Strawberry doesn't get that big -- only 6 to 7 feet tall. In summer, it bears large cone-shaped flower clusters that begin creamy-white, change to soft pink, and end up strawberry red. The neatest thing is you can get all three colors on one plant at the same time. I have a baby Vanilla Strawberry on a corner of my house and am counting every second until it blooms. 262,114; 262,115; 262,116; 262,117......
How About a Pink 'Annabelle?'
If the original 'Endless Summer' is still the most popular hydrangea,'Annabelle' would have to be a strong second. This selection of smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) features huge, rounded clusters of pure white flowers up to a foot across in summer on a 4-foot tall shrub. But white is the only color. What if you could find a pink one?
You can. Proven Winners says it has introduced the first pink 'Annabelle,' named 'Invincibelle Spirit.' Flowers open hot pink (below), then fade to soft pink and finally green. Supposedly, it blooms all summer into the fall, but I'll reserve judgment until I see for myself.
Some gardeners complain that 'Invincibelle Spirit' has weak stems, so the flowers flop, and also that the pink color fades too quickly. That doesn't seem to be the case with Endless Summer's foray into the pink 'Annabelle' contest, 'Bella Anna.' (This name seems like a clever anagram for 'Annabelle.' but for that to be true, you'd have to call the plant 'Elle Banna' and nobody would get it anyway.) Strong stems hold high its showy, magenta-pink flowers (below).
Both 'Invincibelle Spirit' and 'Bella Anna' grow roughly the same size as 'Annabelle.'
Better for Beginners
In Grumpy's 100% Guaranteed Always Correct Opinion, all three of these new, pink hydrangeas are easier for beginning gardeners to grow than the French types for the following reasons.
1. They bloom on new growth. This means you can prune them in fall, winter, or spring and not ruin the summer's bloom.
2. They tolerate more sun. In fact, you can plant Vanilla Strawberry in full sun. You'll get more flowers that way. Give the other two morning sun and light, afternoon shade.
3. They are much more cold-hardy, flowering well as far north as Canada.
4. The pH of the soil will not affect the flower color.
Look for these new pink hydrangeas in garden centers right now.
Sustainability Steve inspires his lazy-butt teenage son to make compost. You won't want to miss it.