Cultivate Hydrangeas

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  Hydrangea is a genus of great range and beauty. Panicle types such as PeeGee hydrangea. Mopheads. Climbing hydrangeas. Oakleaf hydrangeas of beautiful panicle flowers and wonderful fall foliage. Delicate pinks and blues, sometimes on the same plant. Electric colors to make a big splash. Hydrangeas were on display, revealing a high level of horticultural expertise at AmericanHort’s Cultivate’16 this past week as well as in the horticulturally laissez-faire world of the ChatScape, where my daughter Sara took a picture of the creams and pinks of an oakleaf hydrangea panicle today.


Oakleaf hydrangea blossom



  Enjoy hydrangeas throughout the season and learn about all the types from your co-horts, from Internet sites and great books such as “Hydrangeas for American Gardens” by Michael A. Dirr, of which American Gardener wrote:

  “It is attractive enough to pick up, deep enough to take home, enthralling enough to take to bed, and by the morning light I wanted it to be mine forever.”


  “Complete Hydrangeas” by Glen Church, from which this quote is taken from the Introduction:

  "Hydrangeas have so many winning attributes, it's hard to imagine an easier group of plants to grow, or any other flowering shrubs capable of providing vibrant color for so long a season"

  Taxonomic Notes: The genus Hydrangea with its ~ 75 species of East Asian and American origins is in, ta dah – the Hydrangeaceae. Other familiar genera in this family include: Deutzia, Philadelphus, and for those in the southwest U.S., Jamesia. My namesake genus has one species, Jamesia americana, and though I have never knowingly seen it, this shrub has quite beautiful flower pictures on the web. 

  Philadelphus coronarius (mock orange) is a familiar sweet-smelling shrub in the eastern U.S. Philadelphus lewisii, collected in the U.S. northwest by Meriwether Lewis during the Lewis & Clark expedition has the confusing common name of syringa. Syringa, however is the genus for lilacs, which are in the Oleaceae, the olive family, and are not very related at all to Philadelphus, and…it’s a long story. Just to make it even more convoluted, Erik Draper and I, along with Dr. John Lloyd, then of the University of Idaho, once planted an International Ornamental Crabapple test plot in Syringa Park (no lilacs, possibly some P. lewisii) on a hilltop overlooking the Snake River in Lewiston, Idaho. By all accounts it is quite stunning today.