Tag Archives: hydrangea

Task: Deer Resistant July Color

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Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Golden Arrow, with Eucomis ‘Oakhurst’ in the background

I’m working on a garden plan for a client’s summer cottage, and she wants the peak color period to happen during July.  She needs a no fuss garden that is deer resistant. The beds are in full sun as well as in morning sun /afternoon shade. There was one one request: no day lilies (plus the deer love them!).  Works for me, and since it happens to be mid July as I take on this project, a walk about the garden gives me plenty of plant subjects to consider.  Interestingly,  many of these plants have become garden favorites, as I have already done individual plant portraits of many in this blog ( links provided).

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Kalimeris incisa ‘Blue Star’

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Allium ‘Millenium’

First there is the understated but charming Kalimeris integrifolia ‘Blue Star’.  From late June through August, starry light blue daisies atop 2′ plants welcome butterflies and bees.  Nearby Calamintha nepeta is beginning to be abuzz with pollinators, its delicate small white tinted blue lipped blossoms  begin in July and carry on into fall. Allium ‘Millennium’ is beginning to delight with lavender purple orbs on 15″ stems. Acanthus hungaricus which took a few years to establish but is thriving in well drained sunny spots for us, adds a commanding presence.  Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Golden Arrow’ which seems to have happier looking foliage when it gets some mid day shade, is aglow with lemon lime colored leaves and ruby pink spires.

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Acanthus hungaricus

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Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’

Grown for striking purple foliage as much as for it’s handsome pineapple lilies is Eucomis ‘Oakhurst‘. Then there is  Leucosceptrum japonicum ‘Golden Angel’  which has formed a handsome 3′ x 3′ specimen…..it’s citrus yellow foliage is brightening up a partially shaded spot. It won’t bloom until early fall, but I really appreciate this plant more for its foliage than its flowers. Also in our beds which receive both sun and shade is the amazing Aralia ‘Sun King’, with its bold yellow foliage. Later in the season it gets white “sputnik-like”  flowers followed by black seed heads.

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Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’

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Stewartia pseudocamellia

Summer blooming shrubs play an important role in the easy care garden, and the first plants I consider are Hydrangeas. Now in our zone 6A garden, surprise freezes torment us in mid spring, and we often discover that  H. macrophylla hybrids’ buds get whacked by the cold. Oak leaf Hydrangea forms have been much more reliable, and we love the double flowered Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake as a backdrop plant in our shadier beds.  Of course the magnificent Stewartia pseudocamellia var koreana was in glorious bloom for the 4th of July but there is still a succession of flower buds as we now enter the 3rd week of the month.

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Clethra barbinervis

One very special plant that few people seem to be growing is the Japanese Clethra, C. barbinervis. This species forms a large shrub, or can be pruned to 1 or several leaders to form a small tree. Panicles of white fragrant flowers are born during July and August. Fall color varies with shades of yellow and orange. A nice surprise is the exfoliating bark which is best appreciated when plants are grown with a tree like form.

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Salvia guaranitica ‘Argentine Skies’

Of course there are the annuals and tender perennials that really begin to show off now that warm days are here to stay. I couldn’t be without Salvia guaranitica in its various forms: ‘Black and Blue’,  purple flowering ‘Amistad’ , ‘Argentine Skies’ and a species form that we acquired years ago as ‘Kobalt’. In fact both ‘Kobalt’ and ‘Argentine Skies’ have been wintering over for us in well drained soil here in our zone 6 garden.

What are your top 5 deer resistant plants for the July garden?

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Quickfire’

Hydrangea paniculata 'Quickfire'We were walking through the nursery with a couple of friends, observing which plants displayed the most exciting autumn color, when this Hydrangea stopped us in our tracks. The fall foliage on the panicle Hydrangea, Quickfire’, was spectacular! Its chunky lacecap type blossoms were fading to a lovely shade of mauve rose, but it was the warm red to amber coloring of the leaves that stopped us in our tracks. Interestingly, blocks of Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’were grouped nearby, and their foliage was just an ordinary shade of green. We checked online, but the literature on ‘Quickfire’ didn’t glorify its fall color. Hmm…was this due to the weather this season, or perhaps our magic touch? Upon further investigation we learned that indeed this selection was an autumn star.

Quickfire’blooms on new wood, so there is little danger that you will be without blossoms after a severe winter. The large panicles (to 12′) of white sterile and fertile flowers form early in the season, and will develop rosy red tones as they age. The stems have a dark red tint, which further accentuates the blossoms. Plants grow 6-8′ tall and 8-10′ wide.  Pruning can be done in late winter or early spring.  ‘Quickfire’ prefers full sun or partial shade and is not fussy about soil or moisture, although plants will be happier if irrigated during dry spells.  Hardy in zones 3-9.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Red Sensation’

Gardeners in northern climates have been disappointed  by Hydrangea macrophylla in the past….lots of healthy foliage, but few or no blossoms. This recent introduction of Mophead Hydrangea truly blooms on both old and new wood,  and is being marketed as ‘Forever and Ever Red Sensation’ ( Tra-la-la…those clever marketers read a lot of fairy tales).

What you really need to know is that this vigorous selection produces lots of blooms on new growth, making it a great candidate for colder zone 5 and 6 gardens. In hot climates the large trusses of blossoms will be in softer shades of rosy pink when grown in neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Colder temperatures will cause the flower color to deeper red shades. If your garden soil happens to be more acidic, ‘Red Sensation’ will change color and thus need a new name, as it will take on bluer tones. The flowers age to smoky violet. Stems and fall foliage color have a dark burgundy cast.

Red Sensation’ grow 2-3′ tall and 3-4’wide, and require full sun or partial shade. Hydrangea macrophylla appreciate a moist, rich and fertile soil.  May we suggest combining ‘Red Sensation’ with the always attractive Periscaria ‘Golden Arrow’? 

Pruning Hydrangea

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ blooms on new growth

Even seasoned gardeners seem to be confused as to when to prune Hydrangea.

Begin by identifying which Hydrangea species you are growing, to determine whether it will bloom on new growth or on old wood (last year’s stalks). The species arborescens, paniculata and some newer forms of macrophylla bloom on new wood. All the Hydrangea macrophylla (Mophead and Lacecap types) and quercifolia (Oakleaf)  bloom on old wood, as long as there isn’t winter damage. Next year?s blossoms are set on the upper portion of the woody stalks in late summer and fall. H. macrophylla selections should not be pruned until after the plants have leafed out. In late spring, prune out or tip back any dead wood for a clean appearance.

The hardiest and most foolproof of all the Hydrangea are the paniculata group (Pee Gee types) and the arborescens group (Smooth Hydrangea). Both of these species can be cut within inches of the ground each spring if you want to control the size of your plants.  They stalks can always be thinned to improve plant shape, and there is no harm to next year’s display if you want to cut long stemmed bouquets in summer and fall.

There are a lot of new Hydrangea macrophylla selections on the market, including ‘Double Expressions’, ‘Red Sensation’, ‘Let’s Dance Starlight’, and ‘Endless Summer’ that bloom on old and new wood. The blossoms appearing on old growth will display in early summer, while the flowers that form on new growth will appear later in August and September, for a long continuous display. If you live in the colder parts of zone 6 or zone 5, you may get too much winterkill for blossoms on the old growth, but you will still be able to enjoy a late summer through fall display.