Category Archives: Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

Bloom Day–A Tale of Two Hydrangeas

When I moved to this shady neighborhood with towering hardwood trees nearly seven years ago, I was happy to find several species of hydrangeas growing in the garden. Since then, I’ve added even more of these beautiful and easy-to-grow shrubs.

My favorite hydrangea was not planted here, however, it grows wild. Hydrangea radiata, though limited in its native range to the southern Appalachian region, is common in the Upstate and I often see it on my wildflower hikes. In the garden here, it grows on a moist, north-facing slope above the Reedy River.

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Hydrangea radiata, commonly called silverleaf.

Called silverleaf by those who prefer common names, this hydrangea has striking foliage as well as pretty flowers. While the upper surface of the leaf is green, the underside is bright white, a tale-tell feature easily seen when ruffled by wind.

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Hydrangea foliage (top row, left to right): a small unidentified cultivar with pale pink booms, H. radiata, and H. arborescens ‘Incrediball’; and (bottom row, left to right): H. macrophylla and H. quercifolia.

In June, creamy-white blooms open at the tips of the shrub’s spreading branches.  Clusters are flat-topped, with larger, sterile flowers surrounding a center of fertile flowers that produce pollen and seeds. One of the nicest things about this hydrangea is that it attracts a wide variety of pollinators.

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A very bee-friendly shrub.

In early spring 2012, I added a (then) new selection of hydrangea to the garden that also blooms in June. Named Incrediball, this Hydrangea arborescens, commonly known as smooth hydrangea, is touted as an improvement over its popular parent, Annabelle, offering thicker, sturdier stems that prevent flopping after rain.

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Incrediball hydrangea (H. arborescens)

Like others of its species, Incrediball blooms on new wood, so even when killed to the ground during a hard winter, new branches produce summer flowers. It’s also said to be more floriferous than Annabelle, with up to four times more flowers.

This selection, with its bold white blooms that fade to parchment and persist throughout the winter, has become a great favorite. Sadly, it’s also much-loved by voles, but that’s another story.

Linking to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens.

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This photo was shared for Valentine’s Day, but with the addition of a caption also serves as a heartfelt tribute and link to February’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.

The camellias (Camellia japonica) predate me in the garden, but the ones I can name are ‘Memphis Belle’, center top and bottom; ‘Jordan’s Pride’, also called ‘Hermi’, pink with white edges; and ‘Professor Sargent’, just above ‘Jordan’s Pride’.  The smaller flowers, top to bottom, on both left and right are pansy; Autumnalis cherry (Prunus subhirtella); Chinese fringe (Loropetalum chinense); Carolina jessamine, with green leaves (Gelsemium sempervirens); Chinese paperbush, a yellow rosette (Edgeworthia chrysantha); Tete-a-tete miniature daffodil; Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis); and viola.  At the center is a single Algerian iris (I. unguicularis).

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day–July 2013

DSC_8329aHortitopia has been jam-packed in past weeks with news of my latest garden tour to France (w/highlights of the best gardens yet to come), but today—Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day—is an opportunity to catch up with my home garden in the Upstate.

First, though, I have to mention the torrential rains we’ve experienced this summer. In April, the South Carolina Climatology Office announced the long-standing drought was officially over for every SC county, with all areas measuring between 100% and 225% of expected rainfall for the first quarter of 2013.

Those amounts are nothing, however, compared to what we’ve seen since the first of June and particularly in the last two weeks. On Friday (July 12), The Greenville News reported our area had received 43 inches of rain to date, quickly approaching our annual average of 47 inches. Later that day and through the night, we had yet another deluge with Clemson and other communities just west of Greenville receiving 8 to 9 inches of additional rain by Saturday morning.

Sadly, the South Carolina Botanical Garden was hard hit with flood waters. The new trail and mountain meadow of the Natural Heritage Garden was completely scoured. Several bridges were damaged or washed out and garden staff had to act quickly to secure the foundation of the Hunt Cabin. The garden is closed until safety can be assured, but I hope to visit tomorrow and bring you more news soon.

Now for the blooms…

While late winter and spring are admittedly the glory season for shade gardens, there are still a few things worth sharing now. Though flowers are quickly fading from excess moisture, the hydrangeas have been especially lovely.

When I moved to my new home (built in 1952), I was happy to find two species of hydrangea already growing here. The front garden includes a trio of common bigleaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla), while the back garden features two cultivars of oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia), the full-size ‘Snow Queen’ and the dwarf ‘Pee Wee’.

The oakleaf types feature elegant, elongated clusters of white flowers that fade pinkish as they age. The bigleaf hydrangeas, however, must have a split personality disorder, as some of their round clusters of flowers are pink, while others are purple and blue.

Split personality disorder?

Split personality disorder?

The pH level, or relative acidity of the soil, has a major effect on the color of bigleaf hydrangeas. In simplest terms, acidic soil makes blue flowers and alkaline soil makes pink flowers. If the soil is nearly neutral, between 6.5 and 7.5, the plants can produce both colors of flowers.

Most soils in the Upstate are acidic, but my garden is located within one of the scattered outcrops of mafic rocks that create more basic soils. In general this is a good thing, as these areas are also rich in nutrients and plant species. However, the bi-colored hydrangeas are driving me a bit batty, so I plan to lower the acidity of the soil in this bed with repeated top dressings of recycled coffee grounds.

I’ve added a third species of hydrangea to the garden—an improved selection of the native smooth hydrangea (H. arborescens) called ‘Incrediball’. This unique cultivar, a Proven Winners plant developed by Spring Meadow Nursery, is stealing the spotlight from ‘Annabelle’ and others of its type with extra-large flower clusters on thicker, sturdier stems which prevent flopping. Since their planting in 2011, the shrubs have quadrupled in size and are now 4 to 5-feet tall. The flowers, which began to bloom in early June, open lime green before turning pure white, and then fade to various shades of green until they dry to a parchment color. The long-lasting clusters then persist through winter unless cut for dried flower arrangements.

Sturdy stems keep the large flower clusters of 'Incrediball' from flopping.

Sturdy stems keep the large flower clusters of ‘Incrediball’ from flopping.

In recent days, several hosta (unknown, as they predate me) have begun to flower. Some are only decorative, while others are also sweetly scented.

This purple-flowering hosta adds a touch of much-needed color to the shade garden.

This purple-flowering hosta adds a touch of much-needed color to the shade garden.

The white flowers of this hosta scent the secret garden with their sweet perfume.

The white flowers of this hosta scent the secret garden with their sweet perfume.

Geraniums are flowering now too. The blooms of my favorite, ‘Rozanne’, recently named as Plant of the Centenary at the Chelsea Flower Show (London), are intertwined with the low-hanging white blooms of a bigleaf hydrangea.

'Rozanne' geranium, RHS Award of Garden Merit, 2008 (US) Perennial Plant of the Year, and now Plant of the Centenary at the Chelsea Flower Show.

‘Rozanne’ geranium, RHS Award of Garden Merit, 2008 (US) Perennial Plant of the Year, and now Plant of the Centenary at the Chelsea Flower Show.

And I’m quite pleased with my front-stoop containers, which feature pink ‘Dragon Wing’ begonias and ‘Grape-O-Licious’ torenia mixed with an array of interesting foliage, most notably ‘Henna’ coleus.

Clustering containers, like these on my front stoop,  makes watering easy.

Clustering containers, like these on my front stoop, makes watering easy.

To see what’s flowering in other gardens around the world, visit the host of Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, Carol at May Dreams Gardens.