Tag Archives: silverleaf hydrangea

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.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day–June 2014

In my shady garden, the month of June is mostly about hydrangeas. And though a late stretch of frigid weather killed the flower buds of most of the bigleaf types (H. macrophylla), the species which bloom on new wood are making up for their loss. The best of these is a relatively new cultivar named ‘Incrediball’.

Hydrangea arborescens 'Incrediball'

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Incrediball’

These smooth hydrangeas (H. arborescens), planted along the top of the retaining wall between the back garden and the woodland, are an improved selection of the popular ‘Annabelle’, offering thicker and sturdier stems that keep the shrubs from flopping in wind and rain. They made an especially enchanting sight last night, with fireflies dancing about their giant, moonlit flowers. And yesterday afternoon, when I took these photographs, the blooms were covered in hundreds of tiny black wasps, each as small as a grain of rice.

Tiny wasp on 'Incrediball'

Tiny wasp on ‘Incrediball’

In the secret garden, a single H. macrophylla came through winter with a few of its flower buds intact. This white selection predates me in the garden, so I don’t know its name. It’s a beauty though, don’t you think?

White H. macrophylla in the secret garden

White H. macrophylla in the secret garden

The large H. quercifolia, featured in the May post, is beginning to fade, but this dwarf form of the oakleaf is still strutting its stuff.

Dwarf oakleaf (H. quercifolia)

Dwarf oakleaf (H. quercifolia)

And in the woodland, the silverleaf hydrangea (H. radiata) is at its peak. This native shrub offers flat-topped clusters of white flowers surrounded by a handful of larger, sterile flowers. While I watched, bumblebees vied for pollen and nectar, so frantic in their efforts it was impossible to get a clear image.

Silverleaf hydrangea (H. radiata)

Silverleaf hydrangea (H. radiata)

Frantic bumblebee on H. radiata with a lumbering Japanese beetle, which I quickly dispatched.

Frantic bumblebee on H. radiata with a lumbering Japanese beetle, which I quickly dispatched.

Nearby, a black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) is just beginning to bloom. The perennial’s fetid odor attracts carrion flies and beetles but repels most insects, which accounts for its second common name, “bugbane.” In recent years, the plant has become a popular herbal treatment for symptoms of menopause and thus is threatened with overcollecting.

Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

If you look closely, you can see the individual flowers lack petals and the sepals fall away as the flower opens, giving them a fuzzy appearance.

The unique flowers bloom on stalks high above the foliage, reaching heights of 3 to 8-feet tall.

The unique flowers bloom on stalks high above the foliage, reaching heights of 3 to 8-feet tall.

To see June blooms in a variety of gardens around the world, visit the host of Bloom Day, May Dreams Gardens.

Ground Layering

This past weekend, the time was right to do something I’ve been meaning to try for the past couple of years, namely ground layering a native hydrangea in the woodland garden.

Hydrangea radiata

Hydrangea radiata

Commonly called silverleaf hydrangea, H. radiata is common in the Upstate and other parts of the southern Appalachians. Once considered a subspecies of the smooth hydrangea (H. arborescens), cross-pollination experiments yielded few if any viable seeds and thus most experts now consider it to be a separate species. Though very similar to the smooth hydrangea, the silverleaf is easy to distinguish by its foliage, which is typical on top but silvery white below.

Unfortunately, the silverleaf hydrangea is much more difficult to grow from cuttings than its kin. I hope ground layering, which promotes root growth along a branch without cutting it away from the mother plant, will prove effective. This propagation method has a higher rate of success because it prevents the water stress and carbohydrate shortage that can doom cuttings.

I selected a handful of low branches for my effort. Then, I dug a 3-inch deep trench directly beneath each branch and carefully pinched off four leaves (two pairs of the branch’s opposite facing foliage). Pinching creates small wounds that should stimulate the plant to produce roots at that spot.

Branch prepared, with four leaves removed, one upturned to show its silvery white underside.

Branch prepared, with four leaves removed, one upturned to show its silvery white underside.

To complete the process, I covered the wounded area of the branch with native soil topped with leaf mold, and anchored it in place with a heavy stone.

All done; fingers crossed.

All done; fingers crossed.

I plan to check the branches in about six weeks. If this batch doesn’t take, I’ll try again. Semi-hard branches could be more fruitful and, if necessary, I’ll use rooting hormone to increase my chance of success.