There are so many types of Hydrangeas! Some are great for this area (Peterborough and surrounding area, hardiness zone 4/5) and some are not so great for this area. The goal is to know what is the best for your location and what impact it will make on your garden – which should be FABULOUS!
Hydrangea Macrophylla, or mop/round headed hydrangea, come in a lovely array of colourful blooms. The ones that usually take our breath away are the blue, pink or purple ones. Magazines make these Hydrangeas the cover shot every chance they get. Varieties such as Endless Summer, the Cityline Hydrangea series (Venice, Rio, Paris), Pistachio and the like are show-stoppers…somewhere else. Here, in our zone, they struggle over winter and bloom sparsely. This type of hydrangea sets it’s bloom in the Fall, for the next year, and our winters can be harsh, often burning off the buds. These hydrangeas prefer a partial sun location and a sheltered growing space. The local people who indicate they have success with them also share the information that their plants are usually planted close to the house, in a nook or corner near a building or, as one woman confided, beside her dryer vent. Those warm spots help maintain these varieties and their buds over our cold winters. Regardless, they still rarely boom like we see in the photographs, causing disappointment.
People are rarely disappointed when they plant Hydrangea Paniculta. Varieties of Panicle Hydrangeas include: Limelight, Little Lime, Little Lamb, Pinky Winky, Quickfire, Little Quickfire, Phantom, Bobo, Vanilla Strawberry and ZinfinDoll. All are hardy hydrangeas that perform very well in our area. They have cone-shaped, dense blooms that will change colour (usually to a dusty rose) as the colder nights come upon us in the Fall. Planted in partial to full sun, there is a size for any space: EXTRA LARGE (Phantom), LARGE (Limelight, Pinky Winky, Quickfire) , MEDIUM (Zinfin Doll, Little Lamb) and SMALL (Bobo, Little Lime, Little Quickfire). This type of Hydrangea can be cut back in the late Fall (November) or left with dried blooms on over winter and then cut in the early Spring. Cutting back 1/3 the overall size of the plant at either time will ensure fullness and enhanced blooming performance. Leaves begin to sprout in May and blooms open in late July, remaining showy until at least Hallowe’en.
Additional varieties that do well in our area are Mountain Hydrangeas such as Tiny Tuff Stuff and Ruby Slippers, an Oak Leaf Hydrangea. Both are more rugged and less stylized for a formal garden. Tiny Tuff Stuff has an open, lace-cap blooms and is suited for a partial sun location. Ruby Slippers can be planted in a almost full shade spot, needing only 3-4 hours of filtered sun. It has an open bloom, not dense that will turn red toned in the Fall. The leaves on both plants turn nice colours (red-toned) in cool weather, often prettier than the blooms themselves.
Annabelle Hydrangea is a staple in gardens of our zone. It is the old fashioned “snowball” variety that was our only choice until recently when the newer Hydrangeas began being introduced. Annabelle is a good choice if you have a lot of shade as she blooms best in partial sun to shade. She has trouble holding up her big blooms and is often very floppy; that is her downfall. Incrediball is a newer introduction that is an improved Annabelle and it is sturdier and less likely to flop over.
All Hydrangeas like to be hydrated, hence the name. Hot, dry spots are not the best for this breed of flowering shrub. That said, they do not need to be on a constant H20 drip. Water them very well the first month of planting and then the normal prescription of one inch of water per week, whether from your hose or Mother Nature, is sufficient to get a beautiful flush of bloom – if you have the right hydrangea in the right location.