2016

 
 

Hydrangeas are native to eastern Asia, specifically China, Korea, Japan. There are about 70 species in the Genus, most of which are shrubs, a few of which are trees. Of the tree types, undoubtedly the most famous is Hydrangea paniculata, commonly known as the Panicled hydrangea. This is another of those tremendous small trees that is conveniently sized, tough as nails and strikingly beautiful, and yet, is rarely encountered.

Panicled hydrangea can grow as a large sprawling shrub or be "limbed-up" into a vase-shaped tree that can reach as much as 25 feet in height with a similar spread. The leaves are large and coarse, an attractive emerald green spring to summer and then turn a muted yellow in autumn. But the real attraction of the Panicled hydrangea is the bloom. These are very large, to 15 inches, cone-shaped clusters, which are typically white and made all the more showy since they are held upright at branch tip. A Panicled hydrangea in full bloom is a true traffic stopper. And it blooms in mid summer, long past the time of the spring displays. Some selections bloom later, as late as mid-autumn, and with careful selecting, one can achieve months of blooming. The other noticeable aspect of this bloom is that the white shades to pink as the bloom ages making an even more beautiful display. Some cultivars have more pronounced pink to the bloom and some make a bright chartreuse to the early bloom.

The only summer flowering tree that can really rival a Panicled hydrangea is a Crape myrtle, but Crape myrtles are not very adapted to cool or short summers. Panicled hydrangea, on the other hand, thrives across southern Canada and most of the US, excluding the very southernmost Gulf Coast. It is fully hardy throughout the UK and thrives in temperate Australia and New Zealand.

Panicled hydrangea has a fast to medium growth rate, and being small, is ideal for the urban gardens suitable at the back of the border or as a courtyard specimen. Panicled hydrangea can grow in most any reasonably fertile soil, acid or alkaline and is even moderately drought tolerant as well as adaptable to cold, isolated locations. However, the colder the region, the more direct sun is required. The only maintenance might be for the more fastidious gardener who may object to the faded blooms, but since this is a small tree, a little tidying and pruning is easily accomplished.

Surprisingly, this stunning little bloomer is not always available in most nurseries, but will usually be found in the better landscape nurseries.

Panicled hydrangea

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