New Planting... 'Bombshell'; and thinking about 'Merritt Supreme'

megan_anne(TX U.S. z8a)April 12, 2013

I am SO excited... I just picked up a 'Bombshell' hydrangea today and got it all settled in with a nice feeding, plenty of mulch (4-5" deep), part sun going to light-medium shade and all the good stuff for happy hydrangeas.

I have grown hydrangeas in the past with excellent success ('Forever Pink'; 'Alpengluhen'; and an unknown variety of Oakleaf that I inherited from someone else-- plus whatever kinds of Mops that my mom had when we lived in Illinois). I'm returning to growing hydrangeas again after my heart got broken when the gas company came along and dug up my 'FP' and 'Alpens' that were in full beautiful bloom when they relaid the gas lines all throughout the neighborhood. They assured me that my babies would be just fine and that they would not need to dig them up, but I came home from work and there they were, uprooted and lying limp and bare-rooted in the sun out in my front yard! I has panic stricken and in tears. Try as I might, I wasn't able to bring them back and they died. :'-( After that, I wasn't able to bring myself to plant hydrangeas again, and those bums wouldn't even be bothered to reimburse me for the loss.

I have mostly done the Mops (H. macrophylla), so this is my first paniculata variety. This one is in the front of my house, and of course very visible, so I want to do the best for it. Is there anything out of the ordinary that I need to do for paniculatas/Bombshell that's different from the other types that I've done in the past? And for anyone that's grown 'Bombshell'-- we all know what things say on the tags, but what happens in real life isn't always what it says on a plant tag. What has been your experience with these, re. actual plant height at full size, blooming habits, etc. I chose this one because it claims to be small (2-3') and produces white flowers, perfect to go w/ my Pittosporum and Hostas. If the flowers 'antique' or change to another shade as they age, that's cool and part of the fun of these lovely plants.

I'm also thinking about putting 'Merritt's Supreme' in the spot where the 'FP' and 'Alpengluhen' were. From photos I've seen, they age so beautifully. They would, of course, be pink in our soil here, and if the super-vivid shocking pink that I got from my 'FP' and near-red from the 'Alpengluhen' is an indication of anything, how would the 'Merritt's' compare to those? Could they be kept small and grown in amended, acidified soil in order to coax the vivid blue-purple that I've seen in some photos? (I'm familiar with the process, as we used to do it all the time in IL-- great science and horticulture lesson for a young kid!) And of course, how do they look when they go antique?

Thanks, folks! Happy hydrangeas to everyone!


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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I have not had the chance to grow a paniculata successfully here yet. It has mostly been macrophyllas, oakleafs and arborescens. The supply of panics locally is low.

I prefer to buy the planta locally to make sure I am getting what the label says I should be getting. There has been mislabeling problems galore out there and I ended with a Nikko Blue that is actually a laccecap for example.

Last year, I tried a paniculata, Quick Fire, and thought the spot where I planted was watered by drip. Spent the summer giving it "extra" water. When I went to remove the remains last month, I discovered my error. Oddly, I have not had a chance to even find one at public gardens in the area.

Give it a shot anyways and let us know. But while they can handle full sun in the northeast, I would not go that far down here.

As for size estimates in plant labels, I find that our long growing season makes the plants go for the bigger end when given a range estimate. Depending on what the plant is, they grow taller/wider than the estimate, sometimes much while others not too too much. Regardless, Bombshell was a good choice.

Merritt's Supreme reminds of Spring. I always see MS at my Lowes Store on their first shipment of hydrangeas. So check around to see if there are some around in stores. Cannot comment about the color much. When I see them, the blooms are starting to open, are kind of white/green with just a touch of pink color. It should not a "big guy" in the garden like some of the big paniculatas though. Controlling the bloom color will be the usual "amend the soil and test the soil pH " chore that it usually is over here.

Happy Bombshells and Merritt's Supremes!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 1:19AM
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megan_anne(TX U.S. z8a)

Thanks, Luis! The 'MS' that are in the pots down at the office are deep reddish-pink, but from what I've read they lend themselves quite readily to color-changing. They apparently don't go true-blue like some other cultivars, but they can be acidified and/or 'aluminized' to take on a purple to mauve tone. Purple is cool, my favorite color, actually.

In my on-line researching, I stumbled across another 'Merritt's' cultivar, 'Merritt's Beauty', which does reportedly take on the vivid blue or red-rose very strongly. It caught my eye quickly (Ooo, lookie! Shiny object!) and what I saw of the 'antiquing', it looks like a crazy watercolor painting-- all kinds of pink, purple and blue with splashes of green and tan. Who knows, though, if those pics were 'doctored' somehow... it just seemed a bit too 'surreal'. Then again, I did see some 'watercolor-looking' florist/Easter hydrangeas of unspecified variety at the nursery in all of the gaudy, fun circus colors. I did not yield to the temptation, though they definitely caught my eye! The structure resembled 'MS', but who knows? I would love to get my grubby little hands on one of those 'Merritt's Beauty' and play with it just to see what it will do!

The 'MS' doesn't seem to be all that expensive for a smaller plant, so I may just pick one up anyway and see what happens. I have huge (I mean, HUGE!) pots that might work out as a test bed, and there's a good spot on my back deck. Yes, I know that I'll have to water diligently as pots dry more quickly than in-ground, but these pots are big enough to house 2 to 3 full-sized tomato plants (I've done it for years!!) so they may accommodate a moderately sized hydrangea for a while. Does anyone know if the 'MS' or 'MB' flower on old wood or new?

As for the 'Bombshell', here's hoping for the best! It will be paired with Hosta 'Albo-marginata' and Honeysuckle fuchsia, and maybe some NG Imp's for some annual color. Fingers crossed!

TY again, Luis!


    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 8:23AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I knew MS was not a rebloomer but had to look up MB; it should bloom on old wood too. I have not heard comments indicating if they will sometimes bloom arbitrarily again during the Fall. I have two unknown hydrangeas that came with the house that will do that when the weather cools off (not every year though).

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 12:01PM
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megan_anne(TX U.S. z8a)

So far the 'Bombshell' seems to be settling in with little to no pouting. Of course this cooler-than-usual spring has been kind to it. The bush has grown significantly and filled in tremendously. However, there is not a bloom head to be seen! I have a very lush and leafy shrub-- and that's it. This, even with 'extra' phosphorus and only modest nitrogen.

The shrub had been severely pruned back, though, when I purchased it from the nursery, so it's possible that the bloom cycle had been disrupted for this season. The shrub seems healthy otherwise, so the only 'pruning' this year will be to remove a few pieces for shaping, and even then it will be done early. I haven't found any good info to tell me if 'Bombshell' flowers on new or old wood, or both. Nonetheless, I'll be patient and not fret too much if I don't get a bloom this year given that the shrub was just planted and had been so severely pruned. Given its rapid growth of foliage and the nice increase in size since planting just about 6 weeks ago or so, there seems to be potential. For now, it looks like a pretty green shrub, offset by its colorful companions of honeysuckle fuchsia, hosta and perilla.

Here's hoping for blooms later this season or next year!


    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 9:43AM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Hello, megan_anne. Bombshell is a paniculata and most paniculatas bloom on new wood. That means that they will develop flower buds sometime after they leaf out in Spring. Exactly when all that will happen or when they open the flower buds or develop some bloomage is a guess.... June in most places north of us.

Yes, the severe pruning you gave it could have an impact on this growing season's flowers. It just depends on whether the plant already had started developing flower buds or not. If it had not started developing flower buds when you pruned, you may have a chance at some flowers. But do not worry too much about bloomage on year one. It is best for the shrub to develop a good root system. Any bloomage is just icing on the cake.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 7:00PM
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I have a MS and a Strawberry and Cream. They have both set buds and are growing nicely after the first year in the ground. I'm a "trust nature" kind of girl because winter protection etc. just ain't going to happen. I recommend both of these. I also have a pinky winky. It took the longest to leaf out and has set buds. I'm excited to see it flower if I can fend off the deer.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 9:00PM
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