Hydrangea ignorance so vast--it dwarfs the Grand Canyon

darenka(7b)July 3, 2009

I had NO idea on the depths of my ignorance until I stumbled into this forum. I hope someone will provide a glimmer of enlightenment. First off, I wanted to know if anyone had a spineless Endless Summer. (I read more than I wanted to about the less than stellar performance in some gardens, and the tendency to wilt.) Mine wilts quickly, but there is a floppy, sprawling habit to the plant that I hadn't expected. There were some in a former rental I occupied (only know they were mophead type) and I was wild about them. I believe I'm in a zone that might support them so I wanted to plant some. I read about the Endless summer on some site and thought they'd be the perfect fit--for less than ideal hydrangea zone.

Hydrangeas here are labelled as "garden hydrangeas" or Endless Summer (blue pot, high price tag)--no other classification (is there such a thing as an indoor hydrangea?--it just seems silly to identify them as the outdoor garden variety.) I guess my point is I'll never know what I'm buying for certain. I'm in Germany, at that seems to be the practice at all nurseries (specialty shops and the Home Depot type). I did plant a few lacecaps--as they look distinct to my untrained eye, I think that's what I have. I'm a little confused with the lacecaps. Do you individually pull off the dead flowers that start looking unsightly, or do you leave the unsightly until the full head is done? I have one under a tree, but it's quite shade for 90% of the day. Is that too much? My North Carolina hydrangeas were in full sun and they were fabulous bloomers. I didn't even know these fellows liked shade until I read a bit more about them.

Is there anything that can/should be done for the spineless Endless summer? Previous mophead hydrangeas were so easy and low maintenance. I'll probably try to plant a couple of those as well and just protect them in the winter. I apologize for this rambling post. I'm just feeling so overwhelmed for some reason. I guess I'm afraid all my new plants are going to croak and I cannot ask local gardeners for help yet. If I wait until my language skills improve, they'll be dead for sure. Thanks for any help you can give.

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You know more than you think you do :-)

First, is your current location in Germany a hardiness zone 7b? If so, you are not very limited in what types of hydrangeas you can grow (you can hunt various search features to confirm this). If a zone 6 or below, you will need winter protection for most bigleaf (mophead) varieties but the paniculatas should be fully hardy. And if this is the case, 'Endless Summer' would not be at the top of my list, for both the reasons you have read about and because IME it IS rather spindly and floppy in habit. You can encourage stronger more upright growth by removing the weakest stems over a period of time but that seems like an unnecessary delay and too much work if other, more robust selections are readily available.

I'm surprised about the lack of labelling - Germany is big in the plant breeding industry and a good many exceptional hydrangea cultivars have originated there, including the new Cityline hybrids. But to clarify for you, 'garden' hydrangeas are those that are hardy and suited for the outdoor landscape, as opposed to 'florist' or 'greenhouse' hydrangeas grown for the cutflower/gift plant market and tend to be a bit fussier. I'd just pick whatever you like and grow it the same way you did in NC....except avoid full sun :-)

As to the lacecaps, I'm not sure what you consider unsightly but I leave the flowers intact until they dry or wither. In my climate, they just dry rather than wither and I leave them in place all winter - personally, I think they are rather appealing. If you don't, just remove the entire flowerhead once it goes over by cutting just below it at above the first set of leaves.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2009 at 3:18PM
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It could be placement. My experience is that ES does best in the typical macrophylla light...morning sun. I have others in other light situations that do pretty well, but the ones that greet the sun every morning...and get shade by 11AM do exceedingly well. Must say, not a spindly one in the 20 or more that I have. I'm actually ready to start pruning them to keep the height down.

When I read your message, I grabbed my camera and went outside to take a pic.

I'm also gonna add that these very plants pretty much die down to the ground every year so what you see is new growth.

Gotta go flip the burgers on the grill. Happy 4th of July!

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Beefy ES

    Bookmark   July 4, 2009 at 7:40PM
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OK, deep breath, this is supposed to be fun. In any case, it is for my enjoyment. Thank you both for the information. I suspect that the ES's will look better next year with some pruning. I was wondering if I needed to stake those guys. One of the things I liked about hydrangeas is that you didn't have to prune unless they turned into monsters. I inherited a hedge that seems to need pruning every day. (I like natural plant forms--I'm not trying to achieve gardens worthy of the Palace of Versailles.) But from the neighbor's clucking, I can tell that my hedge efforts are a huge disappointment. From lsimms pictures, I have renewed hope that my ES's won't disappoint.

I do want to try some different varieties though so I'll try to track down some cityline hybrids. As a nation, Germans are THE BEST gardeners I've encountered. The worst of them have gardens most Americans would be proud to claim. In foreign lands, I've always loved nurseries because it's the one place I could read most things. I assume it's because the Germans are such mad gardeners they don't need labels--they know plants the way a specialist does. I'll eventually find the 'nursery for idiots' that labels things. I haven't spent a winter here yet, but from what I can find, I'm somewhere between 8a-7a. They claim the temperature doesn't drop below 20 degrees, but I like to error on the side of caution. In the meantime, I'll move the lace cap because it's probably sun damage that is making the flowers look particularly unsightly. That spot doesn't get shade until about 1:00. I can only guess that the NC shrubs started under the porch awning, but by the time I got there, these beasts had grown used to the sun and stretched way beyond the original spot.

Can you think of anything that is low maintenance, gorgeous, and flashy that can take the sunnier spot the hydrangea is in? It's in front of my kitchen window and I need something bold to distract me from dishes. Thank you for talking me down off the ledge. I'm still not sure why I was there...worse case... I have some pricey annuals.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 7:06PM
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OK, Darlenk...as Natasha of Rocky and Bullwinkle would say.

I gave some thot to showy bushes and I still come back to a hydrangea...because they just give and give and give.

Sunny hydrangeas are in the Paniculata Grandiflora family...or PG. Google 'em and get images. Most of them are give a nice color progression throughout the season...limegreen, white, pink, etc. Then they dry on the vine with pink intact. Nice. And then there's the old reliable Annabelle which will give you full summer mophead glory from the first year onward...with same progression without the pink.

Don't worry too much about staking in the first years except for beauty for your other mopheads, once your plant is established, the stems should be sturdy enough to support the blooms.

If you own your place, get rid of the shrubs that need to be pruned. There are plenty of alternatives. Took me 25 years to learn that. Yank 'em. I ripped out 60-70 year old shrubs...may I not rot in hell. And replaced them with pretty nice stuff.

It can be fun. Don't let the tsks getcha down.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2009 at 5:42PM
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messymoops(z6a MA)

This response is actually about lsimms picture...beautiful hydrangeas! My question is: They look like the blooms are all at the bottom of the plants. I only have one ES and it seems to be doing that same thing the past couple years. Is that typical, or is there some way to get blooms up top? Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 10:44AM
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