best oakleaf variety

rj56October 12, 2009

Three questions: 1)Which variety of hydrangea quercifolia to include in my foundation planting. It will be at the back. I am afraid "Alice" "Snow Flake" and "Snow Queen" will ultimately be too large. Are the dwarf varieties as showy, and is one of them preferred? (Pee Wee or Sikes dwarf?)2)Is it too late to plant here in central Ohio (zone 5)should I wait until spring? 3) Can I trust to order from a nursery thru internet? (selection at local nurseries not that great).

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I can think of three: Pee Wee, Sykes Dwarf and Little Honey. PeeWee is smaller than Sykes Dwarf and may get to 4hx4t ft in 10 years where you live. But in the southern states (like Texas through GA/SC/FL), that shrub may exceed 4x4 because of the longer growing season. LH is advertised as 4x4 too but I have no personal experience with it (size wise). I would guess similar to the first two. The so-called dwarfs (gosh, think about it, calling a 4 feet tall plant a dwarf... weird!) should look similar to the "normal" oakleafs but "showy" is a matter of personal taste so I think you should be the judge in that matter always.

To check out nurseries on the Internet, go to Dave's Garden Watchdog (see link below) and enter the nursery name in the top right-hand corner box that says "search by company name".

I think you should purchase in the spring, not because of the weather mind you, but because the available stock of hydrangeas may be better in some nurseries then.

I was checking out some websites 1-2 weekends ago and many shrubs were marked as sold out. But try anyway; the varieties that you want may not be sold out and Fall is a great time to plant hydrangeas too.

Choose a location that drains well when planting. Oakleafs are notorious for developing root rot if their toes stay wet for long periods of time. I lost an Alice for that reason several years ago.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dave's Garden Watchdog

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 8:17AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

I have two PeeWee, and they're quite nice. They're new plantings, though, so I'm not sure of ultimate height.

Yes, it's fine to plant them now (actually, it's a great time for planting!), but I advise winter protecting oakleafs the first winter or two in this zone if they're not in a protected area (i.e. they're in the path of winds). Oakleafs are hardy, but I've found they take a full season, actually more like two, to become fully established. My older ones I don't bother protecting, they're well established and while they do get some winter winds they still flower beautifully.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 3:11PM
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Thank you both for your help. I guess I need to be patient and wait until spring to find just the right plant. We've had lots of rain and now its starting to get cold, and so probably not an ideal time to plant an hydrangea.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 9:14PM
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GAAlan(z7b(on map) 8(imby) Atlanta)

I personally endorse 'Pee Wee'. I love the look of the inflorescences with a mix of fertile and sterile flowers. The sepals on the sterile flowers are especially handsome to me with a small space between each. I planted some in a church garden in 2000 and they have been perfect for the spot they went into. The tallest plant in the photo is about stomach to almost chest high now. If space allows oakleafs are about as handsome a plant as one could grow.

This is from May 30, 2006.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 4:58PM
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jilljohn ,
Before you make any commitement I'd recommend to visit some sites where you could see oakleaf hydrangeas in a winter and decide if you like the look.
IMO, all hydrangeas and oakleaves especially, look horrible in a winter and therefore are not suitable for the front foundation bed. Back bed, if you are not seeing them in a winter is fine.
And you hear this from someone who grow over 100 different hydrangeas :-)))

Re: Little Honey.
It's a very special plant and not for the faint of heart or beginner, IMO. It may die on you in an eyeblink while being young, but if it survive the first couple of years it will grow like a gungbuster.
My score for the last 4 years: 1 died in a middle of the first season, 1 died after the first winter, 1 is still 12x18" after 3 years and one is 4x4'in its 4th year. Go figure :-))
Notwithstanding to anything, if you could make one live for you, you'll not find enough good words to describe it.
It's a fantastic plant and IMO without blooms it looks even better than with a flowers.
No joking!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2009 at 9:23PM
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I'd just like to add my two cents to George's endorsement of 'Little Honey'. I grew a lot of hydrangeas in my old garden (only a couple dozen compared to G's 100!) but the only one I brought with me to my new place was LH. It is still a tricky one to find easily and mine was a gift from the breeder (actually one of the sales reps) so I didn't want to risk not having one in my in new garden. Hydrangeas - and even oakleaf hydrangeas - aside, this is probably my favorite plant of any I've grown. And that's coming from a plant collector that has grown 1000's of different plants! There is just something about the glowing color and the form/texture of the plant that I find very appealing and the fall color can be outstanding and very long lasting. I will say that in the 6 years or so I've had mine, I can recall only a couple of blossoms and those nothing to write home about. This is not an ideal oakleaf to grow for flowers but it will still add a great deal of visual interest to a garden.

Now as to the winter appearance of oakleaf hydrangeas, I'm going to disagree with George :-) IMO, they have a much more appealing look in winter than does any other type of hydrangea. Part of it has to do with their more sprawling growth habit and the tendency to hold foliage, and nicely colored foliage at that, but most rests with stems and bark - the bark on mature stems is cinnamon colored and rough, shaggy and exfoliating. I think this adds a lot of interest to a winter landscape and I like including them in garden designs for just this purpose. YMMV

As to which cultivar is "best", that is completely a matter of personal choice. With the limitations of LH aside, they all perform about equally, so mature size and flowering attributes may be the determining factor. I looked long and hard at 'Vaughn's Lily' this season under a variety of conditions and decided the heavy, dense blossoms were just not my cup of tea :-) IMO, you cannot go wrong with 'Snow Queen' for a standard sized plant or 'Pee Wee' for a dwarf.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2009 at 10:18AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

I was going to politely disagree with George, but GardenGal beat me to it :o) . I also find the winter appearance of oaklafs appealing due to the shaggy, rugged-looking bark.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2009 at 3:34PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I always thought the winter interest was one of the added ornamental feautres of the Oakleaf as well.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2009 at 7:30PM
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gaalan~How many Pee Wees are in that border? I have a small hedge of three plants, this will be their first winter in my garden. I was starting to doubt how good they'll look in winter, glad to read others experience!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2009 at 9:18PM
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Ladies and Gents,
For as long as we all agree that beauty is in the eyes of beholder I'll continue to remain negative about winter appearance of oakleaves :-))

    Bookmark   November 3, 2009 at 10:45PM
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GAAlan(z7b(on map) 8(imby) Atlanta)

Prairiegirl, I think we put in five plants. They've been wonderful to watch over the years. I agree with Ego45 about most hydrangeas in winter, however I think oakleafs present a far better look than any others. I wanted to show a closeup of Pee Wee flowers to highlight my favorite feature, the space between the sepals on the sterile flowers. I love that look!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2009 at 7:36AM
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