Best blue: Nikko Blue or Endless Summer?

dublinbay z6 (KS)November 19, 2011

I used to grow Nikko Blue back when I didn't know what I was doing, and it bloomed fine at the base of a white birch tree along the west property line. When the white birch died, I moved Nikko Blue over the the east side of the house--kinda east/southeast. It got some direct sun for a couple hours mid-day. It was never happy, and over the next year and a half, just dwindled away to nothing. It is possible that I didn't water as conscientiously as possible in its new location, but I'm not sure.

I'd like to try another blue (Nikko or otherwise) perhaps in the same spot on the east/southeast side of house. Some growing tree branches are providing a bit more shade there, though it would still get some direct sun at mid-day. If that is a hopeless place, I perhaps could plant one back over near the west property line in front of the river birch--however, I have several hydrangeas in that area and really wanted one or two elsewhere in the yard, but.... I'm flexible, in other words.

Well, this is the long way to the question: Is Nikko Blue still the best choice for a blue? My neighbor is growing Endless Summer now. She complained about no blooms for several years, and a Kansas nursery posted here that Endless Summer doesn't bloom that reliably for Kansans. This past summer, however, my neighbor's Endless Summer finally did bloom, and very nicely.

I realize Endless Summer is supposed to rebloom (didn't for my neighbor). Other than that, how do these two blues compare? Color, bloom size, length of bloom, bush height/width, etc.

I was perfectly happy before with Nikko Blue. Just wondering if something better has come along that I should consider.



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Hello, Kate. You actually have two different questions. Where to plant and which variety to plant.

I saw an ES and a NB somewhat close on a trip to Mass several years ago. The NB was planted close to a wall while the ES was planted near other trees/shrubs. Both shrubs had similar height/width but the ES was older (NB was > 3 years old). I am not sure how old the bldg was; it was one of several in a retirement community. The blooms were similar but I liked the shade of blue of the NB more. It seemed more vibrant. NB also seemed to have more blooms than the ES. Several people have written posts regarding lack of blooms with ES, mostly those in Zones 4 and 5. Winter protection is now auggested with ES in the coldest zones (4 and maybe 5). On the other hand, I read where ES has increased mildew resistance than NB.

Should you decide based on that? No. I suggest you get both if you want to compare and see for yourself as there are many variables that can affect what I saw in Mass and what you will see in Kansas. Only by planting them side by side you get the necessary conditions to compare them correctly.

Other good blues worth checking are Blaumaise, Blue Bird & Blue Deckle, Miranda and Nighingale (all lacecaps) or you can check Blue Prince, Enziandom, Hamburg, Gen. Vicomtesse de Vibraye and Marechal Foch (all mopheads).

The location of the new plant should be treated as a separate question. If you can determine that the NB's old location can be a problem because you will not be able to water it correctly then select another location regardless of which variety you end up selecting. While you now have more shade in the old location, you need to make sure that the old moisture problem will not cause problems again. The other place near the birch tree where you already have some hydrangeas sounds ok too.

Lastly, some people have had experiences that make them label NB as hardier or tougher. You could try searching for some of these posts by keying on nikko blue or something like that; probably pay special attention to posts of people with the same type (or similar) of weather as you do.


    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 11:20PM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

Thanks for the information, Luis. I'll check out the others you mentioned. A friend also told me about Blue Heaven which he had heard was nice. Since I don't have to make a final decision until spring, that gives me plenty of time to research all these choices and make a decision about which blue and where to plant it.


    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 8:55AM
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mehearty(So ME z5a)

I've got both, and I prefer the color of Nikko much better. My ESs don't require winter protection, but my NBs do. That may be a matter of location (ESs are near the house, while NBs are by the unheated garage).

I think Nikkos require a bit more TLC, but they are a prettier shrub IMO. Before I got my first ES, I will admit to thinking that ES is for non-gardeners, especially in my zone.

ES will keep pumping out the blooms, though. Nikko just has the one stunning flush.

All I can suggest about location is to keep it in the pot for a little while & move it around. You'll know where it belongs.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 7:53PM
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billums_ms_7b(Delta MS 8A)

My Endless Summer didn't rebloom for the first couple of years, however now it does. I have heard other people say the same thing.

They apparently often need a settling in period before they rebloom.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2011 at 10:49PM
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I have to say that reading what mehearty wrote made me want to go out and buy a NB.

However, I first bought a NB when we first moved into our house and it did not bloom at all for the first two years, at the third year I pulled it out and gave it my mother-in-law who hasn't been able to get it to bloom either. I replaced it with an ES which bloomed it's little heart for me, so much so that I went out and bought another one. I have it planted in the same exact spot as where the NB was at, next to the foundation of the house in a hydrangea prime location (Shaded but with the right amount of morning and late afternoon sun).

I am in zone 5 and it doesn't snow here as much as I would like so I do winter protect them but I also did that with the NB. Your zone as well as your location and soil are other factors to take into consideration. You've already tried NB so why not give ES a go?

Mehearty, there are three other people who grown ES hydrangeas in my neighborhood and let me tell you that they are not for non-gardeners as two of them just planted them and expected them to do wonders which they haven't as they don't winter protect them even though they are planted no where near a foundation and one of them is in full sun no less. I think that I saw a tiny bloom on one of them this last summer. I consider myself still to be a beginner gardener and mine bloom because I care for them. The other lady who grows them is a master gardner and well, must I say more? Her hydrangeas are magazine perfect just like the rest of her yard, which by the way I slowly drive by every morning drooling with envy, lol.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 5:15PM
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Hydrangea729(6A Ohio)

I grow a lot of the "good" blues. Here are my recommendations, based on what it sounds like you are seeking:

DEEP blue mopheads: 'Enziandom', 'Blue Heaven' (BH is really, really great and the blooms age wonderfully if given some shade!), 'Mathilda Gutges'

DEEP blue lacecaps: 'Nachtigall/Nightingale' (my favorite hydrangea overall), 'Blaumeise', 'Fasan'

LIGHTER blue mopheads: 'Nikko Blue' (I love Nikko but make sure to give it some good afternoon shade), 'All Summer Beauty', 'Generale Vicomtesse de Vibraye', and 'Endless Summer'

LIGHTER blue lacecaps: 'Twist-N-Shout', 'Blue Wave', 'Summer Lace'

Generally speaking (and this goes for purples, pinks, and reds too), the DEEPER the pigmentation, the better the sun tolerance. Makes sense when you think about it. So for your particular site, I would strongly consider 'Blue Heaven' because it is readily available and has been remarkable in my garden. The color is terrific. For a lacecap, look into 'Nachtigall', which in my experience, has excellent sun tolerance too. Added bonuses to growing 'Nachtigall' are the lush leaves and attractive, upright stems.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 7:59PM
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I think that there are two reasons to grow Endless Summer: it blooms for a longer season, and it will bloom in climates where most Hydrangea macrophyllas have their buds winter killed, so the bloom on new wood allows folks in my zone to grow a H. macrophylla that will bloom.

I think that if I could successfully grow other H macrophyllas I might not grow Endless Summer, but since most years the macrophyllas get killed back to the snow line here, the only way I will get macrophylla flowers is to grow E.S. or other macrophyllas that bloom on new wood. My E.S. starts blooming in June and continues until September.

Endless Summer in its second season
From garden photos 07

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 8:21PM
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