Something seems amiss when talking about Hydrangeas and miniature plants in the same breath. But today these topics go together well. |
The world of the Hydrangea has opened to all who adore miniature plants. Varieties are now small enough for gardeners to enjoy in containers, borders, and small beds.
Our great-grandparents knew different Hydrangeas. They were beautiful, but some had blooms prone to drooping, and most required lots of space.
Fast-forward to our gardens of today: What would Great-Gram and Gramp make of the Hydrangeas thriving as miniature plants in patio containers? Of the shorter stems, unburdened by substantial flowers? Our ancestors, like our contemporaries who love miniature plants, would be wide-eyed.
Even today, gardeners must follow certain rules to achieve the fullest flush of blooms on Hydrangeas. For example, Bigleafs bloom on old wood and frustrate the gardener who prunes too late in the season, cutting off the flower supply for the next year. Many deem Panicle Hydrangeas easiest to grow. While some are naturally large, dwarf varieties have emerged to make lovers of miniature plants swoon.
I love all Hydrangeas, but when I want carefree pops of color, I look for “Panicle” or “Pee Gee” in their names. Further discernment of their care tags reveals if the plants are dwarf shrubs. Names like “Tidbit®” are dead giveaways of their status as miniature plants, but I also look at descriptions about size at maturity.
Starting with Panicle varieties bred for compactness, annual pruning—cuts made on an angle with sharp pruners to remove about one-third of each woody stem—keeps these miniature plants the size I desire. (I could never keep large-form Hydrangeas small with pruning alone. They would reach their intended size, despite my efforts.)
Panicle Hydrangeas are flexible about their grooming. Blooming on new wood, they can be pruned in fall or late winter and will not withhold their next round of blooms because they took issue with the timing of their haircuts.
Their flowers stay strong, holding tight through weather that knocks the socks off most plants. I let them dry on-stem, morphing into papery, muted versions of themselves for visual interest in the late-autumn garden.
But why talk of autumn when we have yet to focus on show-time for these miniature plants? Panicle Hydrangeas boast numerous blooms from mid-summer through fall. In July and August when gardens turn green-on-green, these miniature plants add whites, creams, and rosy hues to the landscape. With Panicle Hydrangeas, color changes occur in time, without acidic or alkaline soil supplements. For added appeal, some varieties undergo color changes to their foliage.
Petals on Panicle Hydrangeas’ flowers do not shrivel when parched, as do those on the Mophead flowers of Bigleaf Hydrangeas. But the “hydra” root in their name reminds me to water all my Hydrangeas, especially because I have positioned them in the sunny locations they love. (I choose spots with good morning sun and dappled light in the afternoon.) Beyond this, their care is minimal. I add slow-release, all-purpose fertilizer in early spring. To encourage flowering, I ensure that my fertilizer is heavier on the phosphorus (for blooms) than on the nitrogen (for leaves).
Throughout my town, Hydrangeas bloom in gardens. Varieties bred to be miniature plants thrive in containers. On a traffic island at an intersection leading to Town Center grows a compact Panicle Hydrangea, the showpiece in spectacular bloom. Big enough to be admired and small enough to avoid being a nuisance to drivers, this dwarf shrub leads neighbors and visitors alike to a flower-filled destination. The Hydrangeas blooming everywhere mean summer is here, and the beauty of these shrubs—both large and miniature plants—will continue through fall, just as the love of Hydrangeas has continued through the generations.
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