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Archive for January, 2011

I’ve been poking around for sources of the two new dwarf oakleaf hydrangeas released by the U.S. National Arboretum since I first posted about them last week. While it seems that Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Munchkin’ and ‘Ruby Slippers’ are going to be scarce on the retail level for at least another year, plants are available. Fortunately there are nurseries hard at work building up stock. Both cultivars are well worth the wait, if the descriptions and initial reports I’ve heard are any indication.

Hydrangea-Munckin-plant

ABOVE: H. quercifolia ‘Munchkin’

This handsome cultivar features white, 6½-long flower clusters that fade to pink as they age. The dark green foliage turns mahogany in fall. The Arboretum reports plants are 3 feet tall and spread to 4½ feet at 9 years of age. Plants can be used in mass plantings, as hedges, and in mixed borders. Since they’re wider than they are tall, I also will be using them as tall ground covers!

Ron Rabideau of Rare Find Nursery has had ‘Munchkin’ for several years. He reports that it is considerably smaller than other dwarf selections, including both ‘Pee Wee’ and ‘Sikes Dwarf’. (‘Munchkin’ is a seedling of ‘Sikes Dwarf’.) Rare Find has a few plants of ‘Munchkin’ available for this spring, with more to come in the fall.

Hydrangea-Ruby-Slippers-pla

ABOVE: H. quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

Selected for its showy blooms, ‘Ruby Slippers’ produces 9-inch-long trusses that emerge white, but quickly turn pale pink and then deeper rose pink. Dark green foliage turns mahogany in fall. This cultivar is the result of a cross between showy ‘Snow Queen’ oakleaf hydrangea and dwarf ‘Pee Wee’. Plants are about 3½ feet tall and 5 feet wide at 7 years. It, too, makes a handsome addition to shrub borders, and can be used in mass plantings or as a hedge. Again, because of the spreading character of the plant, I’d consider using it as a tall ground cover for a large area.

Note that while the plants in these pictures are growing in full sun, they are irrigated. Both are growing in McMinnville, Tennessee, where the Arboretum’s shrub breeding program is located. To grow them in gardens on the Eastern Shore, look for a spot in partial shade with rich, moist, well-drained soil for best results. A spot with afternoon shade is ideal. Plants located in dry soil and full sun are liable to be stressed, and their leaves will begin turning color and will likely exhibit scorching by late summer. Mulch to retain soil moisture and help keep the roots cool.

Rare Find Nursery will have a few plants of ‘Ruby Slippers’ available in the fall.

I also wanted to mention another nursery I found in the process of looking for sources that is new to me: Hydrangeas Plus. They are working to build up stock of both ‘Munchkin’ and ‘Ruby Slippers’ and will offer it eventually. In the meantime, if you love hydrangeas, check out their other listings!

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I left the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trades Show (MANTS) in Baltimore last week with a deep case of plant lust. This is a serious problem on a number of levels, not the least of which is the fact that it’s beastly cold and snowy outside—hardly the season for planting.

Normally, I come away from such shows with lists of annuals and perennials I’d like to try. The lust for these beauties is easily satisfied, since it’s a relatively simple matter to find garden space for them. This year, however, a couple species of native shrubs and trees grabbed my attention. Finding room for them is another matter altogether.

Hydrangea-quercifolia

Above: Oakleaf hydrangea with daylily ‘Patricia Fay’.

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) has been in every garden I’ve ever had, and the MANTS show renewed my my interest in this handsome native shrub. For those of you who don’t know it, it is a deciduous, summer-blooming shrub that also features fabulous fall color and attractive exfoliating bark. Plants range from 6 to 8 or more feet tall. They spread by suckers, and Michael Dirr (Manual of Woody Landscape Plants) estimates the spread at 10 to 12 or more feet wide.

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