Why this, or that

Today, I could not identify one of a handful of very similar cultivars of blue flowered hydrangea from another, and not that it matters much, but there is a point in recommending one over the other. In this instance, the confusion is a matter of decades rather than my more typical inattention to detail, and for hydrangeas the simple conclusion is that many of the remontant (flowering on old and new wood) hydrangeas are worthy shrubs, regardless of brand names.        

There is little secret to the decision making that goes into deciding what is planted in this garden. Most plantings are decided by whim, and occasionally there is curiosity to explore differences between similar sweetshrubs (Clethra alnifolia), in particular since these have grown with great success in areas of the garden that have turned swampy in recent years.

Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’
Clethra alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’

‘Hummingbird’ and ‘Ruby Spice’ have been planted for years, with the light pink flowered sweetshrub planted successfully in very dry shade and the white in a sunnier, but damp location. When several long established shrubs perished in the wet lower third of the rear garden, two spaces were filled with a second ‘Hummingbird’ and ‘Sixteen Candles’. While both are young, I can report obvious differences between the two, with more erect flower spikes and somewhat more compact growth on ‘Sixteen Candles’.

Tiger Swallowtail on clethra
Clethra alnifolia ‘Sixteen Candles’
Yellow wax bells

Perhaps no one cares except me, but I was curious to witness differences between the uncommon Yellow Wax Bells (Kirengshoma palmata, above), planted several years ago, and its more obscure Korean relative (K. koreana, below), that came to my attention. Not that the wax bells stand out in the garden, but the maple-like foliage and erect clusters of small flowers caught my eye and interested me enough to plant several. To my delight, the Korean wax bells have grown with increased vigor (possibly due to positioning), and with larger flowers that open more fully and stand more upright. I happily report that both are treasured additions to the garden.

Korean wax bells

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Mike Culver says:

    Dear Dave, I am interested in planting a remontant blue lacecap hydrangea in my garden but have had difficulty with rust on hydrangeas – to the point where I just removed the shrubs. I tried sprays and systemics to no avail. Any suggestions, maybe the ‘mountain’ varieties? Many thanks, Mike

    1. Dave says:

      I do not treat hydrangeas, so I expect some leaf spotting, which seems minimal. I planted a handful of Mountain hydrangeas a year ago. A few appear to be in too much sun, while others are growing vigorously. Spotting is minimal, but I see little foliage difference in my garden between H. macrophylla and H. serrata. A few older H. macrophylla with lacecap blooms have leaves of thicker substance, and show no spotting, but this could be an accident of where they are planted.

      1. Mike Culver says:

        Many thanks, Dave for your time and consideration. I might try again; as Vita Sackville-West said, if it doesn’t suit, “hoik it out!”

  2. tonytomeo says:

    The pictures show why it is Clethra alnifolia. I was just about to ask when I noticed that the foliage resembles that of alders.

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