Mt Cuba Center
The Mt. Cuba Center, located near Wilmington, Delaware, is a non-profit horticultural institution dedicated to the study, conservation, and appreciation of plants native to the Appalachian Piedmont Region through garden display, education and research. Although focused on this specific area, many of the native plants grown and studied at Mt. Cuba are found in parts of our Upper South region. Their website, Mt. Cuba Center, provides a variety of information for anyone interested in native plants, including an extensive suggested reading list, nursery sources for native plants, web links, a native plant finder, symposium proceedings, and articles on using native plants in the garden.
Favorite or New Plant
The many diverse species and cultivars of hydrangeas are all commanding greater attention in our gardens, but the oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is, by my reckoning at least, the most reliable and handsome. Opening in June, the 4- to 12-inch long flower heads are composed of 1- to 1.5-inch white sepals. The dark green, three- to seven-lobed leaves, 3 to 8 inches long and wide, turn rich burgundy in fall and often stay on the plants until December. Once the leaves are gone, the peeling brown bark creates at least some winter interest. Tolerant of full sun to partial shade, oakleaf hydrangeas are easily transplanted into the garden from nursery containers and grow rapidly in evenly moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil. Standard-size cultivars reach 6 to 12 feet tall and across, while smaller forms, including 'Pee Wee' and 'Sykes Dwarf', reach 4 feet. One caveat: when young, oakleaf hydrangeas are tasty to deer, but once established are usually ignored.