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May 23, 2020 7:20 AM CST
|I fell in love with Oakleaf Hydrangeas long before I ever saw one in a nursery or in someone's garden. It was one of the plants in William H. Frederick Jr. book, One Hundred Great Garden Plants… a book Dad had given me when I started my first garden design class.
Frederick described, "…11 inch long, cone-shaped blossom heads…" and, "large, five-lobed…" leaves that are, "medium green on top and white on the underside." The blossom heads remain pure white for the longest time… then gradually turn a deep, rusty pink. This color holds on into the fall. The foliage turns glorious shades of red in fall before dropping to the ground. In winter visual interest is still stimulated by cinnamon tan bark that peels off in curly sheets.
Oakleaf Hydrangea is a wonderful shrub for an estate or large garden. The species is not, however, a good choice for normal urban garden spaces. You want to be looking at some of the dwarf varieties that have been developed in the past twenty years… Sike's Dwarf, Munchkin, Pee Wee and Little Honey are dwarf forms worth looking for. The one in the photos is 'Munchkin'… it now stands about 3 feet tall and 4 feet across.
I just learned this hydrangea is an American native… and that it was discovered in 1783-1788 by William Bartram, the American naturalist, during travels in what would become the southeast states.
A couple of cultural notes:
 Plant in good, well-drained soil... ideally in a woodland position that will give it some shade on hot summer days.
 Mulch year-round.
 This shrub blooms on old wood... so only prune it right after bloom time
This is a stupendous flowering shrub. It deserves more use than it is getting these days.
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