Hydrangeas mystify many gardeners.
The most common (Hydrangea macrophylla) can be an unreliable bloomer. Sometimes this is due to improper pruning and also bud freeze over the winter. Don't ever cut it back and you'll be safe as far as pruning is concerned. Surround the plant with a wind barrier over the winter to tray and keep the buds from freezing.
Native hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) on the other hand, will bloom without care. They aren't as showy as their cousins, but are tough and in my mind they are beautiful.
They bloom freely with soft, white blossoms even in the forest and on steep banks.
The plant is truly indestructible.
Natives have grown here for centuries and are adapted to our climate and soil conditions.
Find a place for a few in your garden for plants which are often carefree and wonderful.
'Nikko Blue' is one of the macrophylla varieties that has bloomed sporadically in my garden.
I though the flowers were lost when early spring temperature dropped in to the 20's.
But the plant has put on about 10-15 blossoms. Last season, after threatening to send it to the compost pile, it gave me over 50 blooms. I guess I should have been a little tougher with 'Nikko Blue' this season, but I felt sorry for the old guy after the tough spring.
Another cultivated variety that blooms reliably is the Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is one of my favorite garden plants. It has three seasons of interest. First the plant is covered with white conical flowers which fade to pink. They also make great dried flowers. In the fall the large leaves turn deep red and in the winter the plant shows off it's bronze exfoliating bark.
Check out Sylvania Natives in Squirrel Hill for a wide range of interesting native plants. Kathryn McGregor is passionate about the plants and has been selling them since 2002. She carries native hydrangeas too.
The Audubon Center for Native Plants at Beechwood Farms in Fox Chapel has lots of cool natives too.