July 6, 2013
Tuff Stuff Reblooming Mountain Hydrangea (H. serrata)
I was excited to read about the 'Tuff Stuff' lacecap hydrangea (from Proven Winners) because it's billed as being hardy enough to bloom even where winters are really cold. The last few years have proven my 'Endless Summer' mophead hydrangeas to be 'Startless Summer' duds, with no blooms at all last year and only one bloom the year before from all five of my plants. We did have a very cold spring both years - even June was chilly - so they didn't get a good start on growing before the season ended with early fall frosts. I've moved them into more sun and will give them another year or two to shine before I throw them out.
Anyway, I snatched up the first Tuff Stuff hydrangea I saw at Gibson's Nursery a month or two ago. It's a beauty. The photo above shows one of the lacecap clusters just beginning to bloom. The outer flowers start out lime green before maturing to a deep bubblegum pink in our slightly alkaline soil. In acid soil the flowers will shift toward lavender. I'm not sure if they'll go all the way to blue in very acidic soil or not.
Here are a couple more shots from a few weeks ago. Like other reblooming hydrangeas, this shrub will bloom on new growth as well as old. But it's also supposed to have improved bud and stem hardiness so it's more likely that old growth will survive cold zone 5 winters (instead of dying back to the ground like my other mophead hydrangeas) to produce early flowers the next season. I'll have to report on how that goes next year.
I was so enchanted by this shrub that I bought two more last week. That makes a total of 27 hydrangeas in my backyard. They're obviously a favorite, though I have lots of favorite plants. This hydrangea stays compact at 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, so it's easy to fit a few into the garden.
Here is a shot from this week. These next few were taking in morning shade so the light is cooler than the photos from a few weeks ago that were taken in warm evening light.
Super pretty. It's not likely that this hydrangea will bloom as early next year as it did coming from a nursery greenhouse this spring, but if it looks like this by August or September of next summer, I'll be satisfied.
Here is what a bloom cluster looks like when the tiny center flowers have all opened. In cool weather the leaves turn maroon, though I don't have photos of that yet. In hot weather - like the mid-90's temperatures we had early this week - this shrub needs lots of water to stay healthy and will still look wilted during the afternoon if the sun reaches it then.
Here's a final photo of Tuff Stuff. I really hope it lives up to its name to become a solid performer in the garden. I'll be posting on my other new hydrangeas (Invincibelle Spirit, Little Lime and Big Easy) soon.