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.

12 comments:

  1. I was unaware of this new hydrangea... It's a beauty. Did you mention whether it blooms on new wood? If so, I missed it. That feature is the obvious benefit of Endless Summer. I know lots of folks that have given up on ES and are tossing them. I moved mine to a spot that gets good east light in the morning and light shade the remainder of the day. While they are by no means spectacular, they do bloom every year. I suspect that the critical factor on blooming may be the right kind of light. You also mentioned Invincible Spirit... I have three plants and they are beautiful.... On the other hand, I have heard many folks complain about them. I guess that a lot of factors are involved in picking hydrangeas that are ok with a gardener's specific conditions...
    Larry

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    1. Larry, this hydrangea does bloom on new wood as well. My 6 Invincibelle Spirits look like floppy messes this year - they got really big in pots at the nursery, growing too close together, so now they're flopping all over the place. Next spring I'll prune them back hard and hope they fill out better.

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  2. 27 hydrangeas, wow! That sounds gorgeous! Your new one is very pretty - I hope it winters well for you like promised! I had bad luck with Endless Summer, also, though I made the mistake of putting it in full sun and it certainly didn't handle that well :)

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  3. Hydrangeas are pretty finicky in my experience. I only have one and it seems to decide whether or not it wants to bloom. I don't have a lot of shade though, so I think it depends a lot on the weather. My mother-in-law has three that somehow always look perfect though, so I also suspect the my lack of doing the right thing. Yours looks great right now and I hope it keeps doing better and better. the blooms on hydrangeas are quite spectacular.

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  4. Hi! I wanted to let you know that I was able to make it up to the temple last week, and thought of you as I walked around the beds. They are looking lovely. It was fun to tell my kids that I knew the person who had helped design them. Famous by association--loving it!
    I know you've mentioned before how many volunteers it takes to maintain the beds. If you need extra help, would you let me know? I would consider it a privilege--and I'm sure there are others in our stake that would feel the same way.
    Take care!

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    1. Linnae, I'm happy you enjoyed the flower beds! The annuals are starting to fill in, though some spots still need more water to look really good. Watering is always a challenge there. And weeding, of course. Lots of thorns and thistles . . . anyway Marilyn is the landscaping director and queen of people organization. I organize the plants, she organizes the hundreds of volunteers each year. She has it set up so all the stakes in the temple district have a couple of weeks where they're invited to help. There are sometimes hiccups getting the info to the wards, though. But your ward should get an invitation to volunteer at least once a year. We have work groups on Mon/Wed/Fri most of the time. I'll be there tomorrow from 10-12 with a crew. Ask your 2nd counselor to tell you when he hears the invite - I think the 2nd couselor in the stake pres is supposed to contact the 2nd counselor in the bishopric to make the announcement.

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    2. Good to know! I have yet to hear an announcement about it (we've been here for 3 years), so I'll ask around and see what I can find out. Thanks!

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  5. It is beautiful! I am glad you finally found a hydrangea that will do well for you.

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  6. Thank you for the introduction to Tuff Stuff. I'm always on the lookout for a new hydrangea. Have you tried the Hardy hydrangea series? They are marvelous in my zone 5 gardens. They are on my list to post about soon.

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  7. I have seen this variety in a number of our nurseries around town (Milwaukee, WI). Not one of them had any blooms on them. I love the way it looks in pictures, but if it doesn't bloom its just another green plant.

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  8. Hello-
    Just read your old post where you say: "...'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.... I could have written this post. Exact same issue. Just curious, after the move into more sun did they shine or did you to shine before I throw them out? I'm planning on moving my five next month.

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    1. Nella, I'm sorry you have the same problem! Last winter was very mild so this summer I had a handful of blooms, still not as many as I want. Next year I'm going to give them the VIP treatment before giving up - I'll spread aluminum sulfate to acidify the soil and sprinkle iron and phosphate fertilizer to try to encourage blooms. More sun might help yours as long as they still get plenty of water. No guarantees, though. You could wrap them in burlap all winter to protect the buds if you really want to put some work into it, but I'm not that dedicated!

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