Ramblings of a "New American" Gardener

The ever new

June 22, 2013

With some plants I’d really prefer species to hybrids. I’ve wanted to plant a shady bank with Hydrangea arborescens for several years, but the species isn’t available–at least not in local nurseries. Here is its natural habitat, or one of them … the shady hills above the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, as the crow flies, only about three miles from my garden.

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All I can find is Incrediball or the “new” pink version, Invincebelle Spirit. Even the names turn me off. The (now) old fashioned hybrid Annabelle would do, but it’s become hard to find too.

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So I settled for Incrediball and planted ten. Fortunately, my soil is such a challenge the flowers don’t even approach half their advertised size. Mine don’t look as natural as this bank on Paxson Hill Road, but in a couple of years they may come close.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Les June 23, 2013 at 8:52 pm

H. arborescens is not native to my corner of the state, but is common in the Piedmont and mountains. The first time I spotted it while hiking, and knew what I was looking at, was a thrill for me. As is his character, my son (and hiking companion) did not understand or share my thrill.

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James Golden June 23, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Maybe your son will develop an interest in H. arborescens and similar botanical discoveries in his own time. I can imagine his focus is elsewhere at this time in his life.

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Ross Hamilton June 24, 2013 at 9:49 am

Hello James,

I have a large pack of the H. aborescens, and will bring you some in the fall. You are right, it would be lovely in your garden. I find that it blooms too early, and so prefer Annabelle, one of my favorite plants. Tough as can be, and the deer leave the mature shrubs alone, at least in the Catskills. p.s. interesting garden in far western Catskills, Totem Farm. The gardener, Don Stratham (I have never met him) has an interesting blog http://donstathamblog.com/. cheers, Ross

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Deborah B June 24, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Don Statham is a neighbor of mine – here in the country, 6 miles away is still considered a neighbor. And he has a wonderful garden, and great blog, as Ross mentioned. Coincidentally, Don’s garden is on the Garden Conservancy Open Gardens tour on July 6: http://www.gardenconservancy.org/opendays/open-days-schedule/venueevents/1283-totem-farm

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James Golden June 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I wish I could go to his Open Days. I just checked and it’s a 4 hour drive from my house, so I’ll have to ask for a private visit if I’m ever in the area. I’d love to see it.

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James Golden June 24, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Thanks for the heads up on Don Stratham, Ross. He has a blog link to a NYT garden article on himself, which I remember reading several years ago. I’d be most happy to accept your offer of H. arborescens.

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Rob (OurFrenchGarden) June 25, 2013 at 2:47 am

Are the flowers a little small because they need more light? I’d have thought they may enjoy your consistently moist soil.

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James Golden June 25, 2013 at 7:33 am

I don’t think so. I had one in better light that bloomed profusely but the flower heads were still smaller than Incrediball is advertised to be. Unfortunately, voles detached that one from its roots last winter and it is no more. The bank was made from some unknown fill (the house sits on it) and I imagine the quality of the fill, as soil, is rather poor.

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Sieglinde Anderson October 17, 2013 at 5:20 pm

I find ‘White Dome’ is about as close as you can come to the species Hydrangea arborescens. I ordered mine through a local nursery who orders from the West Coast.
Inviciball’s muddy pink is not found in my garden even though it originated around the corner.

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