August is perhaps the most challenging of all the months during the growing season for the home gardener. Perennial and annual gardens alike look tired and overgrown and many flowering shrubs and trees have finished flowering for the season. However, this time of the year is the heyday for the panicle hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata.
For years there were very few selections of Hydrangea paniculata available to home gardeners. Generally, the peegee hydrangea was ubiquitously planted in cemeteries and home gardens. Today there are dozens of choices of cultivars of Hydrangea paniculata including diminutive cultivars, pink forms, early blooming and late blooming selections, but the peegee hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ remains one of my favorites.
Like all Hydrangea paniculata selections, ‘Grandiflora’ can either be pruned hard in the winter and maintained as a shrub or it can be allowed to grow into a very large shrub reaching up to 25 feet tall. It can also be grown as a standard, where a single stem is selected and all the growth and flowering sits atop a single stout stem.
From August and into September Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ is covered in 1-foot long conical flower heads. Each individual flower has four pure white floral bracts. This hydrangea should be planted in full sun for best flowering to occur.
In addition to Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’, I also love the new introduction called ‘Limelight’. The flowering time and size of flowers are very similar to ‘Grandiflora’, however as the new flowers emerge they are a beautiful lime-green which can really brighten a garden as the sun sets. As the flowers mature they too become massive heads of pure white flowers.
Without a doubt these are two of the most ornamental shrubs for late summer. Both cultivars have a long bloom time and as the flowers fade they take on casts of burgundy and pink and eventually become tawny brown adding interest to both the fall and winter landscape.