KENNEWICK -- October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and almost anywhere you look you can find pink, from pink ribbons to pink ties, and even pink football uniforms.
With all that, it is no surprise that the nursery industry also has made efforts to create awareness about breast cancer and raise money for research.
Spring Meadow Nursery has developed the 'Invincibelle Spirit' hydrangea, which provides a pink twist on the classic 'Annabelle' popular since the 1960s because of its hardiness and reliability.
'Annabelle' is a smooth-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) with large, rounded, white flowers and dark green wide leaves.
'Invincibelle Spirit' is the first pink smooth-leaf hydrangea on the market. The flowers start out as dark pink buds and open to hot pink flowers that fade to soft pink and then green. The shrub grows to height of 3 to 4 feet and a width of 4 to 5 feet, producing flowers all season long. No matter what the soil, the flowers stay pink.
'Invincibelle Spirit' is touted as being "eye-catching and easy-care." It isn't fussy about soil and is more hardy and drought tolerant than most other hydrangeas on the market. It is rated for partial sun to full sun. In our area, I would suggest placing it in a location where it gets some shade in the afternoon.
Pruning is easy. Smooth-leaf hydrangeas bloom on new wood, so in early spring cut 'Invincebelle Spirit' back to a height of 1 to 2 feet. Pruning it back in this way will lead to a fuller plant with stronger stems that will better support the large flowers so they won't be as likely to flop over from their weight.
I was lucky enough to be given a small transplant of 'Invincebelle' two years ago and this summer was the first time it bloomed. I didn't prune it back in the spring because I wanted give it a chance to grow and become stronger and better established. Without the pruning, the flowers did indeed flop over. However, the flowers were a lovely pink color and this very hardy hydrangea survived the two surprise cold snaps that injured a number of other ornamental trees and shrubs in our region.
Proven Winners, who markets 'Invincebelle Spirit,' is donating $1 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for each plant sold and hopes to raise $1 million. Proven Winners are not the first plant lovers to show their support for the fight against breast cancer with a pink flowered plant. In 2009, All-American Rose Selections picked 'Pink Promise' to support breast cancer awareness. 'Pink Promise' is a beautiful hybrid tea rose with fragrant large pink blooms set against dark green foliage.
Terra Nova Nurseries, perennial plant breeders in Oregon, developed a purple coneflower with large fragrant, soft pink flowers. The plant reaches a height of 20 inches and width of 24 inches. Terra Nova Nurseries donates 25 cents from each plant sold to the Oregon and Southwest Washington affiliate of the Susan G. Komen.
You can show your support for breast cancer awareness and research by planting one of these pink flowered plants or by planting any pink flowers and making a donation to the breast cancer organization of your choice.
* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Benton County Extension.