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On Gardening: Hydrangea varieties add long-lasting color to the garden

Electric blue and neon purple in "The Garden Guy's" hydrangeas made 2019 an unforgettable year in the garden. These colors came courtesy of Let's Dance Rave hydrangeas from Proven Winners. We've all seen those photos in catalogs and brochures making us wonder if those flowers really will look like that for me, and I can say, yes, they did!

This was the Year of the Hydrangea at The Garden Guy's house. I planted 25 of them, best I can count, representing three species and seven varieties. They all performed very well, but I want to tout three in particular. Let's Dance Rave literally stole the show in the garden, which is hard to do when companion plants were Compact Electric Orange SunPatiens. You can immediately gather that this garden was a little on the gaudy side and perhaps perfect for garden party dance.

Let's Dance Rave will get 36 inches tall and as wide, and it is a rebloomer. I suspect it may get a little taller in the deep South. It is recommended for zones 5-9, and as with other Hydrangea macrophylla varieties the color is really dependent on soil pH. Acidic soil gives intense blues and purple, while alkaline-rich soil will yield vibrant pink shades.

At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, I had fallen for the Big Daddy hydrangea that is part of the Southern Living Plant Collection. The obvious question is would it perform similarly at my home in West Georgia? I can ecstatically now shout, "Who's your daddy?" Yes, Big Daddy looks happy at The Garden Guy's house, but the shocker to me was how much reblooming I got. Now, in early November, my blooms are aging into a beautiful kaleidoscope of purples.

Big Daddy is just that: big flowers 10 to 14 inches wide, big plant 5 to 6 feet tall and wide. Like Let's Dance Rave, color is dependent on soil pH. At my house the new blooms are lighter blue, and this shift in color I suspect is coming with age and the cooler 45-degree nights we've been experiencing. Big Daddy is recommended for zones 6-9 and like Let's Dance Rave will thrive in part sun, morning sun and afternoon shade, or high filtered light.

My last shout-out goes to Chantilly Lace. This is a selection of Hydrangea paniculata that differs from a lot of other varieties of this species in that it has the large sterile flowers and small fertile flowers. In Savannah it was a pollinator magnet, but it would it work in West Georgia as well. The answer is yes, swallowtails, hairstreaks and bees.

If you want glorious white hydrangea blooms in mid-to late-summer with the accompaniment of pollinators, then this is the one for you. It is recommended for zones 3-8, and based on our plants in Savannah zone 9 should work too. It is large, reaching 5 feet tall and wide. It blooms on current seasons growth, so cutting back will be part of your regimen. This hydrangea can go in full sun to part shade.

The Garden Guy hopes you'll take advantage of this time of the year to stroll the landscape and see where the addition of a few hydrangeas might dazzle with color and butterflies. You may very well find yourself shouting "Let's dance!" and "Who's your daddy?"

(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

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