Passionate About Plants - my favourite plant
Paul tells us about his love of hydrangeas
I had long thought that it would be impossible to have a favourite plant. The thousands of different trees, shrubs, perennials etc. all have their merit the season and possible use in the garden situation. Add to this the various types of house plants and vegetable plants; it is easy to see why you would be hard pressed to choose just one. And if you had to choose just one, say to take on a dessert island with you, you would be wise to take a vegetable something to eat. I suppose you could take a pretty plant to look at whilst listening to that same old record and reading that same old book but you would probably be wiser taking a vegetable plant!
It is well known that I have a strong liking for rare and difficult to grow plants, but it's not from this group of plants that my favourite comes, it is in fact from the easy to propagate Hydrangea hortensia group.
I have recently planted out a range of hydrangeas from our nursery collection, each one having serious garden merit. It was whilst watering that I noticed I had planted out my favourite Hydrangea and marvelled at its beautiful leaf, form and colour. It is in fact a fairly new introduction and to give it its full name it is Hydrangea macrophylla Sabrina.
Hydrangea macrophylla Sabrina.
Bred by D. van der Spek in the Netherlands in 2002 this relative newcomer is a mop head variety, it is a compact shrub growing up to a meter (3 feet in old money). The flower heads are of a medium size, with white sepals which have a distinct red edge. When grown well the dark green leaves take on a burgundy hue very similar to "merveille Sanguine" a French variety. Unlike merveille Sanguine, which has a dark red flower, Sabrina not only has a much more delicate looking flower head, it is much more frost resistant as a plant. After this last winter this is an important consideration when choosing plants. Like all hydrangeas it grows well in dapple shade, a humus rich soil and plenty of moisture. It looks stunning when grown in a container and is always one of the first to sell.
As I write this it is full of bud, and I look forward to sitting, relaxing on the patio these summer evenings with Sabrina fully out in flower. If you only have room for one hydrangea in your garden then I would strongly recommend you search out this variety, being careful not to mix it up with "love you kiss" which is very similar but a lace cap form from Japan and in my opinion, pretty though it is, is no where as showy.
Winter death - By now any damage and death to plants caused by the last severe winter will be totally apparent, if there is any significant new growth then prune back to within an inch of the new growth. If there is no new growth or only very weak regeneration then it is time to be totally ruthless and take the plant out. Manure and fork over the resulting space ready for replanting.
Keep a careful watch for black fly, not only will they attack your vegetables they also have appeared in large numbers on the young shoots of philadelphus. If you have not got any insecticide then a quick spray with soft water to which you have added 2 drops of original Fairy Liquid, should do the trick.
Happy Gardening and remember keeeeep watering.