Japanese Hydrangeas

April 18, 2003 - 12:01

This new group of hybrids offers different flower types and foliage color.

Hydrangeas form an integral part of the spring holidays.
Many growers produce and are familiar with the common Hydrangea macrophylla
hybrids, and some are also producing lace cap types for spring sales. However,
there is a newer group of hybrids that have received little attention; those
are the hybrids of H. macrophylla and H. serrata. These newer forms offer
different flower types and some foliage color options as well.

My experiences with the newer hybrids began back in 1998
when my family reunion was held in Colorado. I went to the grocery store to buy
flowers for our condominium and discovered a series of lace cap hydrangeas with
a totally different flower form that I had never seen before. I have since seen
these hybrids in all shades of white, blue, mauve and pink. The impact of these
hybrids was so strong I packed the plants into my suitcase and brought them
back to Florida as mementos, they are still living, though the colors have
changed with their establishment in the Florida landscape.

I made a similar discovery this past year during the holiday
season; I was searching for something other than a poinsettia to put around my
tree. (Not that I have anything against poinsettias mind you, but it is just so
"red" everywhere at that time of year.) Anyway . . . I was looking
for a break from tradition when I stumbled into my local grocery store for a
holiday beverage and discovered some of the new Japanese hydrangea hybrids on
display. Numerous thoughts crossed my mind including: "Is this a hydrangea
or a Clerodendrum? -- how have I missed this development in breeding? -- I'm
taking all of them," and finally, "Is it red or white wine that goes
with pork?"

In the end, I did take every last one of the plants on
display, paid $19 a pop for the privilege and mixed them with 'Carousel'
poinsettias in front of a picture window. It was the closest thing to a classy
statement I made in all of last year. So, though this article is about
hydrangeas , you really need to consider growing them as a winter crop as well
as Carousel and 'Cortez Burgundy' next year.

In both cases mentioned above, yes"> the hydrangeas I found came from a nursery called Hana Bay
Flowers marketed through Bay City Flower Co. in Half Moon Bay, Calif. I was
hoping to get a chance to visit Bay City on my Pack Trial trip but
unfortunately couldn't get there during business hours. Bay City offers both
finished and pre-finished hydrangeas.

Japanese releases

These Japanese releases will change the way you view this
crop, as they do not look like the old-fashioned, pompom forms, and while the
foliage is similar, the newer lace cap hybrids and star-shaped flowered forms
are very unique. The effect is more graceful and more of a novelty than the
standard flowering forms. There is also a lot of color bending in the new
cultivars, with more red tones and red tones blended into the traditional
white, pink and blue we think of when we think of florist hydrangeas. The
reason I wanted to raise awareness of these hybrids is two fold. First, as with
many flowering potted plants, hydrangeas have gotten locked into the
Easter/Mother's Day market and deserve more attention throughout the year.
Secondly, the new cultivars offer retailers and wholesalers a great opportunity
in novelty flowering crops with a higher profit margin.

Recently, I met Tim Wood of Spring Meadow Nursery, and we
looked over his catalog of hydrangea cultivars, which are predominantly for the
landscape industry. The selection of new forms is amazing. Tim had a short list
of these new varieties for growers to experiment with that include Hydrangea
macrophylla and Hydrangea serrata cultivars. While some taxonomists merge these
two species, they can still be found separated in the trade. So don't be
surprised to see them listed separately in catalogs. Also the original Japanese
names are often converted into American names in the United States, so you may
find some cultivars offered under different names. This practice is common when
new crops enter our market and are released.

Hydrangea serrata

'Kiyosumi' font-style:normal'>. White flowered, lace cap form with some red around margins
of florets. The new vegetative growth has a deep red flush, adding another
layer to the interest of the plant.

'Midoriboshi-Temari' normal;font-style:normal'>. This is a pink lace cap form, but the outer double
florets have very long pedicels, so they hang elegantly downwards. This is the
growth Á form I find so interesting and distinctively different from the
hydrangeas we have become accustomed to.

'Miyama yea Muraski'. normal;font-style:normal'> Double violet to pink florets on bright green
foliage. This plant bends the colors we are used to in hydrangeas and also has
an excellent form.

'Shirofuji'. Double white masses of florets cover the
plants. A very nice, low, mounding habit when planted in the landscape.

Hydrangea macrophylla

'Izu No Hana' font-style:normal'>. Lace cap type with double pink sterile florets and rounded
petals surrounding the central "lace cap." Hard not to think of
fireworks when you see this plant, as the florets point outward and create the
illusion of an expanding flower mass.

'Jogasaki' font-style:normal'>. Similar to Izu No Hana, but the color is a bit more
silvery, and florets have slightly fewer petals -- between eight and 11 per
floret. Flowers face up a bit more and create a different effect than that of
Izu No Hana.

Author's Note: There are somewhere around six major genera
of hydrangeas used in the United States. Some are suited for pot culture and
others are not. I know there are many other suppliers of finished and
pre-finished hydrangeas. I would like to include those in a sidebar next month,
so please E-mail me if you would like to be listed. Include in your E-mail
contact information and a listing of the cultivars you supply.

About The Author

Rick Schoellhorn is associate professor of floriculture at the University of Florida. He can be reached by phone at (352) 392-1831 or E-mail at rksch@ifas.ufl.edu.

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