Picture this: It's next summer and you're proudly taking a friend for
a stroll around your landscape. "Here's Vienna," you say, "And
there's Berlin. That's Venice over there. Oh, and here's Paris." Ooh
Not bad for a half-acre lot somewhere in America. Before you start
humming "It's a Small World After All," I should explain that I'm
talking about four varieties of hydrangea, each with unique
characteristics that you might want to add to your garden next spring.
Ah, spring! It might seem a long way away right now, but it will be
here before you know it. That means that now is the perfect time to
be planning (and even pre-ordering) the plants that will grace your
landscape next season.
Let's start with those four Euro-centric hydrangeas.
All four varieties were developed by the German plant breeders Franz-
Xaver and Konrad Rampp. Their objective was to create tight, full
plants without chemicals that need no pruning and little or no special
They are considered "dwarf" hydrangeas as they top out between 12 and
36 inches tall at maturity. They prefer moist but well-drained soil
and are hardy to USDA zone 5, thriving in full sun in northern climes
and in afternoon shade further south. They look good as groupings, in
a perennial border or even as a colorful low hedge. They are also
compact enough for containers and are well suited for fresh or dried
indoor flower arrangements.
Although all of these varieties have flowers in the pink to red range,
the pH value of the soil will affect the color of the blooms. A more
alkaline soil will produce blooms of a deeper pink, whereas a more
acidic soil tips the color scale towards blue. If you prefer to see
blue flowers, here's a grower's trick: add a tablespoon of aluminum
sulfate to a gallon of water and soak the roots in early spring.
You'll need two applications.
Hydrangea Cityline Paris
The Paris is the most mildew-resistant of the Cityline series, worth
noting if mildew seems to be a problem in your garden. In a fairly
alkaline soil, Paris will produce blooms of a deep, rich red that is
unusual for a hydrangea. As it matures, it will turn a pleasant shade
Hydrangea Cityline Vienna
Although Vienna is a dwarf variety, the flowers are unusually large in
proportion to the plant, making them appear much larger when in
bloom. It's a real eye-catcher with giant pink blooms that start out
with cream-colored centers gradually maturing to solid pink (or blue...
Hydrangea Cityline Berlin
Berlin is the most robust and colorful of the Cityline series with
large rosy-pink flowerheads on a plant topping out between 2 and 3
feet high and spreading to maybe 3 or 4 feet wide. The large blooms
look as if they'd be too heavy for such a small plant, but all these
varieties are bred for stronger stems that hold the flowerheads
Hydrangea Cityline Venice
The blooms of the Venice tend towards a fuchsia color that makes a
delightful contrast to the glossy green foliage. Again, abundant
blooms that are surprising on such a compact plant. If you plant it
beneath deciduous trees, check the first year to be sure it isn't
receiving too much sunlight during winter months, particularly in more
I've said that none of these hydrangea varieties need pruning and
indeed that's a fact. However, if you want to build a tighter plant
or maintain a shorter size, you can take some simple shaping steps.
If the plant seems "leggy" when you buy it, you can shear it back to a
half or even a third of its size. Once it puts on an inch or two of
growth, pinch the branch tips to remove just the growing tips. Because
this tip controls branching, the buds below it will turn into stems.
Once these new branches grow an inch or two, repeat the pinching
process. You'll sacrifice a year's blooms, but will have a tighter
plant with even more flowers in the future.
But even without pruning these Euro-hydrangeas bring a world of color
to your garden.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org