Each year new annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs appear in garden centers, nurseries, and catalogs. Endless Summer hydrangea and 'Tri-Lights' azalea are two colorful shrubs that should be widely available in 2004.
Endless Summer Hydrangea
Seduced by colorful photographs in garden catalogs, many gardeners have attempted to grow 'Nikko Blue,' 'Forever Pink,' and other bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) in Iowa. Unfortunately, bigleaf hydrangeas do not perform well in cold climates. 'Nikko Blue,' 'Forever Pink,' and most other bigleaf hydrangeas bloom on the previous year's growth. However, plants usually die back to the ground in winter in Iowa. As a result, bigleaf hydrangeas seldom bloom in the state. (The best performing hydrangeas for Iowa are varieties of smooth hydrangea [Hydrangea arborescens] and panicle hydrangea [Hydrangea paniculata]. Both species produce white flowers and bloom on new wood.)
For gardeners frustrated in their search for reliable blue or pink flowering hydrangeas, Hydrangea Endless Summer is a dream come true. Endless Summer is a bigleaf hydrangea that blooms on both old and new growth. Introduced by Bailey Nurseries, Endless Summer produces 4 to 6-inch-diameter flower heads. The flowers are pink in alkaline soils and blue in acidic soils. If deadheaded, plants will continue to set flower buds and bloom through the summer. Plants grow 3 to 5 feet tall and have a similar spread. Endless Summer is listed as hardy in USDA Hardiness Zone 4.
'Tri-Lights'is the newest addition in the Northern Lights Series of hybrid azaleas from the University of Minnesota. 'Tri-Lights' is a spreading shrub. At maturity, it is approximately 5 feet tall and 6 1/2 feet wide. The tri-colored flowers have marbled pink and white petals with orange-yellow speckles in their throats. Leaves are dark green and resistant to powdery mildew. The vegetative tissues of 'Tri-Lights' are hardy to -30 , while the flower buds are hardy to about -25 . Other members in this series include 'Golden Lights' (gold flowers), 'Lemon Lights' (lemon yellow), 'Mandarin Lights' (orange), 'Northern Hi-Lights' (creamy white with bright yellow upper petal), 'Northern Lights' (pink), 'Orchid Lights' (orchid), 'Pink Lights' (light pink), 'Rosy Lights' (rose pink), 'Spicy Lights' (salmon), and 'White Lights' (white).
This article originally appeared in the 2/13/2004 issue.