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Friday, August 13, 2010

Pee Gee Hydrangea

Hydrangea paniculata “grandiflora” is the botanical name for the Pee Gee Hydrangea. The name Pee Gee  refers specifically  to and is a sort of nickname for Paniculata “Grandiflora”. Although many, even those who should know better such as nursery growers, consider all Paniculatas to be Pee Gees, this is not the case. Not that it truly matters what you call this amazingly lovely plant. It could be called Myron and  still it would be something any garden enthusiast will want within their landscape.

The Pee Gee Hydrangea is catagorized as a tall, deciduous shrub but as it matures it can be trained rather easily into a single or multi-stemmed tree shape. Cold hardy in USDA zones 3-8 it is by far the most adaptable to cold weather of all Hydrangeas, hence why there is rarely the northern home garden without one. It is a very pretty plant growing 8-10 feet high and starting its flower show by mid to late summer, when nothing much else in the shrub department seems to want to do anything spectacular. For this reason along it makes it very desirable for the home garden.

This blooming continues well into the autumn and in spring it is one of the first to leaf out looking very nice in its lovely early green splendor. Even in winter the Pee Gee has great appeal if the flower clusters are left to dry on the plant to catch powdery snow or to glisten with ice. This plant makes a striking winter time silhouette in the landscape.

Pee Gee Hydrangea, unlike its cousin the Mophead or Big leaf Hydrangea (H. hortensia) likes it in the sun.   It can tolerate some dappled shade in the hottest climates where the sun’s intensity may burn the foliage. It will likely not flower well without some sun, however.  It likes a rich, well draining soil but needs ample water to do its best. A nice organic mulch therefore will do it some good for maintaining moisture and also to protect its roots.

If you know your garden Latin you will understand Paniculata refers to the panicle or cone shape of the flower clusters. From afar when completely covered with enormous blossoms the flowers, however, appear to have the familiar round puff ball shape. It is only close up that you can really see the blossoms are slightly panicle and a very impressive 10-15 inches across. Upon even closer inspection you can see the clusters consist of hundreds of 4 petaled flowers with tiny pink eyes. The flowers start out as having a greenish tinge to them but once fully opened they are a stark white which show up so nicely against the medium green foliage. As they mature the flowers will gradually turn a blushing pink and by autumn and staying well into winter they will obtain  a buff color. These make wonderful dried flowers  for long lasting indoor arrangements.

The foliage of the Pee Gee Hydrangea is smaller and lighter colored  than the more popular and showy pink or blue  H. hortensia at only 5 inches long with a slightly serrated edge. Veining is visible but not drastically so. The leaves do turn a bronze color for their autumn show before dropping off.

Pee Gee Hydrangea is one of those unobtrusive garden fixtures that barely gets noticed until in bloom. But when in bloom, WOW! It is certainly something to behold and something your average gardener will insist on having if only to show his neighbors how a home landscape is properly done.

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