The Season of White

With what seems to be an endless array of Hydrangea paniculata cultivars entering the market, July has turned the garden into a snow white scene. The Asian Hydrangea paniculata was first published as a new species in 1829, but was not grown in the Americas until Arnold Arboretum director, Charles Sargent brought back seed from an 1892 expedition to Japan. That original plant, now, 131 years old, measures 16′ tall x 25′ wide. I’m not saying you need to plan for your Hydrangea paniculata to reach 131 years old, but the average of a house in the US is 46 years, so logic says we should at least plant for a 50 year mature size.

Below is our clump of Hydrangea ‘Rensun’, which is marketed under a completely different name, Strawberry Sundae. The introducers of this lovely clone tout this as maturing at 5′ tall x 4′ wide, but our 6 year old specimen is already 7′ tall x 11′ wide. Based on that growth rate and the mature size of the species, I’d expect it to reach 14′ wide x 22′ wide in 50 years. It’s truly fascinating why it’s so difficult to for plant breeders to get more accurate measurements before these plants are introduced to market. One can only imagine the maintenance problems caused when you locate plants based on the size given on the plant tag, only to have the plant get 2-4 times as large as your space allows.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Rensun’

4 thoughts on “The Season of White”

  1. Mike Chelednik

    Simple – the plants haven’t been tested long enough to know a mature size – it’s totally guesswork.

  2. I don’t have to imagine the maintenance problems caused by inaccurate sizes given on plant tags. I experience them. Years ago, I bought a ‘Pee Wee’ oakleaf hydrangea which was quoted as maturing at 3-4′ tall and wide, and a ‘Yuletide’ camellia which was quoted as 6-8′ tall and a bit narrower, and planted them 6′ apart. Within 3 years the Pee Wee hydrangea was 8’x8′, and the Yuletide camellia (in sun till 3 PM) is at least 16′ tall, despite my having cut 3′ off the top twice. A shrubby magnolia that was touted as a groundcover shrub, 18-24″ tall and 6′ wide, Michelia yunnanensis ‘Free Spirit’ immediately wanted to be 8’x8′ or more. Nothing groundcover about it! It’s very frustrating to have to remove shrubs that don’t fit where they are planted, as well as sad, because they don’t always make it when transplanted.
    If plant nurseries would at least quote the size at say, 5 years, that would be helpful. I realize I am quite the anomaly having lived and gardened in the same spot for 37 years, since most Americans seem to move every 2 years on average and feel they have to rip out and replace all the existing landscaping and replace it with tiny balls, but those of us who stay a bit longer would benefit from more accurate plant tags!

  3. Boy, i couldnt agree more about incorrect size descriptions on plant tags. Couple this with the lost art among landscapers of planting for mature size rather short-term (immediate) satisfaction. And how is the individual gardener supposed to plant for mature size, when that information is not reliable? I recently removed a nice evergreen altogether. It was supposed to stay 3 ft. It was at least 6 ft, maybe 7, when we cut it down. Just too big for the spot. It seems like everything in my yard is bigger than planned on. And here I had thought it was due to my superb gardening! — NOT!(Trying to be funny here.)

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