ShadyGardens Blog

June 25, 2009

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea is my favorite hydrangea, because it’s beautiful in every season! In winter, the branches exhibit lovely cinnamon colored exfoliating bark, and the large flower buds already forming are attractive. In spring, the new leaves are a reddish purple. In summer, there are the very large panicles of white blooms that turn purplish by summer’s end, hanging on into fall. In fall, the leaves turn a rich mahogany red, contrasting beautifully with the then dried rosy brown flower stalks used by many in floral arrangements. Oakleaf hydrangea is one of our most beautiful American native shrubs, and should be in every garden, especially native plant gardens! Hydrangea quercifolia is much easier to grow than other hydrangeas. The fact that it is native to the southeastern United States is probably the reason for that. It’s accustomed to our summer droughts, making it more drought-tolerant than other hydrangeas. It isn’t picky about soil. And oakleaf hydrangea can take more sun than most other hydrangeas.

October 31, 2008

Fall Color in the Garden with Native Plants

Filed under: fall foliage, Hydrangea, Oakleaf, quercifolia — shadygardens @ 3:21 pm

Fall is a wonderful time of the year for a gardener. Cool, crisp temperatures make outdoor work actually enjoyable. As I drove through the country this week, I couldn’t help but love all the changing foliage colors along the roadside. Natural landscapes just come alive when temperatures drop.

What can we do to bring some of that color to our home garden? Many gardeners rush out to the garden center to purchase popular choices, but many of the available plants are so invasive that they should not be planted at all! We all should do a little research prior to purchasing new plants for the garden.

Native plants are superior to exotics in many ways, but the most important asset is that native plants will not overpopulate themselves to take over and choke out other plants. We should all choose native plants whenever possible.

I know I say it all the time, but my favorite of all plants is our native Oakleaf Hydrangea. Just as spectular in fall as in other seasons, Hydrangea quercifolia’s large oak-shaped leaves change to a brilliant burgundy wine when autumn’s cooler temperatures arrive.

Another native shrub guaranteed to attract attention is Virginia Sweetspire. Itea virginica is a native American plant that is available in several forms–all display vibrant foliage colors of wine, burgundy, or red in fall. Spring blooms are fragrant and loved by pollinators, but the foliage is usually the main reason this shrub is planted–it is simply breathtaking! (Moist soil is a requirement for this plant to thrive.)

May 15, 2008

Itea Virginica Belongs In Every Garden!

One native plant sure to attract attention in your garden is Itea Virginica, most often known as Virginia Sweetspire.
Many gardeners are completely unaware of its beauty, because Virginia Sweetspire is seldom sold in garden centers. Other than its love for moist soil, Itea is very easy to grow. If you have a way of watering your garden or have a soggy spot, you can enjoy the many attributes of Itea Virginica year-round. Yes, year-round! Itea Virginica begins the spring season with red new growth, blooms in May with very fragrant 3-inch long white bloom spikes that really attract pollinators into the garden and maintains lush green foliage throughout the summer. Leaves, which are on burgundy stems, by the way, then turn a vibrant burgundy red in fall. As if all that weren’t enough, Itea often keeps that spectacular fall foliage all winter (at least it does here in central Georgia.) I know it’s hard to believe that such a glorious plant could be a native, but Itea virginica is native to the Eastern United States. If you have a large garden, Itea is beautiful when massed, especially along the edge of a pond if you’re lucky enough to have one. If your garden is small, Itea makes a great specimen or border planting. Hardy in USDA Zones 5-9, Itea can be grown in almost any area of the country. Whether you choose the large growing Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’ or the compact dwarf ‘Merlot’, you should plant one in your garden to enjoy all season long! To purchase Itea, you’re welcome to visit

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