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.

November 11, 2008

Virginia Creeper: Bright Red Fall Color for the Native Garden

I grow Virginia Creeper for its spectacular fall foliage which rivals any bloom I’ve seen. Brilliant red leaves adorn the entire plant from onset of cold weather for a month or more. Once really cold weather arrives, leaves fall to the ground and the vines sleeps for the winter. In spring new growth begins with tiny bronzy leaves unfurling for another season of interest.

Often mistaken for Poison Ivy (Why? I don’t know!!), it has no irritating properties that I know of. Virginia creeper, or Parthenocissus quinquefolia, is closely related to the more well-known Boston Ivy, and is native to the Eastern United States.

Easy to grow and not nearly as invasive as English Ivy, Virginia Creeper is a great plant to grow on a wall of brick or other masonry. This beautiful vine clings to almost anything by attaching tendrils to a porous surface. For that reason, it’s best to keep it away from any wooden areas.

Virginia Creeper is attractive at least 3 seasons of the year, but in fall the foliage attracts attention when it comes alive in a brilliant shade of red.

As is true with many of our lesser known native plants, Virginia Creeper is drought tolerant, thrives in just about any soil, and grows well in either sun or shade. It does not require a structure to grow on, and it is a great groundcover for a bank needing some erosion prevention. Parthenocissus quinquefolia is hardy in USDA Zones 3 – 9 and roots easily from cuttings. Virginia Creeper is a good alternative to the more invasive English Ivy and Japanese Pachysandra. Although it isn’t evergreen in most climates, the vibrant red fall color more than makes up for it!

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