Saturday, June 23, 2012

Damn good plants - Hydrangea Ayesha

Modern breeding has given us some truly exciting Bigleaf Hydrangeas, (Hydrangea macrophylla) but at what cost?  Sure, repeat flowering or everblooming (remontant) Hydrangeas sounds like more bang for our hard earned bucks but, its easy to get sick and tied of looking at the same old flowers, day in and day out.  These days, new Hydrangea must all be repeat flowering to hit the market, causing the non repeaters to get kicked to the curb.

This year I tried to stock the once common 'Blue Wave' but found that it had been dropped by most of growers in favor of the Endless or Forever series of Hydrangea's.  I can't blame a grower for doing so as they have to find a cash crop to keep the doors open and the business going.  However, I find it quiet alarming to see some of the older hybrids begin to fade away as they can 't match the traits of today new wave of plants.

One such cultivar that we shouldn't loose is the increasing rarer H.'Ayesha', so radically different that it would be criminal to loose it from the trade.  When it was first release after World War II it caused quiet the stir and still does.  Its unique character is the cupped sepals (modified flower petals) that resemble little spoons.  Too this day, since it was first revealed no other Hydrangea has come close with similar characteristic's making this stand out from the pack even though its not a repeater bloomer.  It is said to have a fragrance but  I have been unable to pick up on this.  However, my sense of smell isn't that good, I couldn't even pick up the aroma of a Mock orange while everyone else around me could.

Foliage is a waxy dark green with a thick cuticle that holds well and doesn't wilt easily in summer heat but like all Macrophylla types in Northern Virginia, afternoon shade is preferred.  Hydrangea's require moist locations and will quickly become stressed in dry spots.  The name should give it away with 'Hydr' meaning water as part of its name.  The soils pH will effect the color of the blooms, acid for blue and alkaline for pink.  For some reason they seem to always show up pink in containers but once in the ground adjust better to the color type you'd prefer.  If blue is your desired color, don't use fertilizers that contain high amounts of Phosphorus, often used to promote flowering.  This prevents the plants uptake of Aluminum that changes the color to blue and thus keeping them pink.  Aluminum sulfate is very effective at acidifying the soil and producing better color but always follow the recommend dosage as it can burn the roots of your Hydrangea's if given too much. Give 'Ayesha' room to grow as it will reach 4 to 5 feet in height and width.

Plants don't need to flower constantly to provide us joy in the landscape.  The joy of seeing the first Crocus or Snowdrop in late winter, early spring gives us something to look forward too although fleeting. Any longer and there's a chance that the effect may be different.   When you start taking flowers for granted, it looses that special quality.


  1. Nice, Robert. It is refreshing to see an older plant featured as a "damn" good one. It would be all too easy to promote just the new stuff. Wouldn't be much different than picking up any old gardening mag. The good old days weren't always good (can you say bradford pear?) but there still remain some real gems. Go you!

  2. WE certainly grow 'Blue Wave' at Arduaine and 'Ayesha', which is one of my favourites. My plant has a stem reverting to a clear white normal mophead - have you any idea of the origin of 'Ayesha'?