Hydrangea macrophylla 'All Summer Beauty'

This roller coaster year (summer weather in March, chilly weather in April, seesaw weather in May so far) has produced roller coaster emotions in me. I loved the early warmth but worried about all the plants that foliated or bloomed so early, then despaired in mid-April when frost damaged the Hydrangea macrophylla foliage – although thankfully not that of the Japanese maples – and now, finally, think I know what to do with these Hydrangea.

I wanted to wait as long as possible before pruning back the canes and now I know that the wait has been justified. Most of the canes are still alive. The easiest way to test, while doing the least damage, is to prune down to just above the next set of leaves. Because of their horrendous appearance, I crumbled the frosted leaves and waited. Now new leaves have taken their place in most instances. One huge question remains. Will they still bloom? We probably won’t know the answer for another month.

If you have some of the newer varieties, like ‘Endless Summer’ or ‘Blushing Bride’, you will definitely have blooms because they bloom on both old and new wood. The older varieties only bloom on old wood.

Hydrangea 'Endless Summer' closeup; 18405 east hill; 6/22/11

Hydrangea 'Blushing Bride'; in my garden 6/22/11

Fall color of Hydrangea 'Blushing Bride' appears in late September and lasts through November; 11/7/11

Hydrangea arborescens 'Invincibelle Spirit' and 'Annabelle' side by side in my garden 7/7/11

In previous years with very cold winters, the flower buds have often frozen and we had only leaves. If you don’t wish to worry, I suggest replacing some of the old Hydrangea with those that bloom on new and old wood or changing species. Hydrangea arborescensdoesn’t have blue flowers but the cultivar ‘Annabelle’ has huge white balls and both ‘Bella Anna’and ‘Invincibelle Spirit’ have pink ones. Both of these cultivars will bloom in partial shade or full sun but need a lot of water. The heads are so large that they need support to keep them from flopping.