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Finding the Best Hydrangea

Heritage Museums & Gardens is home to a national hydrangea test garden where new hybrid varieties of hydrangeas are being planted, grown, and studied by professional growing experts from across the country. The North American Hydrangea Test Garden is the most comprehensive collection in the United States. Hydrangeas are typically in bloom from Early July – end of September.

Heritage staff and horticulture interns document and collect data on plant performance that enables these growers to perfect new hydrangea varieties and gauge how these varieties perform in New England, one of the country’s largest markets for hydrangeas. The test garden continues Heritage’s collaboration with the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society, begun in 2010 when 150 cultivars and species were planted, and showcases the depth and breadth of these iconic plants for Heritage visitors.

Designed by Horticulture Director Les Lutz and installed in phases beginning in 2016, the expanded garden includes new hydrangeas and other plants, a fountain and cobble-lined shell walkways that will allow visitors to stroll among an unprecedented variety of hydrangeas. The garden affords researchers and growers easy access to test plants while offering home gardeners examples of which plants pair well together.

The North American Hydrangea Test Garden is being led by Dr. Michael Dirr, horticulture professor emeritus at the University of Georgia and author of over 300 scientific and popular publications, in collaboration with expert growers from Bailey Nurseries and Star Roses & Plants, who were inspired by Heritage’s existing Hydrangea Garden. Garden partners include leading professional growers, Bailey Nurseries (creators of Endless Summer® Hydrangeas), Star Roses & Plants, and Proven Winners; renowned plant expert Dr. Michael Dirr and his wife Bonnie; the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society and the American Hydrangea Society.

More About Hydrangeas

Hydrangea Research

As of June of 2020, there are 244 hydrangeas being evaluated. They break down as follows:

  • Hydrangea arborescens: 8 cultivars (35 plants)
  • Hydrangea macrophylla: 21 cultivars (136 plants)
  • Hydrangea paniculata: 11 cultivars (67 plants)
  • Hydrangea serrata: 1 cultivar (3 plants)
Research: Introduction – Hydrangea Macrophylla – 2019 Summary ReportSummary of North American Test Garden & performance evaluation review of hydrangea macrophylla at Heritage Museums and Gardens. READ THE FULL REPORT. 
Research: Hydrangea Macrophylla – ‘Twist N Shout’ (Bailey Nurseries)‘Twist N Shout’ is a simple cross between two of our long-favored cultivars – Penny Mac and Lady in Red™. And it is a splendid blend of the best properties of both parents; excellent winter enduring bud survival from ‘LIR’ coupled with strong reblooming capability from ‘PM’. It is an easy to love cultivar as shown in the photos below taken in our garden in July. And it is the most widely planted H. macrophylla at Heritage. READ THE FULL REPORT.

We received several early release Summer Crush™ plants in October, 2017 for comparative assessment. These were nice full plants exhibiting good foliage growth – but being in just one-gallon containers – root mass was modest. They were planted soon after receipt in a very visible and predominantly sunny location. The balance of our autumn weather that year was pleasant and our first killing frost occurred just before Thanksgiving. In ground acclimation prior to dormancy was favorable with moderate air temperatures, slow cooling, and reasonable rainfall right up ‘til Christmas.  READ THE FULL REPORT

Another introduction from Bailey Nurseries, BloomStruck™ is a more complex hybrid than the earlier Endless Summer Series of reblooming H. macrophylla and was developed to be exhibit substantially stronger bloom count that flowered well on both old and new wood. The bloom color is a very good vibrant blue that antiques to a rich dark purple in shaded locations. Bloom density is substantial as shown below during peak summer-blooming at Heritage. READ THE FULL REPORT.

This cultivar, introduced in 2004, created a significant impact in the woody ornamental world as the first major ‘reblooming’ Hydrangea macrophylla. It was well marketed and publicized, and in just a few years, became the ‘new’ standard for blue hydrangeas and readily accepted and planted by the nursery and landscape trades. The terms rebloomer and remontant became common terms of merit and Hydrangea macrophylla breeding would be changed forever. READ THE FULL REPORT.

This was the second cultivar in the Endless Summer Series of reblooming H. macrophylla offered by Bailey Nurseries. It was also well marketed and publicized by Bailey and well accepted owing to the early success of ‘The Original’. Well sited, with afternoon shade, the Bride is a good performer on Cape Cod. READ THE FULL REPORT.

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