Recently, Chris of Backyard Gardening Blog published a timeline in pictures, demonstrating the growth of his ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangeas. I found it very interesting to compare his photos with the few I took. You might want to have his post open in a separate tab of your browser so you can quickly flip back and forth to compare shrubs.I didn’t take an early May photo this year, so we will have to assume that the hydrangea emerged from dormancy about the same time this year as it did in the photo above. As you can see, it is not even as far along as Chris’s May 1st photo, and Chris considered his hydrangeas behind in their growth at this point. Those are daylilies in the foreground. I estimate the height at six inches in this June photo. They look to be at the same stage as the May 12th photo in Chris’s post. Here you can see the first flower buds. The hydrangea is at a similar stage to Chris’s May 26th photo–a good month later than his. The buds are further along, but still no blooms. Perhaps equivalent to the shrubs on the right in Chris’s June 22nd shot. Okay, so now my very first blooms are starting to look like the shrubs on the left in Chris’s June 22nd shot. The blooms are starting to color up but haven’t gotten their peak color yet. At this point my ‘Endless Summer’ is at least 3.5 weeks behind his earliest blooming one. I guess this photo above is pretty close to Chris’s July 6th photo, continuing the three week gap between his ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangeas and mine. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of the hydrangea in August. Now in early September the old blossoms are turning pink as they age. I can’t remember if they got as dark as Chris’s before our first frost on September 19th. But there was no second flush of bloom. You can see that the stems have elongated, partially obscuring the flowers. You have to part the branches to see the blooms well. But no new buds are visible.
Microclimates are important
Chris is in Zone 5. Theoretically I am, too, though not too long ago I would have said I was in Zone 4. I still have a Zone 4 growing season, with later spring frosts and earlier fall frosts. And Chris has one other advantage. Did you notice it? That stone wall behind his hydrangeas is providing a warmer microclimate by storing heat and radiating it back when the temperatures drop.
I have to say I was much happier with my ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea this year than I was last year. I’m sure it improved its performance that I took care to mulch it with leaves last fall, and I didn’t pull them away from the plant until I was sure all danger of frost had passed. But I can also see that Chris gets more bloom from his ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangeas with the same amount of work.
I hope you found this comparison as informative as I did. A few extra weeks at each end of the growing season and a more favorable microclimate can make a significant difference in the performance of a plant. It’s a good thing to keep in mind when a fellow gardener rants–or raves–about a plant.