Oak leaf hydrangeas, Hydrangea quercifolia, are my favorite type of hydrangea. They are so easy to grow and so beautiful! They provide four seasons of interest and require little care from the gardener. Just my kind of plant!
I never grew oak leafs until I moved to Tennessee. While landscaping the north side of my home in the fall of 2003, I found an oak leaf I thought would fit into the foundation bed (Who am I kidding? I saw it, bought it, planted it there, simple). It absolutely loved it here! It grows next to my heat pump, but has plenty of room to spread its wings and grow in its natural form. I mulch this bed every other year with pine needles and I think that also helps this oak leaf.
For the first two or three years it seemed the oak leaf grew painfully slow. I thought it would never fill out! Starting from scratch and with all small plants can make me feel like my landscape vision will never come to fruition! Finally, the oak leaf has matured. It has not only matured, but it provided with me with 24 seedlings last fall. I probably never would've found the seedlings if I had mulched in 2006. I am sure they began growing in that year and took a bit of time to grow large enough for me to find them. I dug all of the seedlings up and planted them around my one acre plot. They are now growing very fast and some may even bloom this year.
This one oak leaf hydrangea made me realize just how much I liked the genus because of its ease of care (moist to dry soil, part sun or shade, and no pruning). I liked it so much I decided to plant three of them in my front center garden. Oak leafs can get quite large and my initial one is now about 8 feet wide by 5-6 feet tall. I thought the grouping of three directly out my front door would make a nice peak in the middle of the center garden. Right now they are very small and the center garden is off balance vertically, but I have faith the oak leafs will grow quickly and soon take their rightful spot as the climax shrub in this prominent center garden.
The first picture is of one of the oak leafs in that garden. It is not a regular oak leaf such as the initial one I started with. No, it is the cultivar 'Snow Queen'. I purchased two for mere dollars at a big box store markdown sale. Unfortunately it then took me another year before I could find an affordable third 'Snow Queen'. Jackpot last fall while shopping in another city. The nursery I visited had a good sized 'Snow Queen' hydrangea marked 50% off. Patience does pay off and I think this is the only time I have stuck to my guns with a specific cultivar in a specific spot. I can't wait to see the bloom!The Snow Queen cultivar is said to have larger flowers. Not sure, but the above flower is pretty large as far as flowers go. Nearly a full foot long!
The above oakleaf is 'Vaughn's Lille'. I am not sure if it is going to make it or not. I purchased this cultivar at Don Shadows, but right now it is not happy and looks very different.
All oakleafs have four seasons of interest. Spring brings new leaves; which are shaped like oak trees. Late spring to early summer brings large white blooms; which persist into the summer, fall and winter. The blooms slowly fade to rose or pink or browns. In addition to the persistent blooms, oakleafs have super red fall coloring; which is mottled and variegated. As a bonus, when the oakleaf gets some maturity, the bark begins peeling.
All oakleafs like acidic, moist, well drained soil, but I have found they can tolerate dry soils once established. They do fine in sun or shade. They rarely need any help from the gardener and I do not recommend pruning them.
in the garden....