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"The Best-Blooming Hydrangeas for Western Massachusetts"

One of the most attractive summer-blooming shrubs is hydrangea. There are many different types in the genus hydrangea each with a long bloom period from early summer to autumn. Click on the plant's name to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Bigleaf hydrangea is one of the showiest types of hydrangea. It has large, rounded clusters of blue flowers that appear at the tips of its stems. Bigleaf hydrangea grows three to six feet tall or more with a spread at least as wide if not wider. Its flowers last for four weeks or more and often change color as they mature.

Hydrangea 'All Summer Beauty'One of the most prolific and reliable varieties of bigleaf hydrangea is 'All Summer Beauty.' It bears large, blue mophead flowers that are in bloom over a very long season. Unlike other blue-flowered varieties of hydrangea, this particular variety blooms reliably each year because it bears flowers on new wood. It's the only blue hydrangea that blooms reliably here in westen Massachusetts. It grows four feet high and wide.

 Hydrangea 'Alpengluhen' The variety 'Alpengluhen' bears rounded, brilliant-red flowers that is quite a unique color for a hydrangea. Its crimson-red flowers are that color regardless of soil pH. The large, mophead flowers stand atop glossy, dark-green leaves and are very eye catching. It's a compact variety, growing just three to four feet high and wide.

Hydrangea 'Blue Billow''Blue Billow' is a lacecap type of hydrangea. The flat flowers have an outer row of sterile, showy blue (or pink depending on pH) flowers that surrounds a central cluster of fertile flowers. The outer petals are separated from the center by long stems. It grows three to four feet tall and wide.

Hydrangea 'Annabelle' bears large, rounded globes of flowers that are very showy. In bloom in my garden right now, the flower clusters can be up to a foot wide and are uniformly shaped. The creamy-white flowers appear at the tips of the branches, nearly covering the plant when in bloom. When in full bloom, the weight of the flowers pulls the branches downward, creating an attractive arching shape. The flowers are very long lasting, remaining attractive for up to two months. Its large leaves are dark green. It's a compact variety that's good for a flower bed, growing only about three feet tall. It grows and blooms well in shade to sun.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Prune Rhododendrons at the Right Time"

Q. My question is about pruning back rhododendrons after they bloom. What's the part to pinch back: the entire stems where the blooms were or just the individual stemlets that shoot out from the stems? Thanks!

A. As you know, rhododendrons should be pruned right after they are done blooming. You can trim off just the spent flowers (that's called deadheading) or prune to shape the shrub or do severe pruning to make it smaller if needed. It all depends what you want the shrub to look like. The important thing is to prune at the right time.

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