By Norman Winter, Horticulturist, Author and Speaker
The Hydrangea paniculatas have to be the showiest plant in the summer garden and I have an-affection for them all. Chantilly Lace and Pinky Winky however have captured my heart not only for their beauty but their proclivity to attract pollinators.
Everyone loves them against a backdrop of deep green garden foliage or combined with cottage garden plants like rudbeckias. Bees, butterflies and wasps however will make you think adding a little dazzle like Chantilly Lace or Pinky Winky to the backyard wildlife habitat.
The first question is, if you are not using the panicle hydrangea or several why not? They are cold hardy and recommended from zones 3-9. This means just about the whole country can grow them.
The Hydrangea paniculata or panicle varieties are different than the mophead or French hydrangea, the leaves are smaller, and the quantity of flowers is incredible. The flowers may be 6- to 15-inches long and most held upright on the plant. You now have a staggering list of choices in the size of your selections from those that are diminutive or dwarf to those reaching 10-foot.
It seems not one nursery or catalogue description however mentions pollinators in association with the hydrangea paniculata. Perhaps it is because most have sterile flowers. If you look at internet images, you will indeed see there are selections that do seem to attract pollinators.
This is an important criterion with many gardeners. These selections like Chantilly Lace or Pinky Winky seem to have and ample quantity of both sterile and fertile blossoms. Though the fertile blossoms are not near as showy they make up for it in honeybees, and colorful butterflies like swallowtails, gulf fritillaries and hairstreaks.
Ideal growing conditions are fertile, well-drained soil with morning sun and afternoon shade. In the landscape, plant it among other shrubs 72 to 80 inches apart in odd-numbered clusters for a terrific, eye-catching display.
To plant your hydrangea, dig the hole two to three times as wide as the rootball but no deeper so you can plant it at the same depth it is growing in the container. Apply a good layer of mulch to conserve moisture. Once established, you’ll find your panicle selection is less dependent on water than its big-leafed cousins.