Two excellent new hydrangeas have recently been introduced from the United States. Both are forms of Hydrangea arborescens and both feature unusually large heads of flowers which are held on strong stems from July into the autumn.
Incrediball (‘Abetwo’) (above, click to enlarge) produces enormous heads of flowers, they can be up to 30cm/12in across, which open in pale green, mature to white and then fade back to green. Each flower head may carry more than 2500 flowers, each up to 2cm/3/4in across!
With such huge flower heads, it’s of course important that the stems are sufficiently strong to support them – whatever the weather. And, unlike the related ‘Annabelle’, the stems of Incrediball hold the flowers high even after a thunderstorm. Plants reach about 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m high and 4-6ft/1.5-1.8m wide and with those 30cm/12in flower heads, it’s really impressive.
Hydrangea arborescens Incrediball was developed from the old favourite ‘Annabelle’ by Tim Wood of Spring Meadow Nursery in Michigan and selected there in 2004.
In a similar style is the pink flowered H. arborescens Invincibelle ('NCHA 1') (left, click to enlarge). This too has large flower heads and stems strong enough to support them when they’re battered by rain.
The first widely available pink-flowered form of H. arborescens, everything about Invincibelle is a little smaller than Incrediball: it matures at a slightly smaller size, 3-4ft/0.9-1.2m high and 4-5ft/1.2-1.5m wide, so it can even be grown in a container, and the flower heads are a little smaller, up to about 20cm/8in across That’s still big, and so the stems need to be correspondingly strong – and they are.
The colour is very striking, opening in dark pink and then fading to a paler rose pink and finally to green. Like Incrediball, pruning is simple, cut back in spring.
Hydrangea arborescens Invincibelle was developed by Dr Thomas Ranney of North Carolina State University.
Both these new hydrangeas can be grown in full sun or partial shade in any reasonably moist, humus-rich but well-drained soil and, unlike many hydrangeas, both are easy to prune - just cut back each spring to encourage new growth. Again unlike many hydrangeas, flower colour is not influenced by the acidity of the soil.
Hydrangea arborescens Incrediball (‘Abetwo’) is available from the RHS Online Plant Shop.
Hydrangea arborescens Invincibelle ('NCHA 1') is available from the RHS Online Plant Shop.
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