City Lights-Just Add Water
Sitting here writing this article we have all just endured yet another snow event. This time central New Jersey just had 16 inches of snow dumped on it. Let me tell you, I’m sick of snow and am anxious for spring’s arrival! Longing for the tulips to poke their bodies through the crusted mulch and anxious to see their heads swell with color. This past winter I have attended various trade shows, seminars, symposiums and general garden talks all of which boasted the hottest new plants. We were even given an opportunity, as attendants, to rate these new comers. Attending the ANLA Management Clinic in Louisville, Kentucky (American Nursery Landscape Association), an event dedicated to the green industry and managing its business practices, there was even a new plant pavilion dedicated to the subject. Here, it was Novalis’ Candy Store Phlox series having bragging rights. Trade publications were quick to have articles on the subject and colleagues were even quicker to ask the opinion of anyone who had one. All eager to find out what is hot, talk shop and just try to hurry spring along. Well, spring is finally here and for my money a plant that will be part of our container garden scene, on our back patio, originally came from Germany.
Hydrangea has been around forever, but not these! Cityline Hydrangea is a fairly new series that is sure to captivate the market. Maybe not the way that Endless Summer did years ago; let’s face it that is a great name and the repeat “blooming thing” made it fool-proof for knowing, or not knowing, when to cut a hydrangea back. Cityline types are also forgiving about knowing when to do this. They don’t seem to care and nor should you since their diminutive stature really never needs to be pruned. However, if you were so inclined, it would be best to prune these after they bloom, no later than mid August, allowing time for the flower buds to form before winter. This new series has what growers and homeowners want. They only reach 1-3 feet in height and they get huge flower heads held on sturdy stems. After all, isn’t the flower everything when you want a hydrangea?
I mentioned the origin was Germany. Plant breeders Franz-Xaver and Konrad Rampp are credited with that, but Proven Winners Color Choice has the licensing. The series has 6 types that I know of. Cityline Berlin –Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Berlin Rabe’ pp# 10, 912 is the largest and fastest grower of the series. Rich, rosy-pink flower heads are accented with fresh green color and glossy, dark green leaves. Cityline Mars-Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Ramars’ has unique bi-colored flowers (pinkish-red and white). Again, large, showy blooms and excellent mildew resistance, the flowers take on an attractive green as they age in the summer. Cityline Paris-Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Paris Rapa’ pp# 10,906 also has monster flowers that emerge green and red, but mature to a dark pink-red. Cityline Rio-Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Raga’ has the best blue colored flowers with an attractive green eye as it’s opening and glossy foliage. Cityline Venice-Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Venice Raven’ pp# 10,928 has flowers that emerge green and fuchsia, but with acid soil or grown in a container, with a touch of aluminum sulfate, you can appreciate large blue flowers. Finally, Cityline Vienna-Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Vienna Rawi’ pp# 10,930 has thick stems with flowers emerging green, finishing a clear pink. Again, aluminum sulfate changes its outward appearances to blue.
Hardy to zone 5, the bloom time of these ornamentals is targeted from early summer to fall. These deciduous, Bigleaf beauties benefit from keeping them moist and do bloom on old wood. Full to partial sun is best for Cityline types and some protection from winter winds wouldn’t hurt. Amend your soil with peat moss, leaf mold or compost to ensure a great start. Previously noted, while each is a different shade of pink or blue, that is dependant upon the pH of your soil. I would not say that there is any significant fall color; rather the foliage simply holds its glossiness. But, who really cares about fall color when you have tidy, bundles of hydrangea spitting flowers all summer, held on thick stems. Today you have tons of hydrangeas to choose from, both historical and remontant. Your choice to accept these little wonders as any part of your garden will surely not disappoint. Your friends will think you are a great gardener with a green, pink or blue thumb. They don’t need to know you had a little help from Franz and Konrad. Oh, one last note, in Europe growth regulators are prohibited by growers. That being said, this in fact is a true dwarf series saying goodbye to the tired, floppy, weak-stemmed hydrangea and hello to the sturdy, tight hydrangea, free of chemicals.