The Limelight Prime panicle hydrangea. (Proven Winners)

The Limelight Prime panicle hydrangea. (Proven Winners)

3 new “pee gee” hydrangeas for gardeners to salivate over

These new shrubs boast better flower color and, in some cases, more compact forms that fit better in smaller gardens.

This happens to me every spring and it drives me crazy.

I am perfectly happy with the plants I have in my garden — until I see the “new and improved” versions out on the market. They all have fancy new features that make them irresistible, and all of a sudden, my established plants start looking dull and underperforming.

It’s not their fault, mind you. They were on the cutting edge at the time I planted them. But now, they are old and I have become keenly aware of all of their faults. They really do get too tall for where they are growing. Their flowers flop just as they get to full bloom. I have to stake them to keep them upright. They bloom late and not long enough. One can only wonder how on earth I ever thought they were garden-worthy in the first place. They simply have to go.

And so it is with my very old ‘Lime Light’ panicle hydrangea that has very large and fluffy flowers that start out chartreuse and mature to white at this time of year. But if I am to be honest with myself, they get too big and flop if I don’t stake them up. At the time I planted it there weren’t many options, but in the ensuing years ‘Little Lime’ came on the market, which boasted all the wonderful flowering traits of ‘Lime Light’ only on a more compact frame, growing to about one-half to two-thirds as tall as its parent.

Now, however, Proven Winners has done a one-up on ‘Little Lime’ with several new introductions to consider. Here are their descriptions for three of them:

‘Limelight Prime’: This hydrangea shares all the same qualities that made the original a success, while also offering:

• A denser, more compact habit that creates a lush, full look in the landscape

• An earlier bloom time, which is especially beneficial in cooler climates like the Pacific Northwest

• Better flower color, from its early summer green phase all the way through autumn’s red and pink tones

• Strong, sturdy stems that won’t flop over, even under the weight of enormous blooms

• A smaller size that works perfectly for home landscapes and gardens

‘Little Lime Punch’: Similar to ‘Little Lime’, its blooms emerge lime green, but they mature a little differently. Flowers change progressively from the bottom up in a gorgeous array of white, light pink, and rich Hawaiian Punch red! As it re-blooms throughout the summer, you’ll see these four colors mix to create a truly memorable show.

‘Fire Light Tidbit’: This is the tiniest, tidiest panicle hydrangea yet: it reaches just 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Big, lush panicles of white flowers appear in early-mid summer, nearly obscuring the textured green foliage. As the summer progresses, they begin to develop bright pink and red tones.

These are only three of the many new hydrangeas on the market this year. While I have focused on panicle (known in the trade as “Pee Gee”) hydrangeas, there are several new introductions in the big leaf or mophead species to be discovered as well. Garden centers are flush with choices when it comes to hydrangeas, so now is the time to check them all out.

As for my old ‘Lime Light’, it is still where it was planted many years ago. Perhaps this winter I will get around to moving it to a new location where it can spread its wings and reach its full potential, uninhibited by the space I have constrained it to. After all, it’s the least I can do, considering all the years of blooms it has given me. As always, stay safe and keep on gardening.

Steve Smith represents Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at sunnysidenursery@msn.com

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