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Plant of the week: Hydrangea serrata ‘Tuff Stuff’

WHY YOU SHOULD PLANT IT

It's that season, when millions of floppy-headed hydrangeas are cluttering up gardens. Hydrangeas are indestructible and therefore a landscaper's dream plant, but there are so many really good ones, so why settle for the same-old same-old? Hydrangea serrata comes from mountainous regions and are therefore much hardier than standard macrophyllas and, as a bonus, will rebloom. This is a relatively new cultivar and the reports on its behaviour are very positive indeed. In general, hydrangeas are good plants to have in one's repertoire because they stand up to weather extremes and don't develop diseases. Even dumb pruning doesn't discourage them. But do choose well and for the ages – not just to fill space.

WHERE TO PLANT IT

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Hydrangeas can put up with both some sun and some shade. It's usually recommended that serratas be kept moist if they are planted in sun. At Lost Horizons in Acton, Ont., they came through last winter's misery under a spruce tree and without additional water, attesting to just how tough they can be. They aren't fussy about soil but more alkaline soil means pinker blooms; an acidic soil will allow the blue tones to appear. H. serrata blooms on new and old wood so any mid-season pruning isn't going to spoil the look. It grows to one metre wide by one metre tall in Zone 5.

WHAT IT OFFERS

Reblooming shrubs of any ilk are to be treasured. This one blooms in early summer with semi-double to double flowers that open in a creamy shad and mature to an intense pink and carry on deliciously right up to hard frost. It can be pruned for shape or weakness after the first spate of blooms are finished, producing a shrub that would grace any patio, balcony or border just about perfectly. The size and the beauty of the lace-cap flowers make it an ideal container plant. (Planting perennials in containers will give a garden structure and create some winter interest – always a good idea.) This one would be perfect as a moment on its own.

SOURCE AND COST

Get it for $27 at specialty nurseries such as Lost Horizons (www.losthorizons.ca).

For more plant and garden information, visit www.marjorieharris.com.

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