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Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter


Vanilla Strawberry - Hydrangea 



If you like hydrangeas as I do, you should know that we have three main families of hydrangea to choose from for summer and fall color. The most popular--because it will grow everywhere--is the Hydrangea arborescens family, with hybrids like 'Annabelle' and grandiflora; the Hydrangea piniculata family, with hybrids like 'Praecox' and grandiflora; and the Hydrangea macrophylla family, with hybrids like 'Nikko Blue', lacecap, and 'Pia.' There are other species but these are the most popular species types grown around our homes today.

About 10 years ago, plant breeders began to look at the possibility of creating new hybrids for us and the Hydrangea macrophylla family was chosen. This family already had white, pink and blue hybrids available but most were not winter hardy for the colder climates in the northern part of the country, so the plant breeders got busy to create new varieties that could survive and flower in a colder climate. The results were the new blue hydrangea called 'Endless Summer' that is hardy all over New England and across the country. It was closely followed with 'Blushing Bride,' a hardy pink, and then the new winter-hardy blue lace cap type called 'Twist-n-Shout.' These three plants revolutionized the Hydrangea family forever and nurseries had to ration the plant, as they could not grow them fast enough to meet the demand for several years.

The success was so overwhelming that plant breeders began working on the Hydrangea arborescens family. Two new hybrids were developed with great fanfare because they were able to add pink to the flower, which was always white. The new hybrids are called 'Invincibelle Spirit' and 'Bella Anna.' They became an instant hit because of the unusual color and their ability to be winter hardy across the country. These new hybrids are also available at your local garden center today.

Plant breeders also began working with the Hydrangea paniculata family, and two years ago a new hybrid called 'Pinky-Winky' was released. This new plant is incredible, because it was able to produce a flower that started pure white during July and in August it started to turn pink, then red on the lower part of the flowers, keeping a white tip. This year a new hybrid in the same family has been introduced, called 'Vanilla Strawberry,' and there is only one word for it: "HOT."

Hydrangea paniculata 'Vanilla Strawberry' is even more exciting than 'Pinky -Winky,' but if you like hydrangeas, you will need to have both new hybrids for your garden. The plant was developed in France and the flowers are enormous, up to 12 inches tall and 6 plus inches wide. The plant develop a wonderful pure soft white cone shaped flower during early August, and when the weather begins to cool off at the end of the month you are in for a treat. The lower part of the flower begins to turn soft pink and it moves up the flower until it is all pink. By the time the top is all pink, the bottom has begun to turn red and the flowers look delicious.

If that was not enough, the hydrangea stems that hold the flowers straight up now begin to turn a deep red in color also. The foliage is deep green and the contrast is wonderful with the bright red stems. But wait...there is more, because during September the plant continues to make new flowers that are white! So now, the plant has white flowers, half white and pink flowers, all pink flowers, half pink and red flowers and all red flowers on the same plant with deep green foliage and bright red stems. This plant is SENSATIONAL, a multi-color show of flower August to mid-October. You would think that that was enough for a plant...but there is more.

The stems of the plant are stiff and strong and unlike many other types of hydrangea, the flowers can be cut from the plant and used in fresh flower arrangements without wilting in the vase! In a vase of water, the flowers will outlast most cut flowers and other types of hydrangea, staying in bloom for several weeks. You can also cut the flowers when they reach the coloration you desire, strip off the foliage and hang them upside down in your garage or tool shed to dry. The color will dull a bit but they will keep their shape and character to provide you with a wonderful dry flower for a tall vase, or you can use them to make a wonderful hydrangea wreath.

Plant the hydrangea 'Vanilla Strawberry' in a full sun location garden, but the plant will take a bit of shade late in the day. The better you condition the soil with compost, animal manure and peat moss the more flowers the plant will make for you. The hydrangeas have a lot of foliage and require a steady supply of moisture during the summer months if they are to make flower buds, so I recommend that you also add to the planting hole Soil Moist granules to help keep moisture around the roots as it becomes established in your garden. Water the plant weekly for the first year to help the plant become established. During the summer, water as needed once the plant is established in your garden. They will grow in moist soil except soils that stay wet, especially if puddling occurs and soil ices over during the winter months.

Fertilize in the spring and again in the late summer as the flowers begin to develop to increase the size of the flowers and their numbers on the plant. Use Plant-Tone or Dr. Earth Shrub and Tree plant food with Mycorrhizae, as they are both organic and slow release. Quick releasing fertilizers like 10-10-10 will cause extra-long stems that are weak and unable to hold the flowers upright.

When you plant the hydrangea 'Vanilla Strawberry' in your garden give the plant room to grow, as it will grow 6 to 7 feet tall and spread as much as 4 to 5 feet wide. The plant is very strong and can tolerate wind and cold weather with temperatures down to -30 degrees. The one thing you must do in the fall when the flowers are all finished flowering is to remove the flowers from the plant; prune just below each flower for the winter months. The flowers are large and if you leave the faded flowers on the plant and you have an ice storm or heavy wet snowstorm, the faded flowers will catch the snow and ice and the branches will bend with the weight and possibly break the branches of the plant.

Like most hydrangeas, insect and disease problem are few, making this family of plants that I recommend for your yard the perfect plant. Hydrangeas are great when planted near a deck, patio or pool for lots of color at the time when you're enjoying your day in the garden. They bloom for so long, it will make your other flowering plants secondary and you, like me, will crave more new varieties to enjoy in your garden. You can also plant 'Vanilla Strawberry' or 'Pinky-Winky' hydrangea as a wonderful hedge for privacy because they both grow 6 to 7 feet tall. So plant this hydrangea this summer for wonderful color in your yard right up to a hard frost in the late falls. Enjoy!


Ramblin' Rose - Nat King Cole
Ramblin' Rose - Nat King Cole




 Hydrangea - 'Invincibelle Spirit



Did you know that the number one selling hydrangea in the country is not the blue hydrangea?r With all the talk and hype of the blue hydrangea, you would think that it was, but the white flowering hydrangea called 'Annabelle' is the most grown and planted hydrangea in America. The Latin name for this wonderful plant is the Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle.' It belongs to a group of hydrangeas known as "mop-heads."

At North Carolina State University in Fletcher, North Carolina, Dr. Thomas Ranney has been working hard for many years to develop new hybrid colors of this plant and after over 1000 crosses he has become the first nurseryman to develop a true pink Annabelle-type hydrangea. Once it was a dream of nurserymen and gardeners alike, but today it is a reality. This new hybrid is called hydrangea 'Invincibelle Spirit.'

Hydrangea 'Invincibelle Spirit' got its name this way. "Belle" was taken from Annabelle, " invinci" and "spirit" came from the "spirit" of women who have the "invincible" courage and determination to fight breast cancer. The color of the flower is the color of the ribbon logo to fight breast cancer. The American Nursery Association has joined forces with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and has pledged to raise $1 million dollars for breast cancer research. $1 dollar will be donated for every 'Invincibelle Spirit' sold to help with breast cancer research in America.

If every gardener in America purchases just one plant, it will help researches to prevent breast cancer and help find a cure in our lifetime for this terrible disease. My grandmother died of breast cancer when my mother was just 6 years old, so I never had the pleasure of meeting her. My wonderful Mother-in-law, Ruth Duncan, died in 2005 after fighting breast cancer since 1969. You can bet that my yard has the 'Invincibelle Spirit' hydrangea growing in the garden--and so should yours.

Let me tell you about this plant and how easy it is to grow in your garden. This hydrangea is hardy to minus 40 degrees below zero and it will grow from Maine to Florida and west to Kansas. The flowers begin to form on the plant in June but do not color up until July. They continue to develop on the plant until a hard frost in October. The flowers emerge a dark, hot pink color, then mature to a bright pink, and they even dry on the plant, keeping most of the pink color so you can pick them and display them in a vase for the winter months without any special treatment.

The rounded mop-head shaped flowers can grow from 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Each flower is made up of up to a hundred small individual flowers that are less than an inch wide. Each of these small flowers has four petals, less than 1 inch in diameter and they are arranged to look like a delicate bouquet sitting on top of the plant. This plant will continuously flower from early summer right up until frost--something that few plants can do in your garden!

'Invincibelle Spirit' will grow 3 to 4 feet tall and just as wide in your garden. The foliage is a dark green oval with a point to the tip of the leaf, and small saw-like teeth on its edge. The leaves will grow 2 to 6 inches long, and 3 to 4 inches wide. There is no sheen on the leaf and no fall color, as the leaves fall from the plant green. The plant will grow in a loose mound or clump and branches freely. The plant will grow fast even if you prune it to the ground every fall or early spring to control the size of the plant. 'Invincibelle Spirit' will easily reaches 3 feet tall by June and it will flower every year no matter what you do to it. The flower color is not determined by the acidity level in the soil like the blue varieties are.

Plant this hydrangea in a garden that is located in full sun to partial shade exposure. Your soil will determine the size of the plant and the number of flowers on that plant, so before planting be sure to condition the soil with compost, animal manure and Soil Moist Granules. A rich soil that is well drained and acidic is best for more and larger flower production. If you can cover planting bed with 2 to 3 inches of compost or bark mulch when planting, it will help to hold moisture in the soil during hot dry summers helping the plant to make more flowers. The mulch will also control weeds and help keep roots protected during the cold winter months.

Fertilize in the spring, and if possible in the fall again, with an organic slow release fertilizer such as Plant-Tone or Dr. Earth shrub fertilizer with Pro-biotic. The first year I recommend that you 'use Plant Thrive with mycorrhizae monthly to help the plant get well rooted in your garden.

Pruning is easy for this hydrangea, and like the Annabelle,' it will flower on the new growth, blooms on new wood. Prune in the late fall when all the foliage has come off the plant to control the height and to help thicken the stems. Because the new growth is not strong, the plant will fall over when the flowers are matured and large. Also heavy rain can easily topple stems with large flowers on them. To prevent this, cut the plant back in half and never to the ground. By leaving the old branches on the plant, they will get stronger each year to better hold up the flowers on the plant. Less pruning will give you fewer flowers on the plant but they will be larger, while a hard pruning will encourage a lot of new growth and more smaller flowers.

You can plant hydrangea 'Invincibelle Spirit' in perennial flower beds, as a focal point shrub in front of your home, in masses or groups in your plant beds or as a hedge planting when spaced on 6 foot centers. If you want to get away from all the work that a formal hedge requires along a driveway, a walk way or along the sidewalk, this is your plant. This plant will even recover if a snow plow takes it down to the ground during a rough winter with a lot of snow.

If you remove the faded flowers as they dry up on the plant during the summer months, the plant will continue to produce more new flowers right up until the fall. Cut some of the flowers off your plant during the summer months to put in a vase of water for your kitchen table and the plant will be stimulated to produce more.

Disease and insect problems are few on this plant, as with the original 'Annabelle' hydrangea variety. This is a great plant that anyone can grow in their garden, no matter what their gardening skills are or how much time they have to work out in the yard.

This is a wonderful plant for your garden, as a gift for a friend who would just appreciate all that went into developing this new plant or for someone who is in a fight of their life against this terrible disease. Look at the flowers on this plant and you will see why 'Invincibelle Spirit' is the perfect name for this plant. Enjoy!






Blue and Pink Hydrangea


 I can remember that just over 10 years ago the blue hydrangea was the plant that everyone talked about when they came back from a Cape Cod vacation...and they just had to have one in their garden. Along the coast north to Boston they did beautifully (if the winters were not too severe) but if you lived inland and north the plant grew fine but flowers were few on the plant. The reason was that the best variety at that time, called the 'Nikko Blue' hydrangea, only made flowers on the "old wood," the branches on the plant that were made the previous summer. If the winter was severe, the plant had much die-back of the old wood, so flower production was minimal.

In the late 1990s, Bailey Nurseries in Minnesota found an unusual blue hydrangea plant and started growing it in the nursery's trial gardens. Dr. Michael Dirr from the University of Georgia was visiting the nursery and spotted this unusual plant; he took cuttings back with him for further research and testing. Thanks to Dr. Michael Dirr and Bailey's, we now have this new plant for our gardens. This new blue hydrangea is called "Endless Summer," because it was able to flower on old wood like the 'Nikko Blue' Hydrangea but, unlike the 'Nikko Blue,' it is also able to make flowers on the new growth made during the summer months. This made the plant a true perpetual-flowering hydrangea--the first of its type.

The original hydrangea, 'Nikko Blue,' flowered from late June to middle or late August. This new hybrid made new growth all summer long so it was able to flower until frost in late September, or early October in warmer climates. This gave the plant 8 to 10 weeks of additional flowering time. This new hybrid could also thrive in colder climates, zone 4 to 9, and was hardy to minus 20 to 30 degrees below zero. The 'Endless Summer' hydrangea will grow from southern New Hampshire, Vermont, and Central Maine south to Florida, with some protection in colder locations.

The first thing to remember about blue hydrangeas is to NEVER Prune them in the fall of the year. Pruning the plant in the fall when it becomes dormant will cause problems with every branch you prune, because it has an open wound that will lose moisture all winter and the branches you cut back will slowly dry up and die. In the spring you can cut them back a bit to control the height of the plant and encourage new growth to form from the root system. If you cut back the plant to the ground, you are removing all the flower buds on those branches and the plant will not flower. Remember, old wood has flower buds on it and if you remove all that old growth you are removing the potential flower buds for the coming summer. In the spring the branches look like dead sticks but they are alive; leave them alone!

The new 'Endless Summer' hydrangea loves to be pruned lightly in the spring to control height and spread. If you can prune faded flowers on the plant during the summer, you will encourage additional flower buds to form on the new growth made during the remaining weeks of summer. Do not be scared to cut branches filled with flowers from the plant and put them in a vase of water for your enjoyment. This selective pruning will stimulate new growth on the plant, and in just a few weeks new flowers will form on the new growth being made on the plant.

The 'Endless Summer' blue hydrangea will grow 3 to 4 feet tall and just as wide and in just 2 to 3 years, once planted in your garden. Once the plant has matured and has become well established in your garden, winter protection is less required. The flowers of this new blue hydrangea will grow 4 to 8 inches in diameter, and like all mop head type hydrangeas, 3 to 6 inches tall. Each flower is made up of fifty plus individual flowers about one inch wide; the flowers have five petals arranged in a circular form with a flat center. The flowers can be cut for your favorite vase, dried when in peak color by removing the branch from your plant, stripping off its foliage and hanging it upside down in your garage to dry for a couple of weeks. Dried cut hydrangeas will last inside your home all winter long in a vase or when used to make a wreath.

Plant the blue 'Endless Summer' hydrangea in full sun to partial shade garden for the best flower production on the plant. The plant will grow best in a sandy soil that is well drained; keep the plant out of wet areas or where water tends to collect after heavy rains. This type of garden will form ice and the plant will have a lot of winter dieback during the winter months. If your soil has a bit of clay, be sure to blend peat moss, animal manure or compost to break up the heavy soil before planting. If your soil is very sandy use the same products to help hold moisture in the soil in the root growing area, along with Soil Moist granules.

Because the plant has large leaves and uses a lot of water, it will wilt easily on hot sunny days until it is well rooted in its new home in your garden. Mulching around the plant in your planting bed 2 to 3 inches thick with bark mulch, compost, pine needles or shredded leaves will also help hold moisture in the soil and control weeds during the summer months.

This type of mop head hydrangea is the ONLY plant whose flower color can be changed by controlling the acidity of the soil it grows in. If you keep the soil with a pH of 5.5 or lower, your flowers will range from a clear blue to deep purple, depending on acidity of the soil. This can be accomplished by using aluminum sulfate fertilizer at the rate of one tablespoon per gallon of water applied to the plant every couple of weeks.

If the flower gets to be too deep of a blue color--or even purple--apply a couple of handfuls of limestone or wood ash every spring and fall. If you want to make them more pink than blue, add heavy applications of wood ash or limestone several times during the growing season to raise the soil pH to 6.0 or higher. If you use a high phosphorus fertilizer, it will block out the aluminum fertilizer in the soil from entering the plant, helping to keep the plant on the pink side also.

Fertilize spring and fall with an acid-type fertilizer such as Holly-Tone or Dr. Earth Rhododendron food with Pro-Biotic to encourage uniform growth and flower bud production. When planting new plants in your garden be sure to water every week during the summer for the first two years as plants are slow to get established in your garden. All I want you to remember is that if you live where the winter months are cold, always select the 'Endless Summer' blue hydrangea and never the 'Nikko Blue,' if you want flowers during the summer months. The extra $5.00 will insure that you always have flowers on your plant. Enjoy!


Great Star Paniculata Hydrangea
White Diamond Paniculata Hydrangea
Summer Flowering White Hydrangea

I remember when I was 10 years old and we took a family ride to visit our grandparents who lived in Bangor, Maine. It was not a long ride from central Maine, where we lived, to northern Maine and it was always fun to see our grandparents and play with my grandfather's pool table in his basement. It was early August and one of the reasons we went was to cut some beautiful hydrangea flowers from their two hydrangea trees for my mother.

My mother loved these wonderful flowers and kept them in a vase of water for several weeks and then removed them from the vase to dry in our garage for use in a dried flower wreath for the front door. I remember helping my mother cut the stems nice and long so the flowers could go into her special vase. This year the flowers were huge, almost like a football in size and shape, and my mother was very excited. Nobody knew the name or type of the hydrangea tree, it was just a hydrangea tree, and it was beautiful.

Nine years later I was off to college to learn about plants. During a bi-weekly field trip around campus to look at plants, identify them, some with or without leaves, we came across the hydrangea tree like my grandparents had in their back yard and I got a chance to finally find out its real name. My teacher called it a Hydrangea Paniculata Grandiflora or "peegee" hydrangea, for short, and the mystery was solved. When I was in college in the late 60's and before, the white hydrangea was the king of hydrangeas--not the pink/blue types we have today. Pink and blue hydrangeas lived from Cape Cod south and if you lived north of Cape Cod you grew the white varieties. At that time you had few choices of hydrangea: the peegee bush, a tree form like my grandparents' or the shrub type called 'Annabelle' hydrangea, with big round flowers that did not dry very well, but were beautiful when in bloom.

Today the white Hydrangea Paniculata hybrids are beginning to take over the hydrangea market and are being planted in gardens all over New England and south---especially Northern New England--because of their hardiness and the new and exciting hybrids available. I have two new favorite hydrangea varieties for you to enjoy and plant in your yard this summer. My favorite is called hydrangea "White Diamond" and I like it so much that I planted 10 in a row along my front walkway to create a hedge for summer color. This wonderful hydrangea will grow 4 to 5 feet tall and just as wide but with a spring pruning you can keep it at any height you want--and it ALWAYS flowers, starting in mid-July and lasting well into October no matter how hard you cut back the plant in early spring, and it remains white longer than most other varieties.

The plant is very showy and the panicle-shaped flowers are unique because they contain both male and female flowers in the same flower cluster. The male flowers are large, 4 petaled (1 to 1 -1/2 inches across with unique sunken white veins running through them. They begin as a pale green color but quickly turn bright powdery white in color. These flowers are also called sterile flowers and they fill the flower cone with color. The female flower is very different looking, because it resembles a 5-sided rounded hat about 1/4" in diameter and grows in groups around the male flowers. The female flowers are considered fertile--and will make seeds. I think the best way to describe the cone shaped flowers is to say it looks like a small Christmas tree with layers of both types of flowers that fill the cone.

Unlike my grandparents' hydrangea flowers these are much smaller in size--3 to 6 inches tall and 4 to 5 inches wide at the base before going to a point on the tip. The one thing that makes the White Diamond hydrangea so beautiful is the large quantity of bold conical flowers that grow on the end of every branch and they cover the entire plant. The foliage is dark green, oval with a point. They do not change color in the fall like other shrubs and trees but the flowers are still in bloom, so who needs colorful foliage? The branches have smooth gray bark and are not special looking but they are strong and will hold up in heavy snow unlike the other types of hydrangea, which break easily. The long strong stems make the flowers perfect for cutting, and every home should have a vase full of flowers right now.

'White Diamond' is a multi-stem plant with many stem types on every plant. The plant will grow 12" to 18" every summer before the flowers arrive. Some of the branches grow upright while others grow sideways and some even weep over, giving the plant an interesting shape. Another great quality of this plat is that it will require a lot less water during the summer months than the ball hydrangea types. They will grow in full direct sun all day to part shade and I consider them drought resistant as they use less than half of the water needed by the ball types.

The plant is very hardy and will even grow in zone 3--which gets down to minus 40 degrees--if you cover the ground with a good thick layer of bark mulch or compost 3 inches thick. Fertilize every spring in April with Plant Tone or Dr. Earth Shrub food with Pro Biotic to encourage additional flowers. The plant prefers to grow in average to rich soil, so be sure to add compost, animal manure or seaweed kelp when planting help establish the plants quickly. Tests from nurseries have shown that the plant will also do quite well in a city and will tolerate pollution without damage to the plant. In the fall, as the cold weather arrives and frost frequents your yard, the flowers will turn parchment brown and last on the plant for most of the winter. If you have room for just one new plant this summer in your garden plant the "White Diamond" hydrangea, you will love it all summer long.

This spring I planted a new variety of the Hydrangea Paniculata called 'Great Star' hydrangea; I love the look of this unusual plant. The flower is unique and if you love hydrangeas I guarantee you have never seen anything like the flowers on this plant, which was found in Normandy, France, growing in the garden of Princess Sturdza. The only word to describe this hydrangea flower is "elegant." Its flowers are clusters of creamy white wavy star-shape blooms that grow up to 4 inches long. Each of the 4 flower petals is 2 inches long but only 3/4 of an inch wide--almost in the shape of a cross. Now these are the male or sterile flowers outside the flower cluster and you will also find female or fertile flower petals inside the flower cluster. Now think about this, a flower cluster like a bouquet of large 4 inch wavy star shape flowers that surround the small 5 sided hat-shapes female flower inside the bouquets. Each flower cluster will grow to be 6 to 8 inches in diameter. They make great cut flowers and they also dry well.

The flowers last well into the fall. Compared to the 'White Diamond' hydrangea, the flowers do not last as long in the cold weather but when in flower from July to October it is beautiful. The plant will grow larger--up to 6 to 7 feet tall and wide. It is not quite as hardy as 'White Diamond' but it will tolerate minus 30 degrees below zero when mulched heavy. This plant will grow wonderfully in full sun to partial shade in average to well-conditioned soil--as long as it is well drained. Both plants have no serious insect or disease problems.

Plant as a single plant up against a large evergreen for a wonderful background of evergreen foliage or set them 5 feet apart in a row to create a wonderful tall growing privacy hedge or noise barrier. Both the 'White Diamond' and the 'Great Star' hydrangeas will do very well when planted in large containers on a patio or deck --and if you have a pool these are a "must" plant if you like color all summer long. Who needs annual flowers when you have these two new hydrangeas for color? To me the flower cluster looks like a wedding blue and pink hydrangeas, move over because 'White Diamond' and 'Great Star' hydrangeas are here to stay. If you live north of Cape Cod say to yourself: No hassle, no special demands, no special care, less watering, and they flower every year no matter how harsh the winter is or when you prune them. Now plant one--and enjoy the flowers all summer long!






Strawberry Muffins


Garden Fresh Strawberry Muffins


Dry ingredients:
3 cups of all-purpose flower
1/2 cup of granular sugar
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt


Wet ingredients:
1 3/4 cups of buttermilk
1/3 cup of melted butter
2 eggs , beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 quart of fresh picked and ripe strawberries that are cleaned and chopped.
12 medium whole strawberries that are cleaned and foliage removed


Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Grease muffin pan with spray Pam , paper muffin cups do not work well



Mix flower, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.


Whisk the Butter milk, melted butter, eggs and vanilla extract in another bowl.
Stir wet ingredients into dry mixture until moistened. Stir in chopped strawberries.
Spoon batter mixture evenly into muffin pan.  Push a medium whole strawberry in the middle
of each muffin cup with the point facing up. Now for extra flavor sprinkle a 1/4 teaspoon
 of granulated sugar on top of each muffin  before baking.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove the muffins and serve warm or place on wire rack to cool. 
 If you should have a couple left over muffins place in a storage bag and refrigerate.


Makes 12 muffins


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