Some of Tim's Favorite Hydrangea Macrophylla Cultivars for the North

The photos and descriptions below are excerpted from Tim's book
Hydrangeas in the North

Available for purchase at Tim's e-store or from Amazon
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‘Hamburg’ has become my favorite mophead hydrangea.  Its overall form is dense and rounded, and its blooms tend to be quite large and plentiful, each one made up of hundreds of large, thick, densely packed sepals.  Where some cultivars are very stubborn about changing from pink to blue, ‘Hamburg’ is quite willing and able.  It is also one of the best cultivars for drying, producing the largest and most long-lasting blooms. The lower left photo shows a bloom well on its way to drying on the plant.  Give it another few weeks and the sun will start to dye the sepals burgundy wherever its direct rays touch.

‘Mathilda Gutges’ makes a striking deep blue mophead which dried to a rich antique green.  Its blooms are somewhat small but they are usually produced in abundance.  When Fall hits and all my other hydrangea blooms are faded and tired, this cultivar sets out a whole crop of new blooms to complement it's older blooms, of which most have by then dried to an antique burgundy-purple.  I rank this cultivar very high for the North, although it can have a slight floppiness in its habit.

‘La France’ spends most summers completely covered with blooms when applying my method.  It forms very large mophead blooms of soft lavender purple, formed of numerous clusters of small, smooth, wavy sepals.  Its habit is small and compact.  A wonderful selection that has never failed to bloom abundantly for me, it responds quite readily to attempts to change its color.

The ‘Frau’ series of macrophylla hydrangeas is a very difficult group to pin down.  Aside from the fact that most growers handling these unique cultivars seem to get them mixed up more often than they get them straight, these plants also seem to change their appearance greatly from year to year.  They all have unusual picotee blooms, edged in white.  At a young age, the plants may produce almost pure white blooms, with just a hint of color at the center of each sepal.  As the plants mature, the white band gradually gets more and more taken over with color, though the picotee effect is always very pronounced. ‘Frau Teiko’, an excellent bloomer in the north when employing my method, produces large mophead blooms comprised of smooth, smallish sepals.  Unfortunately, this cultivar is unavailable in the US, at least until its patent runs out in a few years.

is another one of my favorites, especially for growing in the North.  Most summers it is completely covered in blooms when using my method.  Its clusters of geometric, semi-double sepals emerge white-centered, then gradually take on a medium pink or light lavender purple coloration.   It forms a small clump, generally less than 2’ in height, and is densely branched.

‘Lemon Wave’ is by far the strongest blooming variegated hydrangea for the North.  It has large foliage with cream and yellow striping in irregular patterns, an aggressive habit, and large pink lacecap blooms formed easily on lateral buds.  Its large upright form makes it a real standout in the garden.

Bred alongside ‘Hamburg’ and ‘Altona’,
‘Europa’ is another excellent choice for the Northern gardener.  It's large mophead blooms are comrpised of very large, thick, serrated sepals of pink or deep lavender.  They emerge with strong yellow tones before fully coloring-up, then turn to white with overtones of green and blue as they fade.  The faded blooms then dry to deep red and hang on well into the fall, with fresh blooms often emerging in late summer as well.

‘Teller Red’, or ‘Fasan’, is a beautiful red lacecap.  Its blooms often make up a double row of nearly pure red sepals.  It is a smaller scale shrub, densely branched with a nice compact form.  This cultivar never bloomed for me till I started using my method on it.  Once it started blooming, its bloom count increased dramatically with each successive year.  Though its blooms are about as red as a macrophylla can be in neutral soils, this cultivar is also capable of the deepest blue-violet in acid soils.

‘Izu no Hana’
has to be my all-time favorite macrophylla cultivar.  Not bred by human hands, it was instead discovered growing wild on Japan’s Izu Peninsula, which might account for its added hardiness.  It’s a small-scale lacecap with unusual foliage that is very thick, glossy and somewhat twisted in appearance.  Its blooms are composed of hundreds of rather large, tightly-packed reproductive flowers, and its sepals are few but double, and held far away from the central cluster.  It is a wonder to see up close, but is easily lost in the landscape when viewed from far off.  It can produce vibrant pink blooms or the deepest steel blue.

‘Lemmenhof’ is a moderately strong bloomer for the North, and probably has the longest-lasting dried blooms of any cultivar I’ve observed.  I  have a vase in my kitchen with 3-year old blooms from this plant still holding on to their deep scarlet dried coloration.  The fresh blooms of this cultivar open with a very pronounced white center which slowly fills in to a bold pink.   The blooms fade to green before finally coloring up to their intense red (provided the plant is grown with ample sun).

‘Amethyst’ is a beautiful mophead.  Its blooms are smaller, but its sepals are deeply serrated with a fine powdery-sky-
 blue or lavender coloration that keeps for months after the blooms have dried and been harvested.  It’s a smaller-scale plant that has proven to be a terrific bloomer for the North when applying my method.  Its only drawback is in the late appearance of its blooms.