Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Semmes Beauty’
On the cusp of Hydrangea bloom season, the first plants showing blooms are Hydrangea quercifolia. As noted in Andrew Bunting’s article Humbler Hydrangeas in the May/June 2014 The American Gardener, oakleaf hydrangeas “flower most prolifically in fertile, loam soil and full sun” in the garden setting. Currently busting with long, white flowerheads is H. quercifolia ‘Semmes Beauty’.
Planted as a border plant along the edge of the Terry Shane Teaching Garden, the huge conical flower panicles are greeting visitors as they enter the garden from McCabe Library. These early summer ivory flowers age to a rose-pink throughout the summer. They then dry to a soft tan or brown. The dried heads look great in fall arrangements.
As indicative of the oakleaf hydrangea, the foliage turns a striking crimson and bronze-purple in the fall. In the winter, the flaking cinnamon-orange bark and dried flowerheads add interest to the cold stark landscape.
In addition to the multi-seasonal interest of this plant, ‘Semmes Beauty’ was selected for its tolerance of southern heat and humidity. It can be grown in partial shade to full sun.