Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea by Elaine

Charles Darwin said:  ”It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”    Hydrangea paniculata ‘Renhy’ or Vanilla Strawberry is a beautiful new variety with change.  It can take full sun and reaches a height of 6-7 feet and width of 4-5 feet.  A deciduous shrub (one that loses it’s leaves in the winter) it can take more cold than we can, winter hardy to -30 degrees F, good in zones 4-8.  The best part about this shrub is the change.  The long clusters of flowers start out creamy white, slowly fade to pink and then end with a cheery strawberry red.

I never understand why some people shop for plants that are ever green.  Something that never changes.  A shrub that will remain the same size and shape and color forever and a day.  One might as well build a wall, or a birdhouse, or park a car to block the view.  Plants are living things and their beauty is how they change through time.  The evolution of plants in our own backyards is what makes them fun.  The small surprising changes that occur day to day are a delight.  The transformation of color is amazing.  The growth of a single leaf reminds me  of the efficiency of photosynthesis.  Changing light into energy.  Imagine the energy it takes to grow a full size gunnera leaf or for a douglas fir to reach maturity and tower over our houses.  Plants are cool! (brief pause while I smile and daydream about all of my favorites, there are so many!) Now I’ve lost track of this essay… hydrangeas?

Flower color is an interesting phenomenon in hydrangeas.  For Hydrangea macrophylla, such as mophead hydrangeas, the flower color will vary between pink and blue depending on the acidity of the soil.  Flowers will be blue in acid soils because the plant is able to absorb aluminum sulfate, the essential element in flower color.  In basic or alkaline soils, aluminum sulfate is not accessible to the plant, and it blooms pink.  Most of the hydrangeas in our Northwest neighborhoods are blooming blue, what does that tell you about our soil type?  Hydrangea paniculata (which includes the Vanilla Strawberry variety) are white flowering, not dependent on soil pH for color.  They can change from white to pink to red, but this happens in the fall when temperatures begin to drop.

The root word of hydrangea means water and these plants do not like to dry out.  When it’s hot and they lack water, they can wilt quickly, but recover just as fast when given a drink.  Most hydrangeas are winter hardy in our area, the exception being the evergreen species.

Here I will simplify the mysteries of pruning.  Macrophylla—no!   Paniculata—yes!   H. macrophylla produces flowers on 2nd year growth, so pruning is not necessary, and may actually prevent blooming the following year.  However, each year a few stems may be cut almost to the ground to renew the plant.  The opposite is true with H. paniculata, such as Vanilla Strawberry, which creates flowers on new growth.  Cut back in early spring (like roses) to two or three buds.  This will produce bigger blooms.

And now, one of my favorite quotes from the book Encyclopedia of Hydrangeas by Van Gelderen and Van Gelderen (which has been my #1 resource for this article).  About dried flowers:  ”The best time for cutting the flowers for drying can be heard as well as seen.  You look at the flower color, and you listen to the flower when you gently squeeze it.  If the flower has turned brown, you are too late, and if you do not hear a rustling sound when you squeeze it, you are too early.  Make sure that you are not observed by other people when you press your ear to the flower and squeeze it, for people will make fun of you.”   Written simply and matter-of-factly.  I love the secret life of the hydrangea enthusiast.  Enjoy these delicious, deciduous shrubs!

Fall color

Fall color

Strawberry Vanilla Hydrangea with new blossoms

My Vanilla Strawberry with new blossoms

Written by Elaine Sawyer July 2010
  • Share/Bookmark

2 comments to Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea

  • Trisha Dunn

    Will these plants stand up like the limelight and not fall over? I bought 6 of them to plant becuase they look so gorgeous. I live on a lake and there is alot of wind. They will mainly be on the south side of the house. Since they are so new, no one can really give me an answer…Thank you SO much!

  • My Vanilla Strawberry is only one year old and the branches are bending under the weight of the blooms. I hope as this plant matures, the stems will strengthen and provide more support. Only time will tell, but for now I’ll prop it up with a plant support. I’m just starting to get that beautiful pink color which makes it all worthwhile! Good luck, Elaine

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>