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Native Mississippian Wins Top Honors
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
A Mississippi native has garnered top honors for the spring of 2000. When plants pour in from places like Australia, China and Japan, it is refreshing to announce one of the most beautiful shrubs in the United States, the oakleaf hydrangea, as a Mississippi Medallion winner.
This is the first shrub to be given the award in the five-year history of the Mississippi Medallion program. The oakleaf hydrangea has many outstanding landscape attributes making it a choice selection from north to south.
The 12-inch long, white blossoms adorn this shrub in late spring and early summer and are well suited for cutting and drying. To dry the flowers, place cut stems in a large vase of water. Keep the vase full of fresh water until the flowers dry, which may take several weeks. The stems then can be used in arrangements with dried mop head hydrangeas or other preserved flowers.
The oakleaf hydrangea was made for the partial shade border. It works as a specimen planting or can be placed in front of larger evergreen shrubs like the new Red Holly Hybrids.
Their prettiest use, however, may be grouped around the trunks of large trees. Some of the most beautiful sites in nature are along river and creek banks where the branches bend over and their white flowers reflect light to the fullest.
If long white flowers and handsome green foliage aren't enough, consider that the leaves turn a deep maroon in the fall. This autumn color persists well into the winter, giving the shrub and even longer landscape performance.
Choose a site for the oakleaf hydrangea in partial shade. Prepare a bed by incorporating 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and two pounds of a 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 square feet of planting area. Till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches.
Keep in mind that oakleaf hydrangea can reach heights of 3 to 8 feet. Space plants 4 to 6 feet apart to allow plenty of room. Dig the planting hole three to five times as wide as the rootball but no deeper. Place the oakleaf hydrangea in the hole and backfill with soil to two-thirds the depth. Tamp the soil, water to settle, add remaining backfill, repeat the process and apply mulch.
Feed in late winter by side dressing with a light application of a slow release 8-8-8 fertilizer or something similar. If planted in mass, apply the fertilizer at a rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet of bed space.
Selectively prune immediately after blooming to shape and induce new growth. Keep the oakleaf hydrangea well-watered during the summer and maintain a good layer of mulch.
The native oakleaf hydrangea is outstanding, but look for some terrific named varieties like Snowflake, which has double flowers, and standards like Snow Queen and Harmony. There is also a relatively new selection called Alice that has blossoms that age to pink.
The oakleaf hydrangea is a shrub that will please any homeowner, as well as the ardent native plant lover. Shop now while selections are greatest.