Along the time when tea was dumped into the Boston harbor to protest Britain’s rule over the colonies, naturalist William Bartram filled his breakfast tea cup in the Carolina Piedmont. It was the 1770’s. He sat reviewing his plant journals recently inked while traveling throughout southeastern North America.

One spectacular native plant he observed and published in his Travels chronicle is the Oakleaf Hydrangea. (Hydrangea quercifolia).

Every fabulous native plant garden needs a variety of leaf textures and sizes.

Use Oakleaf Hydrangea’s coarse, deep green foliage to structure your shrub border, for massing or semi-shady settings.  Normally 4 to 8 feet tall; spreading as wide and wider as it travels with its roots.

A compact form of the Snow Queen variety is  Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Pee Wee . It’s got a more refined look at 2 to 3 feet tall and wide and fits well into many gardens.

I can’t decide which – the huge color-changing flowers, or the seasonally varying foliage color I like better.  It’s really a toss-up.

As the summer progresses, the upright showy white flower clusters change to purplish pink and finally brown.

Oakleaf Hydrangea Snow Queen

Oakleaf Hydrangea 'Snow Queen'

Be prepared for the oo’s and ah’s from the spectacular fall foliage show. Shades of red, orangish- brown and purple are set against an attractive rich exfoliating cinnamon brown bark.

Put diseases and insect problems out of mind with Oakleaf Hydrangeas. This species is quite trouble-free. But it is not easy to grow in containers where it’s susceptible to leaf blight.

I’ve planted Oakleaf Hydrangeas in three different areas in my garden. Those located in a moist area with eastern morning sun and shade in the afternoon do far better than plants in exposed, dry, full sun situations. Those tend to get stressed early in the season and show premature fall coloring as early as August.

Just like our early Colonist’s, dare to be a rebel and plant some Oakleaf Hydrangeas. The generations will thank you for it!

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