The autumn clearance season at local garden centers is my favorite time of the year, at least when it comes to adding new plants to the garden. I’m in my element as I slowly walk up and down the aisles, searching for a unique plant at the perfect price. I take pride in trying to find the beauty disguised as a half-dead ugly duckling. It’s this time of year where it pays to be able to recognize the difference between death and dormancy.
But sometimes, it doesn’t take any skill to recognize beauty among the shriveled leaves. That was the case yesterday when I spotted a single Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ in the middle of a cluster of shrubs marked 75% off at Prairie Gardens (in Champaign, IL).
Most hydrangeas are prized for their large flowerheads in summer, but aren’t known for fall foliage color (with the exception of Hydrangea quercifolia). With ‘Blushing Bride’, the mophead hydrangeas can be considered right alongside Euonymous, Fothergilla and Viburnum in the realm of great fall-color shrubs.
I’ve planted ‘Blushing Bride’ near the drip edge of a Littleleaf Linden (Tilia americana) in a mixed border behind our garage, in between two lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) and spirea (Spiraea ‘Pink Parasols’). I look forward to its small, green leaves unfurling in spring and its large white inflourescence blushed in pink in summer, but ‘Blushing Bride’ has a place in my garden because of its rich fall color that refused to go unnoticed on that greenhouse bench.