Never judge a book or a bush by it’s cover…
You’ll miss out on some great stories and blooms.

Breathtakingly beautiful hydrangeas can be so frustrating. They don’t like climate change, at least not where blooming is concerned. The shrub is super hardy, but fickle early spring weather with warm and cold fluctuations destroy the forming flower buds hidden inside the stems. Which is why anyone north of Dixie has turned their attention to remontant varieties (a.k.a. rebloomers).

Pink to purple version of Tuff Stuff Hydrangea blooms.

Pink to purple version of Tuff Stuff Hydrangea blooms.

New Tuff Stuff Hydrangea is one of the latest releases that bloom on new and old wood. So let Mother Nature do whatever she cares to, this decadently delicate looking bush will still pump out flowers, even if you had really late frost. Hardy as far north as zone 5a, you can still grow it and enjoy these gorgeous, lacy hydrangea blooms in at least zone 4 with adequate insulation until all threat of frost has passed. Yes, it calls for perhaps ridiculous winter protection maneuvers, but it is possible. I have ensured zone 6 hydrangeas will bloom every summer in wide open farmland of zone (4b)5a using burlap and piles of fallen leaves. Four t-posts at least 12″ taller than the shrub installed a minimum of a foot beyond the widest part of the plant. Secure your burlap  to the posts and fill it to the brim with those leaves you were going to burn. Pack ’em in there good. Don’t take the winter housing off until you know cold weather is totally gone. You’ll have some great stuff for the compost pile once you’ve uncovered your hydrangeas for summer.

Tuff Stuff will always be more dainty than the mophead types. It’s a Hydrangea serrata, or Mountain Hydrangea, which originates in the mountainous regions of China and Japan. They are more pendulous or weeping in habit than the more common ball-type blooming Big Leaf Hydrangeas. The center of the flower head never opens with H. serrata, though the florets that ring it are larger and many times have frilled or cut edges to the petals. Demure they may be, but the display is still wonderful no matter what color they are in your yard.

hydrangea-soil-phYou can count on Tuff Stuff Hydrangea being at least pink, though it will turn blue with the right pH level in the soil. That calls for acidic soil with a pH level of 4.5-5.0 – which means you need to amend the soil around a ‘blue’ hydrangea with aluminum sulfate in many places to get that bodacious blue you’re after. Invest in a pH meter so you can succeed at getting the hue you’re after. Some say that coffee grounds will do the trick. I tried that once. The coffee grounds molded and the flowers stayed pink. Aluminum sulfate. Don’t guess – measure.

Great soil pH: Tuff Stuff Hydrangea serrata in blue to purple.

Great soil pH: Tuff Stuff Hydrangea serrata in blue to purple.

If you’ve always wanted romantic hydrangeas but don’t have the room, Tuff Stuff being a mountain hydrangea, is smaller than many other reblooming varieties. It matures to 2-3 feet high and wide. It’s perfectly happy in a container, as long as you ensure it has consistent moisture and keep it out of the afternoon sun. Even planted in the ground, hydrangeas and that hot late day sun just don’t get along. You can stop them from getting stressed out with full sun in the afternoon in zone 4-5  if they are watered well after lunch, but that makes them high maintenance. The warmer your climate, the more important the suggestion to plant in morning sun only becomes.

A truly beautiful specimen any fan of hydrangeas will want to add to the garden. Tuff Stuff also makes a wonderful low-growing hedge that you’ll never need to shear. One that will bloom from summer through fall. Picture that lining the front walk or separating the lawn from the shade garden.

Trademark & Nomenclature

Tuff Stuff Hydrangea serrata ‘MAK20′ PPAF Can. PP: 4527