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Brilliant summer foliage colour

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey', with wonderful yellow spring and summer foliage. Image ©GardenPhotos.com (all rights reserved)For bright yellow summer colour we tend think about, well… daylilies, dahlias, perennial sunflowers and rudbeckias, verbascums, echinaceas…perhaps even marigolds. But this shrub, shorter growing than many of those perennials, has brought the garden this wonderful rich yellow foliage since the spring. And come fall, it re-invents itself in rich new tones.

Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’ (left, click to enlarge) has been growing in a well prepared, slightly acid, partially shaded bed for about six or seven years now – I said back in 2007 that I was going to move it, but somehow this failed to happen. It grew slowly at first, more quickly recently, and has reached about 4ft/1.2m across one way, 21/2ft/75cm across the other way and it’s a little over 2ft/60cm high. Very manageable.

With its slightly pink-tinged new shoot tips, it looks good in spring with blue or purple flowered woodland phlox which peep through the spring leaves. In the autumn, the plant is transformed as the foliage turns rich wine red (below, click top enlarge) before leaving us with red winter Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey', in its rich autumn colours. Image ©GardenPhotos.com (all rights reserved)stems.

But there’s something else unusual about this plant. It was found, in 1999, as just one yellow-leaved branch on a plant of H. quercifolia ‘Pee Wee’ growing on a nursery in Washington State. But it was also found the following year, as just one yellow-leaved branch on a plant of H. quercifolia ‘Pee Wee’ growing on a British nursery.

The two plants were compared, found to be identical, and as it happens both parent plants had been propagated by tissue culture in the same American laboratory. So it was agreed that the two-yellow leaved plants could have the same name. Otherwise we would have been in a real muddle.

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