Popular US ferns rare in UK
Interview with photographer judywhite

One hydrangea – two very misleading names

HydrangeaFlairs&FlavoursTwoOK, two new reblooming lacecap hydrangeas. Reblooming lacecaps? Great. One is pink, the other is blue. Ideal. They’re called Hydrangea macrophylla (Flair&Flavours) Cotton Candy ('MAK20'), that’s the pink one, and Hydrangea macrophylla (Flair&Flavours) Blueberry Cheesecake ('MAK20'), that’s the blue one. (Left, click to enlarge.) OK, their names are a little heavy going but it sounds as if they’d make a very pretty pairing in the garden, they tend to be semi-double, too. Both are offered by the top-rated UK mail order nursery Crocus.

The problem is: THEY'RE THE SAME PLANT! One has been treated in its pot to make the flowers blue, and the other has not so its flowers are pink. Once they settle down in your garden they’ll both end up the same colour – which will depend on the acidity or alkalinity of your own soil. Not surprising since they’re the same variety. That’s a bit of a con, don’t you think?

The clue is in the way the names are presented. (Flair&Flavours) Cotton Candy and (Flair&Flavours) Blueberry Cheesecake are selling names, Trade Designations as the botanists have it (which have to be presented in a different typeface). BUT both have ‘MAK20’ in brackets and this is the plant breeder’s cultivar name. I only found out about this because I contacted Crocus to say that I thought they’d got their text wrong, giving the name ‘MAK20’ to both plants. But, as they told me, they’re selling the one plant under two completely different names!

In North America the same plant is offered by Proven Winners, they call it Tuff Stuff because by American standards it’s unusually hardy. Fair enough. And they only offer it once.

But I really think Crocus need to think again. They have some excellent new plants available this autumn, and I’ll be featuring some of them over on my RHS New Plants blog; I’ve written up their new spine-free mahonia already. But not these hydrangeas – sorry, THIS hydrangea. [The fact that they're almost certainly forms of Hydrangea serrata, and not Hydrangea macrophylla, hardly comes into it...]

British gardeners can order Hydrangea macrophylla (Flair&Flavours) Cotton Candy ('MAK20') from Crocus. They can also order the same plant as  Hydrangea macrophylla (Flair&Flavours) Blueberry Cheesecake ('MAK20') from Crocus. North American gardeners can order what they call Hydrangea serrata Tuff Stuff ('MAK20') from a number of North American suppliers.