It is good fun planning your garden; working out what you want where, searching the internet trying to identify that plant that you saw once in some place you can’t quite remember but that definitely had nice white flowers, and learning about the type of soil you have and what you are actually able to grow. Some plants are notoriously picky in the requirements and demand time and energy that modern life does not really allow us, often these are the spectacular and showy plants that we really want to drama and sculpture to our landscape. How very fortunate then for the existence of plant like this hydrangea Fire & Ice! Easy to grow, tolerant of full sun but appreciate a little bit of shade all they ask of you is not to dry out and some good quality soil. This spectacular example of modern breeding techniques has modernized the hydrangea yet retained many of the things that have been much loved over their history. Perfect for the cottage style garden, you can expect an abundance of butterflies over the spring and summer months.
Hydrangeas are actually native to southern and eastern China, Korea, Japan and Russia though they are now a common sight all over the world with many different shapes and sizes. These are well recognized flowers despite the many different options available. From small clusters, to giant pom-poms and great flowered conical spikes, to ground cover and climbing vines, small trees and all sizes of shrub, you are pretty much guaranteed to find a hydrangea for almost any part of your garden. The Fire & Ice variety offers a different element again to all other examples. Growing to around four feet tall and often as wide – although it has been known to reach heights of 10 feet – this is a dense and compact shrub, with deep green clearly veined oval leaves that are matt in texture and very numerous. The stems are a rich red wine color and provide an extra depth to this interesting plant, but of course, what everyone talks about are the remarkable flowers. Called ‘panicles’, these shootout of the foliage and stand proud of the body of the shrub. Each panicle, or spike, bears a multitude of small flowers with four petals. On first appearing in spring they are an almost greenish white but as the season progresses it changes its color they move through shades of pink to a rich and deep reddish purple with this last shade coming right into fall adding texture and color when other plants have long since dropped their flowers.
This particular hydrangea is probably one of the most hardy there is and will flourish in a wide range of conditions tolerating alkaline, acidic and neutral soil. The planting site should have rich soil and be well drained but not dry. There is no need to worry about its reaction to pollution as it simply is not bothered by it; something that is always has to be considered when choosing your plants.
The best time for planting out is early spring as the ground will be moist enough for the roots to establish themselves. It can be planted later in the year but you will need to water it more frequently. In the hot months it is important to water at least twice a week and in more ‘normal’ conditions at least once a week. Flowering occurs on new growth, so any pruning is best done in early spring, cutting back the previous seasons shoots to within a few buds of the established and permanent growth. If you would like a more compact and controlled shrub or you want to keep the size down, then this is a good technique; it also allows tub planting so your Fire & Ice can grace your patios and balconies.
Fertilizer can be added throughout the year and as it is important to keep moisture in the soil, it is recommended that a layer of mulch is placed at the base of the plant and on the soil surrounding it.
All it in all it is difficult to go wrong with the Fire & Ice cultivar and it will bring you a lovely honey scent and fabulous striking flowers for what seems like very little effort. Just be sure that when you choose your position you put it somewhere that you can appreciate it on a daily basis so as to observe the changes in color, don’t put it out of sight where only the neighbors will see it as you will miss out on all the fun.