Whether you are looking for something shapely and colorful to fill a space in your landscape, or a plant to complete or start your brand new garden, there is no question that out there somewhere is a plant to fulfill everyone’s needs. Tall or short, plump or slender, mounding or climbing – there really is no shortage of choices. It is often easy to become focused on what blooms and blossoms can bring to your spring and what the summer and fall color will look like, even the wonderful green shades that can persist all through winter with smatterings of brightly colored berries. But what of flowers that arrive late to the party but bring with them the very best display that lasts all the way into winter? It is entirely possible that the thought of a plant like this has not even crossed your mind, so how very fortunate that we are able to offer you ‘Tardiva’ which does exactly this. The wonderful flowers appear much later than others in this family, and yet there is nothing sacrificed for this in the loveliness of color or shape.
If allowed to develop its shape naturally this shrub will grow to around twelve feet tall and up to ten feet wide, and is loose in its form which allows a lovely movement to the stems and foliage. The dark green matt leaves can be up to six inches long with a slightly jagged serrated edge, which along with the grooved upper face gives a nicely textured background to the dramatic flowers. These bright white flower lances will appear in the middle of summer and each panicle bears both fertile and infertile flowers. The large flat four-petal flowers are the sterile ones, and these give the impression of cabbage white butterflies that have taken up permanent residence on the bush; behind these are the fertile flowers which are small and fluffy. These two elements alone give a lovely well-spaced texture, but there is a third which is slightly more unusual; not all of the flower buds open so these never become the extremely dense flower heads that some of its cousins bear, and could be considered to be far more interesting with the different shapes they present.
When looking for the perfect position there is not much to take into consideration as the ‘Tardiva’ is very easy to grow and has few specific requirements. For the best floral displays it is always better to place in full sun allowing six hours exposure a day, but they will still fare well in partial shade if this is not an option open to you. Well drained soil is a must as the only thing it does not like is soggy roots, so no boggy bits and no overwatering; aside from that there is nothing else the soil needs to offer.
When it comes to pruning you have a few choices. The first is the obvious ‘leave it alone’ method which is certainly the easiest, and will see a fun, funky and slightly unruly shrub develop over time. The second will help the development of larger flower heads but still would not be considered time consuming; in winter, cutting back the hydrangea right back to the ground means that the new growth will bear such large flowers that the stems may bow with the weight of them. A happy middle is best – a moderate prune that maintains some of the older wood as the blooms develop on the new growth. This third option will give you the most picture-book effect of the tree by allowing only one woody stem to develop, bringing a tree form into play. There are some extremely good videos out in the wilds of the internet that will show you how best to achieve this beautiful and dramatic structure, which is arguably well worth the effort as it gives a denser appearance with the lovely white blooms perched atop.
Introducing large shrubs into your landscape can sometimes be intimidating and often requiring a lot of effort, which is why ‘Tardiva’ is a great addition to any garden with its easy care-free nature that does not demand much of you at all. It will bring a shock of brilliant white blooms well past the point that most other plants have set in for winter and these lovely flowers will bring a wealth of winged wildlife to your garden.