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Hardy hydrangeas for your garden

The winter season finds me browsing through garden catalogs and magazines, searching for the next best perennial plant to add to my garden. The full color photos highlight spectacular perennials that, alas, are hardy to zone 5 or 6. (Considered to be very northern, cold zones by my southern friends, but intolerant of our frigid Minnesota winters.) Some years, there just doesn't seem to be anything exciting to add that will survive here, but this year, I think I may have found the plant to purchase: the new Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea.

I know, hydrangeas have been around a long time, but, for the most part, we dyed-in-the-wool Minnesota gardeners have to be satisfied with white (or lime green) varieties. Annabelle, PeeGee and Lime Light are all hardy to zone 3, but all these hydrangeas are white. The new line of Endless Summer hydrangeas come in pink and blue, but they are, at most, hardy to zone 4. (Remember, every five years or so we have a zone 3 winter. All those zone 4 perennials you have purchased and planted will need extra protection to survive those cold times.) Invincibelle Spirit seems to be the answer to my prayers!

Invincibelle is basically an Annabelle hydrangea with rose-colored blooms. It is hardy with a capital "H," has a strong upright form, and is covered with large flowers from early summer to frost. Dark pink buds bloom to hot pink flowers that fade to soft pink with age, finally changing to green at the end of their flowering. (Their bloom color is not affected by soil pH.)

These hydrangeas are low maintenance plants that bloom in full sun to part shade and grow best in moist, well drained soil. Unlike many other hydrangeas, this hybrid blooms on new wood, so even if it dies back to the ground in winter, you are guaranteed blooms in the summer.

Each bloom is 6 to 8 inches in diameter, and it re-blooms without the need for deadheading. The mature shrub is a nice size: 3 to 4 feet wide and 3 to 4 feet tall. The only drawback is that it takes several years in the garden to reach full maturity. The stems of immature plants may need some support, as they may not be strong enough to hold the large blooms upright.

As the plant matures, stem strength increases and supports the blooms quite nicely. The amount and size of flowers also increases as the plant matures. In August 2010, Invincibelle Spirit hydrangea was awarded "Best in Show" at the Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago. What makes this plant extra special is its mission to end breast cancer. $1 from each Invincibelle Spirit sold is donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Invincibelle Spirit is part of the Proven Winners collection and is available through select retailers and catalogs nationwide. For a complete list, visit

If you've tried a new perennial, or heard of a variety that's exciting and new, tell me about it! You can contact me at the Douglas County Extension Office at (320) 762-3890.

Until next time, happy gardening!

"From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens: the garden outdoors, the garden of pots and bowls in the house, and the garden of the mind's eye."

- Katherine S. White