First Editions® Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form

The First Editions® Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Renhy’) is a stunning ornamental plant that combines the beauty of a hydrangea with the structure of a small tree. Bred in France, it is one of the first panicle hydrangeas to display incredible shades of pink and strawberry red as the flowers age.

Appearance

The most striking feature of this hydrangea is its large, cone-shaped flower panicles. Each panicle can reach up to 12-16 inches long and 7-8 inches wide at the base. The flowers start to appear in mid-summer, typically in July.

When the blooms first open, they are a creamy white color, similar to vanilla ice cream. As the weeks pass, a stunning transformation begins. Starting from the bottom of each panicle and gradually moving upward, the florets begin to change color.

The first shift is to a soft, blush pink. This delicate shade spreads up the panicle, creating a beautiful bicolor effect with the remaining white florets on top. As summer turns to fall, the pink deepens to a vibrant raspberry or strawberry red hue. By September, the panicles are a rich, eye-catching red that persists until frost.

Adding to the ornamental appeal are the red stems that bear the flower panicles. The contrast of the red stems against the green foliage and the evolving flower colors creates a truly stunning display.

The Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea is expertly trained into a tree form. It features a single, sturdy trunk that rises several feet before branching out into a rounded canopy. The trunk is covered in a light brown bark that becomes slightly exfoliating with age.

The canopy is filled with lush, dark green leaves that provide a perfect backdrop for the showy blooms. Each leaf is ovate in shape, with serrated edges and prominent veins. In autumn, the leaves take on attractive red and burgundy tones before falling.

At maturity, this hydrangea tree reaches an impressive height of 6-8 feet, with a canopy spread of 5-7 feet. Its size and unique form make it a true focal point in any landscape.

From the creamy white blooms of mid-summer to the strawberry red panicles of fall, the changing colors of the First Editions® Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form provide months of breathtaking beauty. Combined with its lush foliage, red stems, and attractive tree shape, this hydrangea is a one-of-a-kind ornamental specimen.

Growing Conditions

Sun Exposure

This hydrangea tree thrives in full sun to light shade conditions. Ideally, it should receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day for optimal growth and flowering. In particularly hot climates, providing some afternoon shade can be beneficial to prevent leaf scorch and excessive moisture loss. However, too much shade will result in reduced flowering and a more open, leggy growth habit.

First Editions® Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form

Soil

Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea prefers well-drained, fertile soils. It can tolerate a range of soil types as long as there is adequate drainage. Consistently moist soil is essential for healthy growth and abundant blooms. Waterlogged or soggy conditions should be avoided as they can lead to root rot. F

or best performance, amend the planting area with compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility and structure. A slightly acidic to neutral soil pH is ideal, but this hydrangea is adaptable to various pH levels. The soil pH does not affect the flower color of panicle hydrangeas like it does with other hydrangea species.

Watering

Maintaining consistent soil moisture is key for the Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form. Water deeply and regularly, especially during the first growing season as the plant establishes its root system.

Provide approximately 1 inch of water per week, either through rainfall or supplemental irrigation. During periods of extreme heat or drought, more frequent watering may be necessary to prevent stress and wilting. A layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant helps conserve soil moisture and regulate soil temperature.

Climate and Hardiness

The First Editions® Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form is hardy in USDA zones 4-8. It can tolerate winter temperatures down to -30°F (-34°C) when fully dormant. In zone 4, provide a layer of winter protection such as straw or leaves around the base of the plant to insulate the roots from extreme cold.

Some varieties of panicle hydrangea are even hardier, tolerating zone 3 conditions with adequate winter protection. However, late spring frosts can sometimes damage the emerging buds and impact flowering, especially in colder regions.

Fertilization

Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea benefits from a light fertilization in early spring to support healthy growth and abundant flowering. Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer formulated for flowering shrubs.

Avoid over-fertilizing as this can lead to excessive leafy growth at the expense of blooms. Alternatively, topdress the soil around the plant with a layer of compost or well-rotted manure in spring. This provides a gentle, long-lasting nutrient supply throughout the growing season.

By providing the right combination of sun, well-drained soil, consistent moisture, and light fertilization, your First Editions® Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form will thrive and deliver a spectacular display of color-changing blooms from mid-summer through fall.

Pruning and Maintenance

Pruning Timing

Panicle hydrangeas, including the Vanilla Strawberry™ variety, bloom on new wood. This means that the flower buds form on the current season’s growth. As a result, the best time to prune is in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins.

Avoid pruning in late fall or early winter, as this can remove the buds that have already formed for the following season’s blooms. Pruning too late in spring can also reduce flowering by cutting off the developing buds.

Pruning Technique

The main goal of pruning the Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form is to maintain its attractive shape and promote healthy growth and flowering. Start by removing any dead, damaged, or diseased branches back to the nearest healthy bud or main stem.

Next, focus on shaping the canopy. Cut back the stems by approximately 25-50% of their length to maintain a rounded, compact form. Make the cuts just above a pair of healthy buds, which will become the new growth points.

As you prune, step back regularly to assess the overall shape and symmetry of the canopy. This allows you to make adjustments as needed to achieve a balanced, aesthetically pleasing form. It’s important to remove any shoots or suckers that appear on the main trunk. These can divert energy from the canopy and compromise the tree-like structure of the plant.

Cut them off flush with the trunk to maintain a clean, single-stemmed appearance.

Deadheading

Deadheading, or removing the spent flower panicles, is not necessary for the Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea. The blooms remain attractive even as they age and provide winter interest in the landscape. However, if you prefer a tidier appearance, you can remove the faded panicles in late fall or winter.

Watering and Mulching

In addition to pruning, regular watering and mulching are essential for the health and vigor of your Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree. Water deeply and consistently, especially during dry spells, to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Apply a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant, keeping it a few inches away from the trunk. This helps conserve soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth. Replenish the mulch as needed throughout the growing season.

Fertilization

Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea benefits from a light fertilization in early spring to support healthy growth and abundant flowering. Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer formulated for flowering shrubs, following the application rates on the product label.

Alternatively, you can topdress the soil around the plant with a layer of compost or well-rotted manure in spring. This provides a gentle, long-lasting nutrient supply throughout the growing season.

By following these pruning and maintenance guidelines, you’ll ensure that your First Editions® Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form maintains its stunning tree-like shape, produces an abundance of color-changing blooms, and remains a healthy, vibrant focal point in your landscape for years to come.

Landscape Uses

The First Editions® Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form is a versatile accent plant that provides stunning vertical interest in the landscape. Some ideas for incorporating it into your yard include:

Entryway or Patio Focal Point

The Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form makes a stunning focal point near a home’s entrance or patio area. Its unique form and color-changing blooms draw the eye and create a welcoming atmosphere. Plant it in a prominent spot where it can be easily seen and appreciated by visitors and passersby.

For maximum impact, consider pairing it with lower-growing perennials or annuals in complementary colors. A bed of white or pale pink flowers, such as petunias or impatiens, can echo the creamy tones of the early-season blooms. As the hydrangea’s flowers shift to pink and red, the companion plants can be changed out for burgundy or purple varieties to harmonize with the new hues.

Light Shade Provider

While the Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form prefers full sun, its broad canopy can provide dappled shade for a small seating area or children’s play space. Its compact size is well-suited to urban courtyards or patios where a bit of light shade is welcome on hot summer days.

Position a bench or a couple of chairs beneath the hydrangea’s canopy to create a cozy spot for reading, relaxing, or enjoying a cool drink. The evolving flower colors will provide a charming backdrop throughout the summer and fall.

Container Specimen

The tree form of this hydrangea lends itself well to container culture. Planting it in a large, decorative pot can add a touch of elegance to a front entrance, porch, or patio. Choose a container that is at least 24 inches in diameter and has adequate drainage holes.

Fill the pot with a high-quality, well-draining potting mix and ensure that the hydrangea receives regular watering and fertilization. The container can be moved to different locations throughout the seasons to optimize sun exposure or to provide a colorful accent where needed.

Unique Screening Effect

While a single Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form is a show-stopper on its own, planting several of them in a row can create a unique and effective screening solution. Space the plants 4-6 feet apart, depending on the desired density of the screen.

As the hydrangeas grow and fill in, their canopies will merge to form a continuous hedge-like effect. The elevated canopies allow for underplanting with shade-loving perennials or groundcovers, maximizing the use of garden space.

This type of screening is ideal for creating privacy along a property line, disguising utility areas, or defining different zones within a landscape. The changing flower colors will add an extra dimension of interest to the screen throughout the growing season.

Specimen Plant

In a mulched garden bed, the Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form can serve as a stunning specimen plant. Its height, unique form, and vibrant blooms will draw the eye and provide a vertical accent among lower-growing shrubs and perennials.

To showcase the hydrangea, give it plenty of room to grow and develop its full canopy. Surround it with a mix of complementary plants that will not compete for attention. Ornamental grasses, low-growing evergreens, and groundcovers in shades of green or silver can provide a soothing backdrop for the hydrangea’s colorful display.

Small-Space Solution

The compact size of the Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree Form makes it an excellent choice for small urban lots, courtyard gardens, and other limited-space landscapes. Its narrow footprint allows it to fit into tight corners or narrow beds where a full-sized flowering tree would be overwhelming.

In these intimate settings, the hydrangea’s color-changing blooms and attractive form can be appreciated up close. It can serve as a focal point, a privacy screen, or a container specimen, depending on the needs of the space.

Its compact size makes it well-suited for small urban lots and courtyard gardens where a full-sized flowering tree may be too overpowering.

In Summary

With its elegant tree form, vibrant color-changing blooms, and easy care requirements, the First Editions® Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea Tree is a show-stopping addition to any landscape. Whether used as a single accent or grouped for greater impact, this one-of-a-kind hydrangea is sure to be a conversation starter from mid-summer through fall.

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