‘Semmes Beauty’ Shines

My 3 year old 'Semmes Beauty' on left grows in my garden beside an established 15 year old oakleaf hydrangea.

The oakleaf hydrangeas are gradually coming into bloom.  All are still showing a good bit of green color except for the lovely and precocious ‘Semmes Beauty’.

Instead Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Semmes Beauty’ is in full glorious bloom.  The flowers are much larger than the norm and are a gleaming pristine white.

There is a reason why this wonderful plant blooms so much earlier than the other oakleaf hydrangeas.  I have been told that it was selected by the late Mr. Tom Dodd, Jr.  from a wild population near Semmes, Alabama.  The small town of Semmes is just a few miles from Mobile and is a community of nurseries.

Since ‘Semmes Beauty’ comes from the Deep Deep South it usually blooms about two weeks earlier than the wild oakleafs here and may bloom as much as a month earlier than a cultivar such as ‘Snow Queen’ (which hails from New Jersey).

I bought ‘Semmes Beauty’ from Mark Bronstad who manages a wholesale nursery in east Texas.  Mark thinks that ‘Semmes Beauty’ is a superior selection but as a nurseryman, he loves it most because it is easy to root from cuttings.

It's easy to see 'Semmes Beauty' from the deck above. My husband keeps stopping on the stairs to ask "What IS that?"

It seems to be a very vigorous plant to me.

My ‘Semmes Beauty’ is planted in terrible soil but has outgrown other oakleaf hydranges that were planted at the same time.  It is rapidly catching up with oakleafs in the area that have been in the ground for 10+ years longer.  Perhaps the ease in rooting makes it quicker to establish.

It is always described as being heat tolerant.  Go figure – it is from Semmes, after all.  If you live in Semmes and are not heat tolerant, you die!

Some references even list it as sun tolerant.

All in all it is such a great plant that I am writing about it in the hope that if I rant about it enough, it will become more widely available.  Right now, I can’t find a single retail mail order nursery that is selling it.

I did find 3 wholesalers who grow it – one in east Texas, one in south Alabama and one in North Carolina.

So… if you live in the south, it is out there somewhere.  It is languishing in a retail garden center just waiting to get in the car with you and go home.

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10 Responses to“‘Semmes Beauty’ Shines”

  1. debra king says:

    Now I want one. I’m needing something purdy for pine woods.

  2. Shirley Dawkins says:

    So far i have not had any luck in rooting Harmony—–but, still trying.

    Shirley D.

  3. yardflow says:

    Gaye, I also noticed that Bobby Green at http://www.greennurseries.com sells a Monroe County Strain that is described as “A strain of heat-tolerant seedlings, taken from select parents. Originating only 90 miles from the Gulf Coast. Vigorous and disease resistant with larger leaves. Typically seeing large flowers.”- sounds familiar. I wonder if these are seedlings from the same population where Mr. Dodd collected? Green Nurseries is in Fairhope just a hop skip and a jump from Semmes. And Semmes is certainly 90 miles from the Gulf.

  4. Gaye says:

    I have what I believe is Semmes next to a from-the-wild oakleaf hydrangea, and you are right—no comparison in their vigor and flower heads. Extraordinary. I need to check my plant, because it might be part of Dodd’s series based on this plant. I pondered the reason for the difference until your posting. I live in North-Central Louisiana, terrain and climate like East Texas. Glad to know it roots well.

  5. yardflow says:

    It is an amazing plant, Elise. Flowerwood Nursery sells it to retailers and I’ve noticed that Marvin’s gets Flowerwood plants so I am going to look there. Might want to even check Lowe’s.

  6. Elise Smith says:

    If anyone hears of a nursery in Jackson that carries it, let me know…Thanks for the tip, Gail!

  7. yardflow says:

    Shirley, I will certainly look for ‘Harmony’. When I was researching ‘Semmes Beauty’ before I wrote this post, I remember noticing that ‘Harmony’ also came from Alabama I believe. So it should. definitely do well for us in Mississippi. Have you ever grown ‘Semmes Beauty’? When do you take your cuttings of oakleaf hydrangea? Would love to see your garden some time

  8. Shirley Dawkins says:

    Gail——have you tried Harmony? I have had it for several years and think it is the most outstanding of all the quercifolias. Whenever you are in Starkville, I would love for you to come by and see mine. I have over 100 hydrangeas and always trying to root more——-but, I have run out of room to plant them. (The Harmony has been described as looking like a pile of mashed potatoes.)

    Shirley Dawkins

  9. yardflow says:

    Doremus Nursery has it Marc. Would like to get a few more for myself if you make a run.

  10. marc says:

    awesome. thanks gail. that’s a new one for me. i gotta get some

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