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‘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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