It’s always the winner of the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year award that receives all the publicity and this year’s winner, Hydrangea Runaway Bride Snow White (‘Ushyd0405’) certainly looks to be a fine plant.
But there are two more plants that didn’t make it even into the top three that also look exceptional, I’ll look at one this time and another next time.
My first recommendation is another, very different, hydrangea: Gold Rush (‘Giel’).
This is a form of that fine late flowering plant H. aspera subsp. sargentiana and the variety on show was a dramatic new form with rich golden new spring foliage that is edged in orange; the specimen entered looked stunning.
Then, as the season progresses, the foliage steadily tones down so that by flowering time in late summer the leaves are green – the ideal background for the large lacecap flowers that are dusty bluish mauve in the centre with a lacecap ring of large white florets around the edge.
Then, although I don’t recall that it was ever mentioned during the judging, the foliage turns fiery again in the autumn. Finally, in winter, there’s attractive shaggy bark. But, frankly, if it never does more than give us its wonderful spring leaves it would still be a fine garden plant.
♦ RHS advice: hydrangeas ♦ See Graham's top 10 AGM hydrangeas
Reaching 2.5m (8ft) in height and spread, Gold Rush responds to a hard spring pruning and grows well in sun or partial shade, although it appreciates some shelter; planting in front of a house wall is ideal. It will also grow well in a large container.
Hydrangea Gold Rush was found by Rene Coonen of the Dutch nursery Boomkwekerij Coonen. It’s a sport of H. aspera subsp. sargentiana that was found on the nursery in 2012 and which has since proved absolutely stable.
H. aspera subsp. sargentiana Gold Rush (‘Giel’) is available at Hillier Garden Centres and by mail order from the Burford Garden Company.
*Please note, the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author, which are not necessarily those of the RHS