The time is right for Pinky Winky™





Hydrangea paniculata ‘DVPpinky’ pp# 16,166

Late this summer we hosted two different groups that toured our nursery. One group was in conjunction with the Northern Plant Conference, and the other was the Eastern Region of the International Plant Propagators Society. In total we had over 400 keen plants people touring our display garden and based on the comments I heard the plant that sparked the most interest was Pinky Winky™ Hydrangea.

Pinky Winky is the creation of Dr. Johan Van Huylenbroeek, a well know ornamental plant breeder within the Department of Plant Genetics and Breeding at Flemish Institute for Agriculture. He developed this new variety by treating seedlings of Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pink Diamond’ with the chemical mutagen colchicine. In amongst the resulting seedlings emerged a superb new Hydrangea that had just recently come to market in North America.

What makes Pinky Winky so special and unique is its white and pink two-toned flower heads that appear in mid-summer. The large, 16 inch long flower heads (panicles) emerge white and the flowers at the base of the panicle quickly turn pink. The flowering is indeterminate, meaning they continue to push new white flowers from the tip of the panicle while the older flowers transform to rich pink. As an added bonus the flower heads are held upright on strong stems and don’t droop like the ever popular Pee Gee variety. The plant also exhibits dark green foliage which makes for a nice backdrop for its beautiful flowers. Like all paniculata hydrangeas Pinky Winky blooms regardless of climate, soil, pH or pruning. Use it as a specimen plant or to create a spectacular flowering hedge.

I know, I know - Pinky Winky is a strange name for such a beautiful plant but it’s a name you can’t forget. I ask Johan about the name and he told me it was derived from a character on a children’s television program called Teletubbies!

Despite the name, Pinky Winky Hydrangea will find a wide following with adults. It is distinct, beautiful and easy to grow.

“Do we really need another Hydrangea?” is the question that I often here from growers. The same is said of daylilies, Hosta, and roses. My answer is a resounding yes for all. There is always room for a better plant. Knock Out rose and Stella de Oro both prove my case. As far as Hydrangea go, Pinky Winky is distinct and superior to Pink Diamond, Tardiva, Ruby, Burgundy Lace or any other variety grown for large pink panicles. In my opinion Pinky Winky, Limelight, Little Lamb and Quick Fire are the best of their class and each is unique and deserves greater use in out landscapes and gardens. There are dozens of Hydrangea paniculata cultivars that deserve the label of heirloom because there is no good reason to grow or sell them unless you’re a collector. This list of obsolete varieties includes ‘Grandiflora’ aka Pee Gee, Tardiva, Kyushu, Burgundy Lace, Brussels Lace, Chantilly Lace, Praecox, Floribunda, Pee Wee, Dharuma, Unique and Pink Diamond. While many of these plants are very good, there are no longer the best.

It is my hope that I live long enough to see the day when growers stop offering Pee Gee. The plant gives the species a bad name, and that’s a real shame! It’s a shame because few plants offer as much a Hydrangea paniculata. It’s long blooming, reliable, showy, and easy to grow, makes a great cut flower both fresh and dry, is adaptable to difficult soils, and grows from Fargo to Fayetteville without missing a beat.

The time is right for Pinky Winky.

22 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:18 PM

    Pinky Winky looks awesome, thanks for the info on which cultivars are obsolete, I am in the landscape biz and need to know which ones are going to perform the best. Overall I think the Hydrangea paniculata is underused, at least in my area, it just seems like people don't know about it, like they know about Hydrangea mac. and Hydrangea 'Annabelle'

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  2. Pinky Winky looks nice

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  3. Anonymous4:52 AM

    Can this hydrangea be grown in zones 8 and 9? I am reading conflicting information on nursery websites...one says up to zone 10 and another says up to zone 7.

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  4. Pinky Winky and all other cultivars of Hydrangea paniculata seem to grow as far south as Orlando Florida.

    Zones by definition are based on the average low winter temperature for an area, and do not take into account summer heat. A zone 9 in Oregon is not the same as a zone 9 in Florida.

    A heat zone was developed to solve this problem but unfortunately not many plants have been rated, and the system is not widley adopted.

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  5. Great post. I love Pinky Winkys. Suprised that they do well as far south as Orlando though.

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  6. Thank you for writing about Pinky Winky. I have the plant on my list to purchase. Do you think I have sucess planting PinkyWinky in an north/ost front yard with acidic clay soil (time zone 5)?
    Thanks
    http://guildwoodgardens.blogspot.com

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  7. Anonymous8:21 PM

    Thanks for the info on Pinky Winky. How much shade can this hydrangea tolerate? I have a spot that doesn't really get any direct sun.

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  8. Pinky Winky and Hydrangea paniculata in general are full sun plants but will take a fair amount of shade. If you get less a half a days shade the plant will grow but the flowering will not be as strong.

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  9. Anonymous1:08 PM

    I bought a Pinky Winky Hydrangea this year. It has no Pink in the blooms whatsoever. What's wrong?

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  10. You just need to be patent as it is still early. The established plants in my garden are not yet in bloom but are just starting to show flower buds. Also, you plant being new may have been pruned at the nursery this spring so flowering can be delayed. Write back in about 4 weeks and let me know how your plant is progressing.

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  11. Anonymous4:56 PM

    I'm not sure that I understand your answer above about the "Pinky Winky and Hydrangea paniculata in general are full sun plants but will take a fair amount of shade". Will the flowering be better if it gets more shade or more sun? I was looking to put in several LimeLights or Pinky Winkys at the edge of our driveway in "sunny California (South Bay) and was told they would last "5 minutes".

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  12. Pinky Winky and all other Hyd. paniculata flower better in full sun then the will in partial shade. The will grow and flower in partial shade but not as we as in full sun. In warmer, sunnier climates partial shade may be a better choice for some plants. What I would do is look where other people have planted them in your area and note how they do in each situation - this will help you determine what is the best exposure for Hydrangea paniculata in your particular area.

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  13. Anonymous8:54 PM

    I planted my pinky winky early last fall and was told to prune it in the spring. How much should I prune - to 2 leaf nodes?

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  14. Anonymous4:30 PM

    I planted my pinky winky about 6 wks ago. The flowers were white when I bought it. They turned to a brown color and then fell off. The plant looks fine, but no flowers now at all, never any pink

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  15. Once the plant has established a root system this will not happen. Next year when it has better roots the flowers will age to pink.

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  16. Anonymous5:30 PM

    I think I may have planted my pinky winky in too much shade.... if it doesn't flower well this year I will probably need to move it. do they transplant well??

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  17. They do transplant well. Move it either in fall or spring when the leaves are off the plant.

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  18. Great pinky winky post. Although mine isnt doing so well right now. I'll give it another years and then have a think.

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  19. Has any one been able to keep pinky winky to about 3-4 feet tall every year or is that not possible?

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  20. Anonymous6:52 AM

    I live in Michigan and would like to plant pinky winky in a southern exposure that will get full, hot sun all day. (they will be planted amongst rock that also radiates plenty of heat) Will the leaves be wilty in the hottest part of the day and turn brown prematurely?

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  21. Pinky Winky is pretty but tough. Full sun is best for this plant. So No problem.

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  22. We planted 15 Pinky Winkys as a hedge for privacy from the road planted them 3 years ago they are now abou 7 ft tall and when they bloom they are beautiful planted minature purple hyacinths in front for some contrast then in late August cut some and dry them and use them on the Christmas tree, we receive a lot of comments

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