A few years back, I gave a Hydrangea talk at Swarthmore College and I told the audience that there were no cultivars of Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomela ssp. petiolaris). This is no longer the case for there are now four new cultivars available in North America. The most intriguing of these is a new variegated form called ‘Firefly’. Ironically this plant was discovered by Horticulturist Dan Benarcik just thirty miles from Swarthmore.
Firefly is quite typical for climbing hydrangea when it comes to flowers and form. It has a beautiful display of lacy white blooms in early summer, and like the species it is a great choice for training up a tall tree. It takes a few years for climbing hydrangea to establish itself and to start climbing, but once it does it can grow about two feet per year. It is well worth the wait for few things are as beautiful as a tall tree covered with climbing hydrangea, especially when in full bloom. What makes ‘Firefly’ special is its attractive lime-yellow leaf margin that gives the vine an additional season of interest. Its foliage display is at its best in spring when the buds break and the variegation is at its brightest. The vine literally glows at this time of year. As the season progresses the variegation becomes less pronounced and in the autumn, long after the flowers have faded ‘Firefly’ looks just like your standard climbing hydrangea.
As a plant hunter, one of my goals is to find new plants that have additional seasons of interest. This plant certainly fits the bill. Garden space is a precious commodity and personally I have limited room for plants that provide only a few weeks of bloom and nothing more. Plants should look good when they’re not in bloom and foliage is the attribute that I look to first to provide interest. The flowers should be the icing on the cake.
Normally I would dismiss an annual that has flowers as small as Diamond Frost, but growing this plant has made me a raving fan. I think you too will become a fan of this plant once you’ve grown it.
Diamond Frost is an easy to grow annual that performs in most any climate, and has was won awards across the country to prove it. It is a low billowing plant that reaches about 20 inches in height and width. The small white flowers are so abundant that the cumulative mass of flowers creates a beautiful show akin to Baby’s Breath. What is most remarkable is that this plant bloomed from the day I planted it until the day I had a heavy frost in my garden. It is a blooming machine. Its soft white flowers seem to compliment any plant in proximity, making it very versatile.
It is great planted in a large solid block or mixed with other annuals, perennials or shrubs. It is superb in mixed containers or hanging baskets. Space the plants about a foot apart and you will get a full display within weeks.
Diamond Frost is heat and drought tolerant, and requires no more care than planting and the occasional watering. There is no need to dead-head or to groom this gem.