If there is one native shrub that I think Birmingham is home to, it is the Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). You can see it in rock outcropping in its native habitat, and in gardens all over Birmingham. Many years ago, Eddie Aldridge collected a unique sport of our native Oakleaf and propagated it and released it to the market. Thus the introduction of the beautiful Snowflake Oakleaf hydrangea, now just generally called Snowflake hydrangea. It is really now more popular in gardens than the native species because of its double snowflake-like flowers and long flower spikes. They are coming into bloom now, and it looks like they are going to be sensational this year. While its main show is its flowers, I also like the fall color of the oak-shaped leaves and the beautiful exfoliating bark of the older plants.
Of course the best collection of hydrangeas in a public space in the metro area is Aldridge Gardens, and you can be sure they have some beautiful plantings of Snowflakes. Mr. Aldridge also introduced another oakleaf selection called Harmony, but it is not in full color yet, and I will discuss this one in another post. These plants are easy to grow but do not like wet feet, and mine are in light shade, which in my mind produces the prettiest flowers and foliage.