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Originally published February 27, 2014 at 6:16 AM | Page modified February 27, 2014 at 2:30 PM

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Daphne for hummingbirds, pruning hydrangeas

Garden writer Ciscoe Morris on the new Daphne odora ‘Zuiko Nishiki,’ sure to attract hummingbirds, and the importance of knowing your hydrangeas before you prune them.

Special to The Seattle Times

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

Northwest Horticultural Society Spring Ephemeral Plant Sale: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday, March 7, Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 41st St., Seattle (

Northwest Perennial Alliance March Mania Plant Sale: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, March 8, Wilburton Education Center, a half-block east of the Bellevue Botanical Garden, 12241 Main St., Bellevue (

PlantAmnesty Prune-a-Thon: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, March 8. Pruning demonstrations, slideshows, seminars. Sky Nursery, 18528 Aurora Ave. N., Shoreline (

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In the Garden

Daphne odora ‘Zuiko Nishiki’ was a big hit at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show this year. This new introduction features dark-green leaves and forms a compact 3- to 4-foot-tall shrub. It has a more upright habit than the more common Daphne odora ‘Marginata.’

It’s also purported to be hardier and should hold its evergreen leaves better than its variegated cousins, which often defoliate after experiencing temperatures in the 20s. ‘Zuiko Nishiki’ features deep pink, almost red flower buds that open up around Valentine’s Day to reveal exquisitely fragrant, white flowers bordered in pink.

An added bonus is that the Anna’s hummingbirds are absolutely gaga over the nectar-laden flowers and rely on them as an important winter food source.

As is true for all Daphne odoras, ‘Zuiko Nishiki’ does best in well-drained soil and morning sunshine. These plants thrive on benign neglect, so water as needed to keep the soil evenly moist for the first month, then back off and water only sparingly.

If ‘Zuiko Nishiki’ lives up to its reputation as a more durable Daphne odora, there is a good chance it will thrive and serve as a spectacularly beautiful and fragrant hummingbird magnet for years to come.

Hydrangea pruning

Most Hydrangeas bloom on growth that occurred the previous season, and you won’t see flowers for one or two years if you cut them back hard to control for height. There are, however, hydrangeas that blossom exclusively on current-season growth and, therefore, bloom beautifully even if they are cut back practically to the ground this time of year.

One example is Hydrangea arborescens (smooth Hydrangea). This native of the eastern United States is hardy to about minus 30 degrees. Left unpruned, it can reach over 10-feet-tall. The most popular variety is ‘Annabelle,’ which produces enormous, snow white 12-inch sphere-shaped flowers.

A recent introduction, ‘Invincibelle Spirit,’ has the same huge flowers, but the blossoms are pink. The other kind of Hydrangea that will bloom in summer, even after being cut back hard in spring, is Hydrangea paniculata (hardy hydrangea). Hailing from Japan and China, these sun-loving Hydrangeas are usually grown as trees, but they can also be cut back practically to the ground if need be.

The best-known Hydrangea paniculata is ‘Grandiflora,’ commonly known as ‘PeeGee.’ Hardy to at least minus 30 degrees, it’s capable of reaching 15 feet tall and produces gazillions of 8-inch snowball shaped flowers that start snow white before fading to soft pink. A smaller growing paniculata is ‘Limelight,’ which grows only to about 6 feet tall and features green cone-shaped flowers that turn pink as they age.

Although both arborescens and paniculata Hydrangeas will bloom reliably even if you cut them back, only resort to such hard pruning every few years. If you cut back severely on a yearly basis, the stems may become weak and require staking to hold up the flower heads.

Ciscoe Morris: “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING 5.


About Ciscoe Morris

Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.

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