Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
The Oakleaf hydrangea is a somewhat coarse deciduous shrub with big leaves, long, sometimes drooping limbs, and an open, loosely branched mounded habit. It has multiple stems which form an upright rounded clump 6-10 ft tall with an even greater spread. In the Conservatory Garden the Oakleaf Hydrangea anchors the middle of the annual bed number five in the South Garden. This native shrub of the southeastern United States is truly an all-season plant. Its flower heads are brilliant white in the summer and fade to a pleasing cream and the months wind down towards fall. Large, bold leaves then turn crimson while the papery bark stands out in the eventual wintry landscape.
The Oakleaf Hydrangea has sprouts that shoot up from underground roots and often grows in colonies. Young stems are covered in a felt-like light brown bark, and the larger stems have attractive cinnamon-tan-orange bark that shreds and peels in thin flakes. Leaves are yellowish green on top and downy-white underneath. They have three, five or seven pointed lobes and are 4-12 in long and almost as wide. Plants in shade have larger leaves than those grown in sun.
Hydrangea quercifolia is an under story shrub, and is often planted in the shade of large oaks, hickories, magnolias, etc. In the Conservatory Garden it does not play this subordinate role, having its own stage to star upon. The bright white flower clusters are vibrantly framed by the full green leaves that surround them, giving the small tree the aspect of a giant bridal bouquet. In fact the Oakleaf Hydrangea is a favorite backdrop for hundreds of wedding shoots that held in the Conservatory Gardens each year. Brides and Grooms from all over the globe come to Central Park each year to take their pictures posed amid the brilliant foliage.
One of the hidden wonders of Central Park is the Conservatory Garden at Fifth Avenue and 105th St. A secluded oasis, just a few steps down from one of the City’s busiest thoroughfares; the garden offers a fragrant respite from the gasp and clatter of the urban afternoon.