Hydrangea macrophylla ’Brunette’ is perhaps the darkest red mophead known with very deep green leaves that have red suffused through them in fall - truly splendid autumn color on the foliage. However, we’ve found that ’Brunette’ is difficult & picky about aspect (sun or shade) but in our experience worth the effort. In acid soil the red will become a deep purple. The longer we grow this cultivar the less we understand. Yes to all of the above, but it acts like a plant that is decidedly "determinate" -- a term you can look up online or in any good gardening reference -- although hydrangeas as a genus are not. The point being that we see one spring flush on ’Brunette’ and then little else. Pruned, it is slow to reflush and grow vigorously as we would expect. So it is a hydrangea that requires more attention than almost all the others we grow. Grown well it is certainly worth the effort. Yet it is not as cold hardy as the species so we rate it only Zones 7 - 9. Deciduous, reaching about 4 feet when happy. An exceptional and beautiful challenge for true gardeners. Robert Mallet from the world’s largest hydrangea collection, the Shamrock Collection in France, was here last month on a visit and we asked him what did ’Brunette’ need to prosper. He agreed it was a weak plant but if grown well outstanding. His suggestions: lots of sun and less than usual water for a macrophylla. We’ve moved our small stock block into more sun and plan to ignore watering them until they scream.
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