Introducing: Hydrangea x ‘Jenna Jameson’

Actually, it’s called ‘Incrediball’, but come on, my name is better.

 Ha-ha.  Just kidding.  Its real name is Hydrangea ‘Incrediball’ and it was on all the catalogue covers a couple of years ago.  I remember seeing it on the cover of the Wayside Gardens catalogue and thinking, are you kidding me???

Now, I’m not a huge fan of the Smooth Hydrangea cultivars in the first place, so this new, freakish cultivar just makes me want to run into a closet and hide.  I like the classic ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas in certain situations — a neighbor of mine with a Victorian style house has a nice Annabelle growing at the corner of the porch, and it looks dandy there.  Just right.

I know you already know what it looks like, but here’s ‘Annabelle’:

Hydrangea 'Annabelle'

It’s hard to imagine a couple of plant breeders standing in front of this shrub going, “yeah Bob, it’s nice and all but something’s missing…I think the flowers are just too darn small.”

In case you’re wondering what ‘Incrediball’s great-great grandmother looked like, here’s a picture:

Hydrangea arborescens sp.

She’s a real beauty, eh?  It’s the wild Hydrangea arborescens.  I’m not sure why we feel the need to breed this lovely plant into something bordering on the grotesque.  I guess it goes along with our natural American craving for bigger, better, more.

However, before I get too smug about my good taste, I should say that I looooove those ridiculously huge allium bulbs, like ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Globemaster’:

Let’s face it.  These are giant purple orbs floating above the rest of your plants.  So why are these cool and the ‘Invinciball’ just tacky?


14 thoughts on “Introducing: Hydrangea x ‘Jenna Jameson’

  1. Agreed. Though Echinacea ‘Razzmatazz’ is even worse (four “z’s”!). I’ve looked for several years for a local source of the species Hydrangea arborescens and can’t find it, other than in the Pennsylvania bluffs above the Delaware (and I’m not supposed to take those). But you pose an interesting question. Why are the big alliums okay? Maybe because they’re transient, and they look more natural, even if a little large. A flourish then they’re gone.

    • Oh yeah! I completely forgot about those crazy echinaceas! Wasn’t there one called ‘Double Decker’ that was like, one flower stuck right on top of another?

      Such a shame that you can’t even find H. arborescens species in the trade anymore. Would it be unethical to take a cutting from a wild one?

      I’ve been thinking further about the alliums, and maybe they seem less ridiculous because the stems are actually strong enough to hold them up, unlike the hydrangea cultivars.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. The nursery trade stocks and sells what people want, while botanists are encouraged to breed certain propertied into and out of plants based upon consumer demands. According to the promotional material that heralded Incrediball’s arrival, the new gardening consumer did not like Annabelle’s drooping. It looked messy. Hence, Incrediball was created so that it won’t droop.
    We musn’t underestimate the power of market forces in gardening. It is huge!

    • Allan, I totally understand and embrace the market forces thing….I didn’t really know that Invinciball was bred for stronger stems, though. Obviously, I prefer to just shoot my mouth off without doing much research first. Ha! Thanks for giving me this background info…

  3. I use Annabelle all the time. Have no fear – It is widely available in the nurseries in this area. My clients love it, too. Although this fall I had several clients who wondered why I was planting dried sticks in their garden. I had to convince them of the beauty to come next spring.

    • Mira,
      Do you have any certain situations in which you like to use Annabelle? Are there companion plants you recommend for it? Or do you select it mostly because clients just tend to really love it regardless?

  4. So Mary, I found you through Grounded Design and love your blog but can’t find out anything about you – so frustrating! Like where in VA you are, esp. And what a surprise that you guested on GardenRant – see, if I knew you were a VA designer I’d have remembered you. . I’ve have tried to find out WHERE in Va. I grew up near Richmond, now live in the MD burbs of DC – takoma park, and moving soon to Greenbelt. And I’m looking for a designer.

    • oooh, Susan, how exciting that you discovered my blog! I’ve been a Garden Rant fan for years! I know, I need to update my About page…but I’m in Burke, VA. If you don’t mind, I will email you later today to follow up with you further!

  5. Everything in it’s place I guess. I don’t think it’s fair to judge plants on their “stand alone” ability; everything that’s not sculptural would fail. Well, maybe not but…. I see a possible use for ‘Incrediball’, which,name could be construed as pornographic in its own right if you think about it, as a hardy feature in a tropical summerscape. It might work in a planting of cannas, bananas, hedychiums, etc..Having played the devil’s advocate though, I have to agree with you. Actually Hydrangea arborescens radiata is a nice plant with it’s silver leaf undersurfaces and more refined (don’t you hate that word!?) lacecap inflorescences

    Incidentally, Thomas is dead on. You have a wonderful blog!

    • Thank you so much, Chris. And your comment is completely on target! Judging plants as individual specimens is really short-sighted. As somebody who loves planting design, I really should be careful about doing that. It’s all about how the plants work together in a total composition.

      But it’s just so much fun to crack jokes about plants like this! And you’re right, too, about the name…if they’d just changed it slightly to something like ‘Incredi-balls’ that would have been perfect!

  6. Mary,
    Thoughtful post, as always. The only plant I have had success with were hydrangas I planted early this past summer in the raised beds I built (using landscape timbers!) beside our front porch. I had to water them every day to keep them alive, but they’ve doubled in size and are still alive at this point.
    Your question about the size of the incrediballs is a good one. I think it’s a matter of scale–like the Seinfeld episode about the otherwise attractive woman with “man hands.” We expect that certain things be the same scale as other things associated with them. I know a lovely woman at church who has huge hands. She is so sweet, but I’m taken aback every time I look at her hands. Another example of mismatched scales is my wife’s Williamsburg builidng collection that she brings out at Christmas. The buildings and figures are all done to different scales. It gives me the creeps just to look at them. For example, compared to the model of Bruton Parish Church, the colonial people are 30 feet tall. *Shudder.*
    Thanks for another intelligent post!

    • Do you have the pink/blue hydrangeas? If so, they are Hydrangea macrophylla, which I like better than H. aborescens. Unfortunately, any hydrangea that I plant in my yard is doomed to death by juglone, the chemical released by my black walnut trees. Possibly my all-time favorite shrub is the Oakleaf Hydrangea, H. quercifolia — but I can’t plant it because of my stupid trees…that agonizes me no end!

      You should do a post about your out-of-scale Williamsburg Christmas Set…sounds pretty funny!

  7. Hi Mary, I’ve just found (and subscribed to) your nice blog.
    I must admit I own h. Incrediball but it was a mistake, I swear! I asked for the pink small flowered arborescens (which is also supposed to set more flowers per season) I think its name is ‘Invincibelle’ but they gave me Incrediball and I realized it only after it flowered. This is its first year and this hydrangea has been a real discover to me. Fortunately flowers are not ‘that’ big and stems are strong enough to hold them up, the general looking is Annabelle-went-to-the-gym like and I’m pretty pleased with it.
    I don’t have any blond and cute little children to measure my alliums with but I bet my alliums are not that tall and big.

    • Ha-ha, the catalogues love showing blond children for scale don’t they? I love the bulb catalogues that show tulips the size of an eight year old’s head.
      I’m glad you like your Incrediball — a reader pointed out to me that they were bred for stronger stems as well as bigger flowers, so that does sound like an improvement over Annabelle. Thanks so much for reading!

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