If you’re not familiar with the horticulture industry, you might be surprised to discover that the best-selling hydrangea in the world has Minnesota ties. Bailey Nurseries, a 118-year-old wholesale grower headquartered in St. Paul, introduced its Endless Summer hydrangeas in 2004. At the time, it was the first-ever reblooming hydrangea, skyrocketing to popularity for its ability to sprout flowers on old and new wood, meaning you get multiple sets of blooms in one growing season.
“Before Endless Summer, we really couldn’t grow that type of hydrangea in Minnesota because there wasn’t anything that was cold-hardy enough to handle our winters,” says Ryan McEnaney, Bailey’s marketing and communications manager and part of the fifth generation of the family-owned nursery. Now, nearly 20 years since the debut of Endless Summer, Bailey is preparing for its biggest national release to date—Pop Star, the newest variety of the Endless Summer hydrangea—and Minneapolis Home + Garden Show attendees will get an exclusive look.
“We’re going to be building excitement as we come out of winter and people are starting to dream about what they want to do in their gardens this year,” says McEnaney. “Attendees will be able to see the beauty of Pop Star and plan how they can use it in their landscapes and then be able to find it at their local garden centers.” Unlike the typical snowball shape that comes to mind when you envision a hydrangea plant, Pop Star features a lacecap design with flat, frilly blossoms that encircle a round disk of shorter, smaller florets. Its compact size, reaching no more than 2 feet tall in Minnesota, makes Pop Star a versatile choice for both gardens and pots, and its rebloom time—only four weeks after a hard cutback, which is the quickest in production—means you can trim a bouquet of flowers for your kitchen table and new blooms will take their place.
Pop Star is just one example of the literal groundbreaking work that comes out of Bailey Innovations, the nursery’s inhouse plant-breeding program based near Athens, Georgia. With a focus on producing plants with the best genetics possible, Bailey Innovations will research and test tens of thousands of seedlings before a final product is released. “Our goal is not to bring out the most new varieties. Our goal is to bring out the best new varieties,” says McEnaney of Bailey. “We look at things like disease resistance, pollinator friendliness, and sustainability with low water usage. So, we have breeding objectives and problems we’re trying to solve so that we’re bringing something truly unique and different to the marketplace.”
In addition to flooding the Home + Garden Show with 400 hydrangeas for visitors to admire, McEnaney and others from Bailey Nurseries will be on hand to talk about different types of hydrangeas, how to use and care for them, and trends that are currently dominating garden spaces, such as native plants, which are local to where you live and good for the environment, and plants that serve a purpose. (Think: hedges that offer privacy around a patio.) McEnaney is also looking forward to connecting with attendees and helping them solve their garden problems. “Feel free to use us as a resource. We’re excited to be here,” he says. “What’s so fun about our work is that we get to help people create really beautiful spaces and help them be successful.”
Learn From the Pro
Ryan McEnaney’s new book, Field Guide to Outside Style, reads like a conversation between friends— because that’s exactly how the idea for the book was formed. The fifth-generation grower for Bailey Nurseries was the go-to resource for loved ones whenever they had a question about their gardens, so he wrote this book to help them—and now, aspiring horticulturists everywhere— cultivate personalized green spaces to take pride in, in an approachable, non-intimidating way. “We start from a place of, ‘What do you care about? What are you like? How do you spend your time?’” says McEnaney of the book’s format. “Instead of jumping in and talking about plants, I want to get to know that piece of you first; then the plants will follow.”
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