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McCorkle's Mini Penny flower featured in national spotlight

The flower of a local nursery is catching the attention of gardeners and was recently featured in several national publications. Hydranga macrophylla, also called "Mini Penny," is owned by McCorkle's Nursery in Dearing, which licenses the right to grow the plant to other growers nationally.

The Mini Penny is a new and improved variety of the old, classic Southeastern garden favorite. Hydrangeas typically are large, deciduous shrubs of about five feet with large green leaves and large, showy flowers. The color of the flower can be white, blue or pink, depending on the acidity of the soil in which it is planted.

"Most hydrangeas only bloom once a year," said Mike Sikes, a horticulturist and marketer for McCorkle's. "They bloom on old wood. But this is a new variety that blooms on new and old wood."

Because of this, Mr. Sikes said a late freeze can kill the blooms of a hydrangea, and it won't bloom again until the next spring.

"But with this one, if the blooms get killed, then it just goes down to the next internode and re-blooms," he said.

This re-blooming quality, along with its new, smaller size of three feet, makes the Mini Penny ideal for container gardening, according to Mr. Sikes. And that is what caught the eye of magazine editors in February when Mr. Sikes traveled to New York to promote the flower. In June, the flower captured a spotlight in Southern Living Magazine, Country Living Magazine and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Mr. Sikes has also appeared with the flower on the Birmingham Fox News Good Morning Show and Atlanta Fox News.

"We've been getting a lot of PR on it," he said.

And not only is the flower gaining popularity in the Southeast, but it is spreading Southern charm farther north in Zone 4, according to Mr. Sikes, because it is more cold-hearty than previous hydrangeas.

Dr. Michael Dirr, at the University of Georgia and author of Hydrangeas for American Gardens, did root breeding work, crossed it and the result was the more compact, dwarf, repeat blooming form, according to Mr. Sikes. Dr. Dirr named the plant, "Mini Penny," after the late Penny McHenry, who founded the American Hydrangea Society in 1994.

McCorkle Nurseries, one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the Southeast, encompasses over 840 acres, with 450 developed acres growing container plants. Employees working in seventy-two propagation houses will prepare 5 million cuttings this year from which the nursery stock is maintained.

McCorkle's ships to garden centers, retailers, landscapers, rewholesalers, large mass merchandisers and big box stores all over the southeast and midatlantic, Mr. Sikes said.

Web posted on Thursday, July 03, 2008

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