Answer Man

PeeGee Hydrangea ruled in Belleville

The paniculata grandiflora, or PeeGee hydrangea, because wildly popular in Belleville.
The paniculata grandiflora, or PeeGee hydrangea, because wildly popular in Belleville.

Q. Is it true the hydrangea is the official flower of Belleville?

— Steve Suess, of Belleville

A. To Rick Effinger at Belleville’s Effinger Garden Center, it deserves that honor by sales alone. Roughly 10 to 15 years ago, residents here went crazy over the PeeGee variety, so called because of its botanical name, “paniculata grandiflora.”

“It was a hot one,” he told me. “We sold tons of them — mainly downtown in the historical area. They put them all up in there, and they called it the Belleville bush. Someone told me once that it was official, but I’m not really sure of that.”

Neither am I. While it was wildly popular and, according to Effinger, may have gotten a boost from the St. Clair County Historical Society, it may be one of those urban legends. Nobody I’ve talked to can confirm that it ever gained “official” status by ordinance or proclamation, although I’d be happy to hear from anyone who can. Since then, PeeGee sales have cooled in favor of the Limelight and the Annabelle with their various shades of white and pink, Effinger said.

“They’re really a great summer bloomer,” Effinger said. “(Fox2 meteorologist) Dave Murray has Limelights all in front of his white picket fence at his home. I’ve taken that same idea and had some people do it as a divider between two property lines. They said it is stunning when it blooms.”

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427, rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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