How Do I Love Hydrangeas… Let Me Count the Ways

One of the life lessons I have learned is that relationships come and go, quite often making me a better person. The enduring love I have for my hydrangeas has become one of my most treasured relationships and continues to grow year after year. Looking back, I had no idea of the delight and attachment I would develop for this splendid shrub. Its long lasting blooms provide months of color and enjoyment from spring to autumnal frost. This may seem silly to most, understandably so, but will touch the core of those who love and tend a garden. My journey with hydrangeas began when my grandmother was given an old Mothers Day plant from the grocery store. Not knowing what to do with it after the flowers died, I simply planted it in the garden and wished it good luck. To my surprise, each year it returned more spectacular than the next. Grown and loved worldwide, hydrangeas, or at least one variety, can be successfully cultivated in American gardens in zones 3 to 10 (11). I have researched and evaluated those hydrangeas that have come to be my favorites including: Endless Summer, Glowing Embers, Lacecap, Annabelle and the Climbing Hydrangea, just to name a few.

The major breakthrough for the hydrangea occurred in September 1998 when a true remontant (reblooming) form that flowers on both old and new growth was identified. What does this mean to gardeners? A guaranteed bloom”_ no matter if all the flower buds are killed off by the northeast winters, new flowers will develop on the current season’s growth. This amazing plant was patented and trademarked as Endless Summer. This unique mop-head type hydrangea has the ability to bloom consistently. The result is a plant that provides beautiful flowers all summer long. The flowers grow up to 8″ in diameter. Because it blooms on new wood, removal of spent flowers will only encourage rebloom. I personally love that! You can have fresh flowers for your home without sacrificing the beauty in your garden.

Glowing Embers is a great dwarf variety. Its’ more compact growth habit will enable you to plant and enjoy hydrangeas in those smaller, hard to fill shade gardens. It grows to about 3 feet tall and likes average to good soil with plenty of moisture. Glowing Embers provides long lasting blooms and a hardy host of flowers to enjoy. A must have for any garden.

The sterile inflorescences of the Lacecap “Lilacina” are a beautiful mauve color with a dark blue center of fertile flowers. The leaves of this hydrangea are light green and rather elongated. It is an extremely long-blooming variety and grows to be about four to five feet tall. Plant in part shade and keep evenly watered. Plant as a specimen in a small garden or arrange in masses in a large woodland garden. This was a hit on my garden tour.

The Annabelle is the queen of my hydrangea collection. Each flower is immense and when wet, splay and weep after the rainfall. This stunning white hydrangea often produces heads over 10″ in diameter. Unlike the better known blue and pink hydrangeas, the Annabelle blooms every year even after severe pruning or intensely cold winters. The huge white “drumstick” blooms appear in profusion, guaranteed. Annabelle is very versatile. Like most other hydrangeas, it prefers morning sun and afternoon shade or dappled shade all day. I simply adore “Annabelle”, having more than 10 in my garden, and feel I could never have enough.

As the old saying goes, “first year sleeps, second year creeps and the three year leaps before ever seeing a flower”. Owning one is worth the wait however, and a wonderful addition to any garden. Perfect for fences or a stone wall, this climber is trainable and ideal for covering up an unsightly area. One of the finest and most artistic vines, its blossoms are fragrant with white 6-10″ flowers that bloom in June-July. Glossy green foliage remains until late fall. Stems form rootlets and cling to just about anything, turning peeling brown in winter providing some winter interest. Many times I find the autumn leaves more colorful than the flowers. And although Climbing Hydrangea has enormous white blossoms, it nearly outdoes its own beauty when its autumn colors arrive as shimmering yellow & gold. It prefers rich, well-drained soil in sun to shade and does well on east and north facing exposures. Find the perfect place for yours.

Climbing Hydrangea is spectacular and the one I recommend for colder climates because it flowers on the current year’s growth. When cut to the ground at the end of winter, it can achieve a height of six feet and bear masses of rounded heads of white flowers up to ten inches across. Uncut, the shrub can reach ten feet or more, but the flower heads tend to be smaller.

Hydrangeas, once the flowering shrub of choice, are currently making a comeback with the younger generation. Hydrangeas continue to be among the showiest of summer and autumn flowering woody plants. Shade tolerant, they grow well on the shady side of a building or under trees. Plant as specimens or mass them together for stunning borders. Every year, I use the dried flower heads in floral arrangements and gifts.

Having a hydrangea in your life, whichever one you choose, will definitely add a powerful punch to your garden. Don’t just buy one, buy several and clump them together giving plenty of space for future growth. The relationship you develop with your hydrangeas can be fulfilling and rewarding for any gardener, especially the beginner. Seek out the variety that will work best for you, so you too can enjoy them year after year.

And there you have it.