Heavenly Hydrangeas (Part 1)

Hydrangeas from my garden, given as a present to two friends celebrating their wedding last week.

Most people would not use hydrangeas as foundation plants, but I am not most people. This is a tribute to one of my favorite shrubs, which grace my north-facing front yard in foundation beds (interspersed with cherry laurels for some evergreen staying power in the winter) as well as beds on the east and south sides of the lot. I have half a dozen or more kinds of hydrangeas on my property, and this year some of them seem to be eating the house, thanks probably to the good start they got during Snowmaggedon and a wet spring.

In a post several months ago, I picked this photo as one of my favorite shots of my garden (and it still is).

My front yard in early summer morning light

Behind the bench you can see two Annabelle hydrangeas, but I will confess that they are there primarily because a friend recommended them as remarkably drought-tolerant. She was right; despite the competing roots of my old crabapple tree, the Annabelles soldier on without supplemental water.

But I prefer the Hydrangea ‘All Summer Beauty’ shrubs next to the house, because of the differing shades of blue and pink they provide as grace notes to the otherwise muted shady palette of my north-facing front yard. Yes, they look like sticks in the winter, but I don’t care. Right now a huge one is in a holding bed in back of the house while my steps and stoop are being rebuilt and we will see if it survives. Here are some of the flowers as it started to show color in the spring.

Hydrangea 'All Summer Beauty'

'All Summer Beauty' as it starts to color.

And here it is in early summer, bowing under the weight of its enormous flowers.

Hydrangea 'All Summer Beauty'

One of the reasons I decided to write this post, however, is to talk a little bit about some of the hydrangeas I grow that you may not see every day. Let’s start with the mopheads. First is ‘Nigra’, whose black stems and pink blossoms make up for the fact that it isn’t particularly vigorous. I grow it primarily for the stems, next to an aging daphne in front of my bench under the crabapple tree.

Hydrangea 'Nigra'

Hydrangea 'Nigra' has black stems that set it apart from the other hydrangeas I grow.

I grow another hydrangea called ‘Forever Pink,’ primarily as an experiment because our soil is so acidic (I wanted to see if it would stay pink). Maybe it should be renamed ‘95% Pink’ for this area.

Hydrangea 'Forever Pink'

In our soil, 'Forever Pink' has a purplish cast to it but is still a knockout.

Then there is ‘Blue Danube,’ which I think is really my favorite. I bought it years ago, via mail-order, from Wilkerson Mill Gardens. Unfortunately, the last time I checked, they didn’t appear to be carrying it any more, so if I want more I will have to resort to cuttings. I have two specimens, growing in part-sun, part-shade in the back yard, and I can’t believe the colors and the shape of the individuals florets.

Hydrangea 'Blue Danube'

'Blue Danube' is my favorite mophead hydrangea.

In my next post, I’ll share my favorite lacecap hydrangeas with you. But before I close, I would like to invite those of you who love photos of hydrangeas to visit Britt Conley’s blog (The Photo Garden Bee), where she has a recent post with some absolutely gorgeous photos.

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7 Comments on “Heavenly Hydrangeas (Part 1)”

  1. Laurrie Says:

    I just received a Blue Danube (it actually says Blau Doneau on the tag) as a gift. How big is your mature shrub? I have it in a 16 inch 8 or 9 gallon decorative pot and would like to keep it in that. I think it’s supposed to be a smaller hydrangea? Your photos are absolutely stunning, both these and the lacecap photos in the next post too. Great info!

  2. Melissa Says:

    Gosh, I don’t really remember when I planted these shrubs. It would have been about nine or ten years ago. They are about four feet high by three or four feet wide now – certainly not the huge size of the All Summer’s Beauty hydrangeas that are on the front of my house. You should be able to keep them in a container as long as you are diligent about watering regularly. My Blue Danubes actually don’t get any supplemental water but they are in filtered shade all day. They’ve done remarkably well in our recent hot dry spell. Good luck!

  3. Marianne C. Whitman Says:

    How very beautiful they all are. I absolutely love hydrangeas, and have my late Grandma’s which she gave to me in l971, not sure how long she grew them before that. I cherish them. Some are pink, some purplish pink, very sturdy stems, had one baby which I moved to another spot and is gorgeous, and found another baby growing but have not moved yet. They are very old, and do not know their names, just love them. I have Nikko Blue, bought and planted for my beloved late Siamese Niko, lump in my throat still, and Penny Mac, the main one is blue and the baby in pot is pink. Not sure how that happened. They are just so beautiful. A few are in pots too, doing well, and an offshoot of Nikko Blue is growing, but no signs of flowers yet. I could not imagine being without them now. Yours are quite lovely. I also have Endless Summer which I make “blue”, gorgeous, and recently bought Blue Danube also at HomeDepot, mesmerized by the blue color. The poor thing is still in its small pot, but at least showing signs of new growth. So much to do outside, not enough time, lol. Marianne

  4. Melissa Keiser Says:

    I just recently bought a Blue Danube and am completely in love with the color! Though I am new to Hydrangea’s, this is only my second in two months, the first is totally blue, the care facts I have been reading is a bit overwhelming to me. I live in southern California, where the water pH levels are severely alkaline, which I’ve read is the complete opposite to what my blue Hydrangea’s need. I have purchased some water treatment to lower the pH for my blue plant, but I can’t seem to find answers as to what pH levels the Blue Danube, which is colored from pink, to blue, to purple, should be receiving. Help! What pH level is your Blue Danube growing in. Thanks for the help!

    • Melissa Says:

      Here in my area the soil levels are primarily acidic. My Blue Danubes’ blooms are a range of colors from pink to blue to purple. I don’t think you can go wrong.

  5. Brenda Says:

    I just bought a Blue Danube from my local Lowes if you are looking to purchase more, perhaps your Lowes is carrying them also. I am excited to have it in my garden!

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