Archive for July 2010

Heavenly Hydrangeas (Part 1)

July 3, 2010

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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