Say hi to the hydrangea
From climbers to mopheads, these fantastic flowers are a source of absolute delight
HYDRANGEAS are king in my garden at the moment! I have several varieties and they all do different jobs for me. They’re easy to grow, make great informal hedges, wonderful long-lasting cut blooms and are a good choice for coastal areas as well.
Keep them well hydrated throughout the year and a good feed in spring will ensure long-lasting shrubs.
Looking especially gorgeous at the moment is Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ as the immature green flowers have developed into delicious creamy white large flower heads. I think she performs better in full sun – sometimes you see her in the shade struggling a bit.
Wonderfully the flowers will persist for months and like mopheads can be left on until next spring before being lightly pruned off. There is a new version called Strong Annabelle, the blossoms are the size of footballs!
I’ve got a hydrangea paniculata growing nearby in a pot. These have cone-shaped flowers and are an increasingly popular plant. Mine is called ‘Limelight,’ a subtle lime green flower that will mature to pink in autumn.
For smaller pots and plots there’s a dwarf version of this called ‘Little Lime.’
Another well-known variety is Vanilla Fraise which has cones of white flowers that start to flush a rosy pink, before deepening to a raspberry pink. Both are very hardy so are useful choices for colder northern areas.
These types of hydrangeas can be pruned hard in spring to encourage new wood which bears the flowers.
Doing a completely different job is the climbing hydrangea, H. petiolaris. It’s a fantastically useful plant as it will happily grow in the shade on a north or east facing wall and it doesn’t need trellis or any other supports to climb as it is self supporting with its centipede-like aerial roots.
However, like many climbers, it likes to settle into its new surroundings for a year or even a few before it really takes off. A lot of growth can be happening underground as it spreads its roots and gets ready for take off.
You really do have to be patient and the blooms will come.
Growing in the shade near the maple I have the beautiful hydrangea aspera Villosa.
This has the most gorgeous big velvety leaves and lovely white lace cape flowers which surround a large mauve centre.
This needs space as it does grow quite large and requires just a gentle pruning in spring of old flower heads, back to a pair of fat buds. Finally, my collection of mopheads and lacecaps, the most common and popular type of hydrangea, which are perfect for pots of colour. They range from pink to blue and purple as well as white.
My blue one stays blue because it’s in a pot of ericaceous compost – if I plant it in the ground it will certainly end up pink. This is because the aluminium which keeps the flower blue is only available for uptake by the plant in acidic soil, which my soil isn’t.
In pots you can occasionally top up with aluminium sulphate or some bluing compound.
As a rule, unless they are growing too large, don’t hard-prune these types as you will remove future
If the giant mophead blooms are not to your taste, try the more delicate lacecap flowers – just remove faded flowers in spring.
If I’ve whetted your appetite, and you see a hydrangea you really like in a friend’s garden, ask for a cutting. Because at this time of year hydrangea cuttings will root really quickly.
For a true blue you need acidic soil, otherwise the flowers will revert to pink
Hydrangea Paniculata Vanille Fraise
Hydrangeas have a huge variety of colour from a zesty green through to creamy white
HARVEST courgettes quickly before they turn to marrows, second earlies and maincrop potatoes if the foliage is going yellow. French and runner beans can be cropped regularly and onions, shallots and garlic are ready to dig up when foliage becomes yellow and flops over. REMOVE cabbage white butterfly eggs and blackfly on broad beans and aphids everywhere. CUT back hardy geraniumsfor a second flush. Deadhead bedding plants and perennials to encourage more flowers.