Hydrangea - stunning garden favourite with a few surprise tricks!
Hydrangea is a garden favourite, but like April in Paris or New England in the fall, there are always new perspectives on a classic that will surprise and delight you. Subject to a great deal of selective breeding and improvement because of their financial value, there is now a superb range to choose from. If you are looking for wonderful colour and form to grace the high-summer garden, then look no further!
Hydrangeas can be pot-grown (which makes it possible to manipulate the pH of the soil they are growing in and therefore influence their flower colour) or planted directly into moist, fertile soil. They don’t like dry conditions – one indication of this is that their name in Greek means ‘water tank. They like to drink a lot and do benefit from a good soaking in dry conditions.
Lacecap or mophead?
You have a clear decision between the ‘lacecap’ and ‘mophead’ hydrangeas, terms used to describe the widely differing types of flowers that are available. Lacecaps are altogether more subtle and delicate than mopheads - lacy is always going to be more sophisticated than mops, but each has their adherents .
White, pink or blue?
White flowering hydrangeas are widely available, withHyrdangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ offering stunning white flowerheads anything up to 25cms in diameter. For Hydrangea macrophylla, flower colour depends on the pH of the soil they are grown in. Acid soil tends to give rise to blue flowers, whereas alkaline conditions encourage pink flowers to develop. You can manipulate the pH of the growing medium easily – especially in container grown plants - by adding lime (to make more alkaline and therefore encourage pink flowers). Applying garden sulfur will make soil more acidic and encourage blue flowers. Watch flower colour change over the course of several weeks/months.
Stellar hydrangeas to look out for
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ is a perfect specimen plant that will produce cream-coloured spherical flowers between July and September. Ideal for combining with Sedum spectabile ‘Stardust’, asters or Geranium renardii, this hydrangea will provide a wonderful contrast of both form and colour.
Hydrangea paniculata is a most distinguished plant which produces a differently shaped flower than the others – much more of a conical plume which grows vertically from the body of the plant. Resistant to low temperatures, this plant can be readily kept in check by pruning but can reach a height and spread of 3m and 2.5 m respectively.
Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lanarth White’ (RHS Award of Garden Merit holder) is a small deciduous shrub that will thrive in shade and deliver exceptionally beautiful white flowers with tiny blue centres. The leaves are also very attractive. Smaller than the others in this selection, they will only reach between 1 and 1.5m in height and spread.
Some tips on growing hydrangeas:
- Don’t plant too close to trees – their root systems are likely to take water and nutrients at the expense of the hydrangea.
- Not just for bigger gardens, hydrangeas will also work well on patios and balconies in pots – but make sure it’s big enough and keep well watered.
- Cut blooms at their peak of flowering, put in a vase and allow to dry slowly – this will provide you with beautiful dried flowers for indoor arrangements.
Something for everyone – and every situation!
With a wide range of colours, forms and sizes, there is a hydrangea for almost every situation. You can even get evergreen, creeping/climbing and fragrant hydrangeas, those that will tolerate shade or those that thrive in full sun. Use our suggestions as your starting point, but embark on a voyage of discovery for yourself.