Hydrangeas are easy care staples of many garden landscapes. Their ease of culture and profusion of summer blooms are reason enough for growing them, but the great array of choices can be overwhelming. Basically these are shrubs for sun or shade. Most commonly grown are cvs. of Hydrangea macrophylla, a shade and moisture loving species. The flower clusters are of two basic types: the lacecap and mophead. Lacecaps have larger steril flowerrs surrounding small central fertile flowers and mopheads have almost entirely sterile flowers giving a fuller appearance to the cluster/ The sun loving species H. paniculata grandiflora and the several cvs. have conical clusters. Conical clusters are also apparent in H. quercifolia, the oak leaf hydrangeas. So the gardener basically has a choice of a sun loving hydrangea or a shade loving plant. Moisture is a big need to grow these well (the latin Hydro = water, water loving alludes to this need) Good draninage is also a requirement. Basic use in the landscape is for dramatic effects of the flowers. The blooms last a long time(several months is not unusual) and when the flowers begin to age, they become papery and dry, and can be used for dry material later on. So you have a basic choice of a sun lover or a shade lover, and lacecap or mophead (mainly for shady areas) or conical clusters, (mainly for sunnier exposures).
Recent hybridizing efforts have yielded repeat blooming in several cvs. as well as picoteed individual flower color patterns. The color pallet is mainly white, chartreuse, pink – red, blues – purples, and the new picotees (which come in reds or blue tones with white edges to each flower in the cluster/ also lacecap and mophead forms here)
With the conical H. p. g. cvs., we have new pink cvs. which are a nice addition to the range of bloom characteristics. Pinky Winky is a wonderful new dramatic cv. with huge (12-16″) clusters that begin green-chartreuse, open white, then mature to pink, while the tip of the cluster stays white, giving a skyrocket effect to the blooms! (come to see this one at the nursery to believe it! and they are on sale too!) Limelight is a classic bloomer and in chartreuse, people gravitate toward it, put their noses into the blooms to catch the fragrance! And the color goes with everything! (chartreuse is one of the color neutrals for the garden! it goes well with everything!) H. quercifolia also comes in double cvs. but the clusters are so heavy they droop. This is unattractive on a young small plant, but on a mature specimen, it is quite dramatic! Snowflake, Harmony, are some of the doubles.
For ‘other’ hydrangeas, try H. aspera (H. villosa, H. sargentiana) Which has huge rough ly hairy leaves, and blue lacecap flowers. It’s a bigger shrub also, getting well over 10 ft. H. arborescens is a classic, soft white domes of flowers on lime to mint green soft foliage, it can take a lot of sun also. H. serrata is like a small sized H. macrophylla. I like it quite a lot. The more diminutive clusters are charming and the leaves seem more in scale to containers.
The vining species are dramatic if you want your hydrangeas up in the air above you! H. anomala petiolaris(H. petiolaris), H. semannii / it’s evergreen too!), and the related Schizophragma (Japanese hydrangea vine) is a truly wonderful thing for any garden.
With all hydrangeas, the best way to use them is in a big bold display. A single plant in a container is fine, but group them in 3s, or better yet, in 5s + and you will have a WOW impact in your garden/landscape! Grouping these makes a statement that is recognized by even the most ungardening citizen! you just can;t miss the impact of the big floral display! A friend once mentioned to me after I told her that a nursery grower friend sold all of his plants… to a designer/landscape architect. And they were planted in a long row along a driveway, lined with Cornus kousa cvs. Now that is a vision to remember! Late spring with the dogwoods, then summer with the Pinky Winky hydrangea paniculatas. WOW< BIG WOW! and maintenance is almost zero! Just plant, water, and watch them grow/ That seasonal display(almost all year) is going to be better and better each year as the plants mature. maintenance is once a year to clean up the hydrangeas(just trim back in winter) and dogwoods need NO pruning whatsoever! I’d love to dry by tha lucky home to see those beauties!