If there’s one genus that I am utterly in love with then it’s Hydrangeas! Every year as we head into ‘Hydrangea season’ I begin muttering eulogies to these beauties… ‘What a stunner!’ ‘Isn’t it gorgeous?’ ‘Wow, look at the flowers on that!!!’
I don’t really know when my love for Hydrangeas began. I bought my first, Hydrangea ‘King George V’, many years ago and it still sits in a big pot outside my back door. Its performance always reflects the care (or neglect) that it receives throughout the year. In a good year it is fabulous, covered in white buds that open to reveal rosy, pink-edged blooms. The flowers darken as they age to rich red-pink.
It’s always at its best, if it has been repotted in the spring and fed and watered liberally. Sadly this year it has been plagued with Hydrangea Scale and looks pale and chlorotic, with few flowers forming. Scale insects suck the sap of plants, weakening their growth.
I’ve been squishing the white waxy clusters that cover the eggs whenever I see them. I usually leave the stems and flowers intact over winter, but this Autumn I will cut them all back to destroy any overwintering nymphs. Fingers crossed for a better display next year!
Luckily, it’s better news on the other side of the patio where Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Madame Emile Mouillère’ is flowering her heart out. I found her years ago on a visit to the nursery at Great Dixter Garden in East Sussex. It’s funny how plants remind you of people and places that you’ve know, isn’t it?
This really is an elegant variety with large flower heads that open apple green and mature to dazzling white, before taking on a gentle pink tint to the oldest flower heads.
I’m rather excited about my latest acquisition of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Princess Diana’. Now I know they look small right now – but given a few years of TLC they will produce fabulous double, pink flowers with an unusual star shape. I’ve only ever seen this variety in pictures so I can’t wait for the real thing!
My enthusiasm for Hydrangeas is being fueled by these two beautiful specimens on display here at T&M. Sadly I can’t tell you the variety as they are unlabelled, but there is no denying that they really are magnificent. One plant is so large that I asked my colleague, Sonia to appear in the picture for scale! Both are grown in large pots, and fed and watered liberally – it just goes to show how a proper care can make all the difference.
You may have noticed that I haven’t included any blue Hydrangeas in this blog so far. The soil in my garden shows no hint of acidity! An acid soil will turn the blooms of most pink macrophylla varieties to varying shades of blue or purple. I could pot a Hydrangea plant into ericaceous John Innes compost, water only with rainwater, and apply regular drenches of colourant… but I learned long ago that I’m rather a lazy gardener, so I prefer to work with what nature has given me!
It doesn’t stop me from admiring blue hydrangeas though. Here’s a stunning example from our ‘Your TM garden’ photo competition by this month’s winner, Diana Eastwood.
Hydrangeas really do have a lot to offer. Aside from the large, flamboyant blooms in summer, they also have lovely autumn colour.
In fact, I think they make the perfect gift plant. Here’s a double one that I recently gave for a friend’s birthday called Hydrangea macrophllya ‘Mademoiselle’ – I hope she gets as much enjoyment from Hydrangeas as I do!
Have I missed one of your favourite varieties? Why not share your beautiful Hydrangea pictures with us on our Facebook page? Or if you want to read more about this beautiful genus, head over to our dedicated hydrangea hub page for advice, tips, and more.
Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman’s nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online. I have a keen interest in drought resistant plants and a passion for perennials, particularly hardy Geraniums. I previously stood as regional secretary for the International Plant Propagation Society which gave me lots of opportunities to see what other horticulturalists were up to in their nurseries and gardens.