The once overlooked hydrangeas of the past are now the trend setting plants of today.
The gaudy lipstick pink mophead blooms of hydrangeas were common place in my childhood, often seen planted in full sun in neglected gardens throughout the UK. Chlorotic and drooping lime-green leaves made these plants look starved and consequently made me ignore them for many years.
Amazingly, I’ve grown up a little since then and my opinion has changed. I now consider hydrangeas to be one of my favourite group of shrubs and would recommend planting them in any garden.
Hydrangeas - fashionable and beautiful
These beautifully fashionable garden plants have tantalising flower heads that are available in a wide range of colours - shades of pink, white or blue, and often have stunning leaf shapes and vibrant autumn leaf colour.
Hydrangeas - the Chameleons of the Plant World
Perhaps the most intriguing feature of some of the lace-cap and mophead hydrangeas is their ability to change flower colour in different soils. These chameleons of the plant world flourish in both acid and alkaline soils. An acid soil with pH 5.5 or less will produce blooms that are blue in colour, if the pH is above this the flowers will be pink. If you have an alkaline soil and want to grow blue hydrangeas the best way to achieve this is by growing them in pots using ericaceous compost. Alternatively, change the soil where you are going to plant them. Regular applications of hydrangea blueing tonic - aluminium sulphate - will ensure the continuation of intense blue-coloured flowers. Using rainwater is certainly preferable to tap water in hard water areas.
Similarly, if you wish to improve the colour of red or pink flowers add ground limestone or chalk during the winter to increase the pH level of the soil.
White flowers, and also green-flowered cultivars, remain white or green regardless of soil pH.
My favourite - Hydrangea arborescens Annabelle
One of the most popular and prettiest hydrangeas here at Clifton Nurseries has to be Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’. Annabelle produces masses of creamy white flowers the size of large snowballs with gentle tones of lime green when young, the dried flower heads last exceptionally well even into winter. Interestingly, the white and green-flowering cultivars of hydrangea remain white irrespective of soil pH. Easy to look after, they flower on new wood and respond extremely well to pruning. Simply prune back to about 50cm each year, or cut back to almost ground level, or remove some of the older wood each year – for all her charm and good looks ‘Annabelle’ is not at all fussy!
Positioning your Hydrangeas
Hydrangeas flourish in moist but well-drained soils in a semi-shady part of the garden. However, with a moisture retentive soil they will grow in full sun. It is however always advisable to avoid growing them in exposed and windy situations where the fresh spring growth can be easily damaged. Hot and dry positions should similarly be avoided…
When planting always incorporate plenty of organic matter into the soil to ensure successful establishment and growth.
Gorgeous and fully hardy, hydrangeas offer a fantastic colour range from late spring to early autumn. It’s no surprise that their popularity is here to stay. And you'll be glad to know that we stock a range of Hydrangea at both our London and Surrey branches as well as in our online shop!