The Backbone of the Summer Garden

Providing colour all the way through summer and autumn, but never really one of the stars of the garden, is the family of Hydrangeas . There are quite a few different varieties on offer at the garden centres, with new hybrids are being produced all the time.

Hydrangea macrophylla Blue Wave, such a beautiful blue, at the start of the pergola. This variety has large lacecap flowerheads, the actual flowers are very small in the centre of all the showy sepals.

A colour matched clematis keeps H. Blue wave company, with Crocosmia Solfaterre at its feet.

H. macrophylla Ayesha, which has upward curling petals like lilac flowers. This bush can’t decide if it wants to be pink or blue, I hope it makes its mind up soon as it is neither one nor the other at the moment.

A close up of H. Ayesha showing the curling petals.

Big, blowsy mophead hydrangeas are a favourite in English seaside gardens. The heads are quite large and do flop in the rain as my H. Mdme Emile Mouillerre has done.

H. Mdme Emile Moulliere is supposed to be white, but the rain has made her change colour. Some of the mopheads have a pink hue and others are looking slightly blue.

A pink mophead by the front of the house. This was the first hydrangea that I planted 27 yrs ago and is a huge bush now. I think the soil is alkaline here near the house because of the mortar from the building.

Hydrangea paniculata with cones of white flowers. This is my newest hydrangea, just 4 yrs old.

I like the cone shaped flowers. This variety gets cut down each spring as it flowers on new wood, the others flower on last years wood.

A white lacecap in the corner of the back garden. The flower heads on this one are huge, must be a good 10 inches across. The tiny flowers are in the centre even though they are hard to see.

My lovely blue mophead, next to the white lacecap. This blue one used to be pink when my mother grew it in a pot, but once released into the garden here, it soon changed colour.

Hydrangeas like moisture retentive soil, which we have in abundance, so that is probably why they do so well in the garden here. They also seem to do better with a bit of shade at the hottest part of the day, we have plenty of that too. They are one of the workhorses of the garden, don’t need much attention, just the old flower heads to come off in the spring once winter is over, but apart from that, they just get on with life providing much needed colour until the frost arrives. Even when the flowers are fading, they change colour to the most delightful shades, I wouldn’t be without them.



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22 Responses to The Backbone of the Summer Garden

  1. Sally says:

    Hi Pauline,
    Hydrangeas are definitely the workhorse of the garden. I don’t know their names but, the blue ones are very popular along the coast here in MA. At one point, there was a piece on the news about the flowers being stolen to sell to florists!
    I’ve mentioned over and over how I would sit under my Grandmother’s Hydrangea that had been shaped as a small tree, with her in the summer and it’s one of my favorite memories…..

    • Pauline says:

      How wonderful Sally to have memories of sitting with your Grandmother under her hydrangea tree, mine are large shrubs now, but still not big enough to sit under!
      How awful that someone was stealing the flowers to sell, some people have no shame!

  2. Alison says:

    Your Hydrangeas are all so beautiful! I’ve tried several in the past, but unfortunately, in the summer here in the PNW, they require watering, which I’m not up for. Although we do get rain pretty much all fall and winter, once summer comes, the rain dries up completely, and we get none for 2-3 months straight. I’ve decided to admire them in other people’s gardens.

    • Pauline says:

      I tried some in the woodland when we first came here Alison, but with all the leaves on the trees in the summer, rain just didn’t get through and watering was out of the question, so they had to come into the garden where they have flourished.

  3. Anna says:

    Oh I do like the subtle colours of ‘Mdme Emile Moulliere’ Pauline – a most elegant lady. I’m hoping to get to Holehird Gardens in Cumbria soon to see the hydrangea collection there.

    • Pauline says:

      Mdme Emile Mouillere has always gone pink in the rain in previous years Anna, this is the first time some of the flower heads have shown a hint of blue. Enjoy Holehird, it must be well over 30 yrs since I was there, when we used to live in the north west!

  4. Christina says:

    You would be very surprised how many people grow hydrangeas here Pauline. This is probably because they do flower all summer (when watered daily); most are in pots which mean they can be positioned on terraces. They always seem the wrong plant to me but maybe I’m wrong and the fact that they do have flowers for so long compensates for the daily attention.

    • Pauline says:

      I rely on nature to water mine Christina, I hardly ever have to water them. They do let me know if they are struggling, the leaves hang down vertically and then I know its time to get the watering can out.

  5. Denise says:

    I enjoyed seeing your lovely range of hydrangeas Pauline. I love the cone-shaped H. paniculata, it is one of the few that I also have. I really must delve deeper into suitable varieties for our climate though I know that some are not sufficiently hardy to grow here.

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you Denise, I too am a big fan of H. paniculata and am looking for another to add to my collection. I hope you find some nice hardy ones for your garden.

  6. Kate Patel says:

    What a wonderful post, you have a beautiful collection Pauline. I love hydrangeas too, for me they’re a stalwart garden work horse plus they work so well with grasses. It’s good to see that they are shrugging off the silly dowdy, ‘seaside’ image. Have you tried the variegated forms?

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you Kate, over the years I seem to have collected quite a few, and there is still room for more! I think its just the mopheads that have a “seaside” image, the newer ones are a lot better. No, I haven’t got any variegated ones yet, there is still time!

  7. Cathy says:

    It’s fascinating to see different colours on the same shrub, particularly when it seems the change is due to short term variation in conditions. I still prefer the white and greenish ones, but I can admire the others too!

    • Pauline says:

      Soil certainly seems to be responsible for the flower colours Cathy, acid in the garden but alkaline near the house. I like the white ones but also the blue have a special place in my heart.

  8. dina says:

    What a beautiful selection of hydrangeas Pauline, you inspire me to add more, I especially liked paniculata, how pretty she is!xxx

    • Pauline says:

      Thanks Dina, they seem very happy here with all the shade and the rain that we have! I have just bought another H. paniculata, they are my favourite at the moment.

  9. Frank says:

    What a well grown collection you have, they really seem to enjoy your garden! The mopeds are not my favorites, but I love seeing them in other people’s gardens when they’re just covered in bloom. Here the paniculatas tolerate m garden well enough to grow and I love them as well!

    • Pauline says:

      They do enjoy the conditions that we have Frank, its just as well that something likes all the shade and the rain! So many new varieties are coming on to the market, I wonder what they will come up with next?

  10. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Hydrangeas are a favorite of mine for their beautiful colors and time of bloom. It’s also a joy to dry the mop heads as a winter memory of warm summer days. You’ve got some beautiful varieties in your garden!

    • Pauline says:

      I’m so glad you like them too Peter, they have been out of fashion for quite a while over here, but with new hybrids thay are having a comeback. I usually dry some for the winter, they fade to such beautiful shades don’t they.

  11. Jason says:

    Some luscious Hydrangeas there, I especially like the paniculata. All of ours are H. arborescens, which have big mopheads.

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