Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland




Hydrangea Heaven

HYDRANGEAS fill the garden with late summer colour yet are very easy to grow and propagate.

Characterised by large mophead and lace cap flowers, in pink, blue or white, Hydrangeas add colour to moist, shaded borders, and containers too. Originally from the Pacific rim - east Asia and America - most Hydrangeas grow to over 5 feet tall, although the 'Japanese lady' series are smaller. 'Masja', 'Pia' and 'Domotoi' peak at 3 feet.

Try Hydrangea 'Bluebird', a stunning blue flower with great ` staying power and red leaves in autumn, or the velvet leafed Hydrangea aspera, a large shrub at 10 feet with pink and white flowers.

More unusual are 'quercifolia'; the oak leaf Hydrangea, with white lace cap flowers, and H. involucrata 'hortensis' with distinct clusters of pink blooms.

To turn your pink flowers blue, add a handful of rusty nails to the soil; the iron will work wonders! Alternatively if you fancy a pink flower, just dig in a little garden lime in late spring. To keep Hydrangeas in check, prune away old wood by one third in early spring, say in late February or early March, but beware not to cut back too hard - Hydrangeas flower on last year's growth. Most prefer a humus rich soil, so it's a good idea to dig in well rotted farmyard manure.

To tackle a shady wall and bring interest all year round, try the climbing Hydrangea 'petiolaris'. This is a real beauty, guaranteed to go places. Summer lace type flowers, autumn yellow foliage, and on mature specimens beautiful peeling bark. 'Petiolaris' looks great in spring as the buds swell on their rustic framework. Plant it in a dark corner and you'll never look back.

Evergreen types are harder to find at the Garden Centre, as they require a little more care. Hydrangea 'seemanii' has long leathery leaves year round with attractive peeling bark and white summer flowers. Requiring a sheltered spot, it can grow to 30 feet tall! As part of your garden design it's best to place Hydrangeas towards the rear of your garden, ideally planted in colour blocks, so as to maximise visual impact. In winter you are unlikely to want to see them, while in summer when you do, they draw the eye, inviting a closer look.

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