I have a new found fondness for hydrangeas and these undervalued shrubs are beautiful additions to any garden. I think hydrangeas are overlooked because they are so familiar to us; we need to see them with fresh eyes and a new appreciation. They are at their best when planted in groups of a single variety or as hedges running along pathways. However they also work well positioned either side of a gate or doorway, where the beautiful flowers can be fully appreciated.
I think my new love of hydrangeas comes from my increasing preference for simplicity in planting design. A simple planting palette of hydrangeas, roses, lavender, box and yew with scatterings of delicate perennials in soft colours is visually very restful and elegant. There is a vast range of hydrangeas on the market with new varieties appearing all the time from small mopheads to huge paniculatas, so there is something for everyone and it would be impossible for me to list them all here, however I will just mention a few of my favourites. Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ has delicate but enormous, white, ball shaped flower heads (see picture 3); a new variety called ‘Incrediball’ is now available which is an improved ‘Annabelle’, this is less likely to flop under the weight of the massive flower heads. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ is a fabulous bold shrub with large conical, lime green flower buds opening to ivory and then flushing with pink (see picture 1). This is a statuesque plant reaching to 2.5m, however a new variety called ‘Little Lime’ is half the size but just as lovely and is very useful for planting beneath windows to brighten a dull wall, or for an informal low hedge. For something a bit more vibrant the lacecap heads of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Teller Red’ are very striking (see picture 2).
I think Hydrangea anomala subsp ‘petiolaris’ deserves a quick mention, this is a climbing hydrangea with lacy white flowers. It’s a much loved plant for garden designers as it grows happily on a shady wall, where very few pretty things will perform.
I hope I have given the humble hydrangea a bit of a PR boost and I will continue to use them in my designs (hopefully) to the delight of my clients!