Hydrangeas

hydrangeas and boltoniaNo discussion of a summer landscape in the mid west is complete without a a discussion about hydrangeas. Simply said, a hydrangea is a large leaved blowsy shrub noted for its spectacularly showy flowers. I should preface my remarks about hydrangeas with my point of view about shrubs in general. I am keen for any shrub that can endow a landscape. I find that shrubs perform year after year, with a minimum of maintenance. Some medium sized shrubs-as in spirea-not only tolerate being cut to the ground in the spring, they spring back and bloom without missing a beat. Other shrubs not only tolerate uninformed pruning, they thrive in spite of it. New cultivars of dwarf shrubs-I am thinking dwarf butterfly bush – amiably adapt to small gardens. Big shrubs can screen an untoward view.  Shrubs have a decently long life span. They ask little, and provide a lot.

limelight hydrangeas They bridge the gap between the perennials that are below eye level, and the trees that are above eye level.  A yearly pruning takes the place of the long list of care requirements that perennials require. Shrubs do take a lot of room, so if you garden is small, be discriminating in your choices. Hydrangeas are as friendly to a perennial garden as they are to a stand of trees. They can add weight to a garden. Lime Light hydrangeas sport greenish white cone shaped flowers that can back up a perennial garden. They have a long season of bloom.  Their twigs are sturdily upright.

hydrangea Annabelle (2)The hydrangea Annabelle has been in bloom since June in my zone.  This is a stellar year for them.  Everywhere I see them, they are standing up fairly straight, and loaded with blooms.  I have never been a big fan of the Annabelles. Their tendency to flop over demands careful staking way in advance of the growing and flowering. What a nuisance.  This year, all those giant white blooms look great wherever I see them.  Staked, and not staked.  In sun, and in shade.  I suspect our heavy and regular rain has been really good for them.

the landscape in July (2)I planted 3 rows of annabelles and 2 rows of Lime lights in this garden this spring-so the hydrangea bloom time will be long.  5 rows of hydrangeas is an embarrassment of riches in hydrangeas.  The Annabelles, to the left, gracefully drooping over a rustic boulder wall, start blooming in June. The taller and more vertical growing back stop of Lime light hydrangeas begin to bloom in late July. This garden is at least 150 feet from a rear terrace.  All of that white will read well from a distance. Unseen in this picture-a perennial garden with a lavish white coat of hydrangeas backing it up.

hydrangea gardenI placed the 3 rows of Annabelle hydrangeas just behind this rock wall.  Their inclination to droop will soften this wall. They will provide a graceful and warm backdrop to the perennials in front of the wall. The Limelights in the rear were invisible when they were planted.  But by next year they will provide another taller layer of white to the perennial garden.

hydrangeas needing waterHydrangeas do not like dry soil. These Annabelles are in sore need of water. They may flower, but the flowers will burn without regular irrigation.  If your hydrangeas have leaves that are turning yellow and dropping on the interior, get out the hose and soak them.

hydrangea BoboI also grow Little Lime hydrangeas, which top out at 4-5 feet, and the shortest of the Limelight series-Bobo.  At 30 inches tall, they are perfect for a small garden. Or for a foreground garden that needs to be low. They are a good choice for those moments in the landscape that asks for a plant that is short and wide. This hydrangea takes to perennial neighbors like a duck to water. The white flowers highlight and set off all of the other colors in a garden.

limelights 2013 (7)I prune my Lime lights in April.  I wait until I see the buds swelling.  I usually prune my 50 plants back to 30″ tall – give or take. Every other year. I do not prune them down near the ground. Really hard pruning results in fewer, and bigger flowers. I am not interested in bigger flowers. I like lots of medium sized flowers. I like my Lime Lights at home very tall-they are faced down by an old hedge of Hicks yews.  Some years I snip the old flower heads off, and leave them be.  Light pruning means you will get long woody legs. The following year, I may take them down to 30″  My yews cover those old legs.  If your hydrangeas are front and center, take them down closer to 30″. Irregularly.  Prune each branch individually, so every branch has its own air and light space. You can prune down to 14″ above ground-if you dare.  Do not go lower than this.  Forcing growth from below ground is hard on a shrub.

August 28 2013 (8)I have had a lot of questions regarding the proper spacing of Lime Light hydrangeas. I would say there is no proper, or right spacing. The spacing chosen has to do with the design intent. I space them at 30″or 36″ on center, if my intent is to create a dense and homogeneous hedge. Close spacing means that the entire length and width of the hedge grows and prospers as one organism.  The individual plants intertwine, and become one. I have never seen a hydrangea hedge that resented this spacing.  A spacing at 6 feet is an option.  But this row will never read as a hedge.  It will read as thick and thin. Wavy. I have had clients space them at 6 feet one year, and add an intervening plant the next year.

September 19 2014 (64)Hedging hydrangeas make a very strong statement.  A lone hydrangea as a foundation planting always looks alone, and gawky.  Great landscapes gracefully integrate individual plants in service of a greater whole. I like to mass hydrangeas. A showy shrub such as this-plant lots of them. Build your gardens around them. Be generous.

hydrangeas in SeptemberIn late September, the Lime Light blooms will begin to pink up. This color is a sign that the season is coming to a close.

Oct 17 2011 001In October, the pink deepens.  This view out from my rose garden is a view I treasure from  July through October.  The dry flower heads stay put all winter long. The list of plants that do well in my zone is long, and varied.  The delight this shrub furnishes to me is very long and varied.  I would not do without them – the hydrangeas.

 

 

 

The Garden Tour

IMG_0820Our garden tour to benefit the Greening of Detroit was a successful event.  We sold 278 tickets, for both the tour, and the tour and reception. We raised close to 13,000.00 for the Greening.  This may not seem like so much, but over the past 8 years, this amounts to 97,000.00. We have been persistent in our support of them, as well we should.  For those of you that are too far away to attend our cruise, there are pictures to follow.  That said, I am so pleased that we had gardeners from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona and Washington DC attend our tour.  I could not be more pleased about the attendance, the tour-and the fabulous afterglow Rob and his group put on after the tour.  To follow are pictures from our tour day.

IMG_0818These clients have shopped at Detroit Garden Works since the first day we went into business 19 years ago.  Their landscape is all their own.  Their love of color is extraordinary. They have children, to whom they have dedicated a child friendly garden.  I so admire their landscape and garden, as they have expressed themselves with great confidence and care. They have a point of view, and they are unabashed about expressing it. Their garden was the subject of much talk-as it should be.

IMG_0813

IMG_0812

IMG_0807

IMG_0808

DSC_1996This property belongs to a new client.  We rearranged just about every plant they had. We added lots more. Just this spring. We arranged to have a long wall built in the mid ground of the back yard. My crew did an incredible job, making lots of changes.  I so treasure these clients.  Thy were ready for a change. They studied our ideas, and signed up. A change we did-in short order. The new landscape has great bones.  They will decide where they want to go next.

DSC_1998

DSC_1997

the landscape in July (14)

July 5 2015 (11)

the landscape in July (6)

July 5 2015 (38)

DSC_1990The relationship with this client dates back 20 years. The landscape features many specimen trees that have grown to great size. Like all of the other gardens on the cruise, the landscape is a mix of formal and informal, and beautifully maintained. Though we have redone a few places recently, it is clear that an older landscape, properly planted, ages well.

DSC_1994

DSC_1091

DSC_1094

DSC_1092

DSC_1964This landscape of our design took two seasons to install. Our client is an avid gardener. Her love of the garden drove the design. This landscape featured unusual trees, shrubs, and espaliers. Every square foot of this property is devoted to the plants.  I was interested that all the plants be part of a beautiful design.

DSC_1971

DSC_1973

DSC_1976

DSC_1984

DSC_1988

DSC_1978

DSC_1906This landscape belongs to clients who have shopped Detroit Garden Works for the last 20 years. The landscape is all of their design.  They have the most beautiful collection of fine garden urns we know of in one place-all of which came from our shop. We have consulted on the landscape on occasion. But what you see here is by and large of their own invention.  How they invent is extraordinary.  We are so pleased to be associated with them.

DSC_1909

DSC_1912

DSC_1903

DSC_1897

DSC_1895

DSC_1898Our garden cruise this year was all I could ask from a garden tour. A diverse group of gardeners who have a passion for the landscape.  Every garden was strikingly different.  But every garden spoke to a love for the landscape.  Oh yes, they did.

The Finished Landscape

landscape 2015 (4)This post is the last in a series of three about the renovation of a landscape. The fences and gates were finished just in time for our garden tour last Sunday. It is remarkable how much they contribute to the landscape. Though I say the landscape is finished, of course there are spots that could be improved.  But for now, the landscape has presence, and is healthy. The back yard feels like a secret garden-which is what my clients sought the most from their landscape renovation.

DSC_1853

DSC_1220

lead containers

DSC_1877

landscape 2015 (3)The view from the driveway culminates in a peegee hydrangea on standard.

DSC_1854

landscape 2015 (5)A 12″ tall retaining wall on the far side of the pergola made it possible to level the ground in this area.  The pergola is planted with the climbing rose “John Davis”.

landscape 2015 (6)The view of the yard looking north benefits from the landscapes further up the street.  The long view here is quite lovely, even though the setting is an urban neighborhood.

DSC_1861The south side yard

landscape 2015 (7)The tricolor beech has some companion plantings.

DSC_1863

DSC_1865a small perennial garden

landscape 2015 (8)

landscape 2015 (11)

Q landscape (4)

DSC_1867

landscape 2015 (9)The pergola from the front yard has gates and a fence to go with. Planted between the Venus dogwoods-hydrangea “Bobo”, and pachysandra.

landscape 2015 (10)Planted on the fence, sweet autumn clematis. The emerald green arborvitae are planted on the fence line, while the hedge of Venus dogwoods curves forward.  The two hedges overlap in a visually interesting way.

landscape 2015 (12)Emerald green arborvitae provide screening on the driveway side.

landscape 2015 (1)The gates

DSC_1873The generator is not screened from this view, yet.

DSC_1317at the end of the driveway, an old bench flanked by a pair of pots.

DSC_1226The end result – a simple formal landscape in front that makes much of the classic architecture of the house, and three beautiful and mature concolor firs. In the back, a very private landscape and garden that will only get better with time.

 

 

At A Glance: Scenes From The Installation

DSC_4804To follow are some pictures that detail the landscape renovation process for the property I wrote about yesterday. In establishing privacy close up on the terrace, and screening the generator from view, a new home was created for the lead fountain.

DSC_4768a scheme for the garage wall that involved centering the existing trellis, and adding a pair of candelabra style espaliers –  faced down with a double row of boxwood.

DSC_9557a custom made planter box from Branch Studio centered on the trellis

DSC_5022The new home for the lead fountain creates a mid ground layer of privacy up close to the terrace. Though not readily apparent in this picture, the boxwood curves around the back of the fountain.

DSC_5021privacy on the terrace on the south side

October 12 2014 (12)providing for good drainage

DSC_0076setting 11 Venus dogwoods on a curve-well out of the way of the power lines

pergolarestored wood arbor moved from the front yard to the entrance to the rear yard garden

October 12 2014 (18)gravel along the foundation in the front yard

DSC_1266a few favorite perennials

Q landscape (2)the last of the planting.  In this picture you can see that the boxwood backdrop to the lead fountain was planted on a curve that matches the curve of the Venus dogwoods. A few broadly brushed curves can energize a narrow, boxy space.

DSC_1220The existing lead boxes were moved onto the porch where their diminutive size and subtle detail can be better appreciated.  2 new custom boxes were fabricated and placed as “end posts” to the boxwood hedge across the front.  Their size is proportional, and scaled to the size of the porch. The indented, concave corners of the boxes is a traditional detail.

Q landscape (6)A new powder coated steel pergola has the same footprint as the sun room on the opposite side of the house, and features a gothic arch detail taken from the existing windows on the house.  The pergola is set level, true and plumb.  The regrading of the ground would come later.

new yewsNew yews replaced those that had been killed by the previous two winters.

a new lookAn updated design was beginning to emerge. Tomorrow, the finish.