There are lots of other hydrangea cultivars available besides Limelight and Little Lime. I would have no problem growing this electric blue Dutch hydrangea, but it is only available to me as a cut flower. My zone is noted for its unspeakably cold winters. Hydrangeas that would prosper in California or Virginia would sooner or later succumb to the cold. I routinely see landscapes that have what I call “florist’s hydrangeas”-presumably purchased from a greenhouse at Easter time-planted in ground. These hydrangeas rarely bloom again once planted in the ground here. The plants can survive the winters, but the flower buds are killed by the cold.
There has been a lot of interest and a lot of hybridizing of hydrangeas going on in recent years-especially in the area of hydrangeas other than white. It is no mystery why. People buy shrubs that have showy flowers, leaves or fruit. The sales of rhododendrons in my zone must be considerable. In the spring, I see newly planted shrubs in full bloom in plenty of yards. But few gardeners in my area have success with them. They like acid well drained soil, and regular moisture. They like sun, but protection from winter winds. A case in point? I have tried, on more occasions than I care to admit to, added to the established rhododendrons on the north side of my house without success. Where am I going with this? People are more likely to buy showy blooming shrubs that come with the promise that they are easy to grow. It is hard to argue with success. This pink hydrangea recently photographed in a client’s yard-I have no idea the name. I have to admit it looked great.
I have planted lots of Nikko blue hydrangeas. The places where they thrive and bloom heavily-just a handful. This property-I have not one clue why they do so well, year after year. Just down the street-big green shrubs with a few flowers here and there. Sparsely representing is not a good look for a summer blooming hydrangea.
A community on Lake Saint Clair, where I do a fair amount of work, those hydrangeas other than white are summer swell. This is one old Nikko blue hydrangea, blooming to beat the band. What it is about this environment that favors this hydrangea-I have no idea. I do have clients who faithfully acidify their hydrangeas in hopes of those prized blue blooms. Has this shrub had that level of care, or does it succeed on the strength of its location and the composition of the soil? I wonder.
The same neighborhood is all abloom with pink hydrangeas. This is a pair of shrubs. I have no idea of the cultivar. It cannot be a new variety, as these shrubs are old. On my side of town, the west side, I never see pink hydrangeas that perform like this. There are lots of new cultivars. All Summer Beauty, Endless Summer-and so on. I will admit I shy away from them. Any plant material I design into a landscape needs to have a reasonable chance of success. A client who has success may decide to move on to being a passionate gardener. Part of my my pleasure in my job is to see this happen. Sometimes I install a landscape, and I have to persuade a client to take ownership. When there are successes, they brush me off, and move on. I like this.
This discussion takes me back to the white hydrangeas. Hydrangea arborescens “Annabelle” is an old stand by. Plagued by giant flower heads, and weak stems, this cultivar weeps. It is not unusual to see them hang over to the ground. I rarely plant them anymore-I much prefer the Limelights. They are so easy, in every regard. But Annabelle planted on top of a wall is a really great look. Those flowers soften an elevated garden space.
The white hydrangeas- Limelight, Little Lime, hydrangea paniculata, Annabelle-and the strikingly foliaged oak leaf hydrangea- they prosper in my zone. Pictured above, a framed herbaria from a gardener, and her artist husband in Italy. Rob bought a series of framed hydrangea herbaria from them. It is a good thing to have a big love for the garden. The design, the planting, the care, the years-magical. I only grow Limelight hydrangeas. It is enough for me-how willing they are to grow and bloom profusely in my garden. This framed herbaria captures what I could not write in words about hydrangeas in summer. Beautiful.