Not so long ago hydrangeas were considered most unfashionable and were evicted from many gardens. I cannot see how gardeners followed this trend and were not incensed at this shabby treatment of a beautiful addition to a garden. A mature plant can take up a good bit of space, but it really earns its place in the garden. Stunning flowers in a variety of colours, good as cut flowers, lovely faded blossoms over winter, nice autumn leaf colour and no fuss about soil or climate.
I love hydrangeas, but I worried about the allocation of so much space to growing them. Our friend in Cork has a huge variety, predominantly blue, growing happily in the wet near-tropical conditions of the county. He has been offering me cuttings for years and I have always refused.
My mother had two beautiful blue specimens, one mophead and one lacecap, their names lost in the mists of time; both were a couple of metres in diameter. I got cuttings of both when we moved to Kildare and grew them on in pots, not the most ideal conditions for them, but they are tolerant. In spite of my best efforts both are resolutely pink in our garden on the esker ridge. After years of giving them ericaceous compost, rainwater and even burying rusty nails in the pots, the insipid pinky-blue colour made me give up. They are now vibrant pink, and very happy, both in outsized pots, and another one from a cutting in the ground.
A few years ago I added a hydrangea paniculata “Vanille fraise” to the front border. The lovely large cone shaped flowers start out pure white, then edge to pale pink, and finally fade to a deep strawberry pink, and so living up to their name.
Last summer, on a visit to Cork, our friend’s hydrangeas were so beautiful, that I thought of a plan to have a row of them in large pots along the wall separating the back garden from the front, replacing pots of lavender, potentilla and fuchsia. So I gratefully accepted a handful of cuttings. He gave us hydrangea macrophylla “Lilacina” and hydrangea serrata “Grayswood” and “Preziosa”. They rooted over winter in my new glasshouse and I planted them up in pots for the summer. I will plant them on into larger pots for next year and put my plan into action. They will never be as happy as in the ground, but I think they will cope very well. On a brief visit before the second lockdown this year he gave us a growing plant of hydrangea serrata “Miranda”, a small variety that I can grow in the soil.
For winter reading I’ve set aside Glyn Church’s Complete Hydrangeas which I will enjoy over the long dark days and I look forward to a beautiful display of hydrangeas into the future. It’s a work in progress!