06 August 2009

Quite a year for Hydrangeas

One of my favourite novels is one that came out some years ago by writer Bailey White. Quite a Year For Plums is a delightful read, (and a novel I re-read regularly), but I especially love the title, and borrowed from it because it seemed apt for this post. Hydrangeas have the Greek for 'water' (hydra) in their name, and this year, all the water we're getting seems to be inspiring them more than usual.
I don't grow mopheads as a rule (the exception comes below) but I enjoy seeing them grown well, and this year they seem to be exceptionally well-grown down along the Acadian shore of the province from Yarmouth, through Clare and up to Annapolis Royal. Most are blue, but in looking through my photos of the past few days (during which I was on a roadtrip with my mother), I realize I LOOKED at dozens of blue mopheads but didn't photograph ANY. I did, however, photograph some of the striking purple hydrangeas that show up around Yarmouth.

I first saw these about three years ago, and nearly went off the road gawking at them. And I first saw them in late October that year, when frost had affected them somewhat. Here, however, is what they looked like on Tuesday, showing off their purple colours beautifully. Hydrangeas will turn purple when the soil is not too acid and not too alkaline (and depending on the cultivar; deep pink or deep blue varieties turn the richest shade of purple).

This is a flowerhead of the same hydrangea, taken three years ago in late October. They're astonishing, aren't they?

I sneaked a shot of this softly blue mophead hydrangea at the Queen Anne Inn in Annapolis Royal yesterday morning before breakfast. There weren't many buds on this one, suggesting that it's one that forms flower buds on old wood, and likely killed mostly to the ground during the winter-from-hell we had.

I highly, HIGHLY recommend the Queen Anne if you're staying in the Annapolis Royal area. It's one of my two favourite Inns in the province, the other being the Blomidon Inn here in Wolfville where they have a huge and wonderful display bed of hydrangeas, including this beautiful blue mophead.

Back in my own garden, there are mostly lacecaps and paniculata-types, along with two suckering, exuberant Annabelle-type white snowball type hydrageas. This is a blue lacecap in need of some acidifying help in the soil. I think it's 'Blue Bird' because its foliage turns handsomely red in autumn; Rob Baldwin of Baldwin Nurseries gave it to me a few years ago with orders to cold test it. It's doing just fine, Rob!

This is 'Blue Billows', another lacecap; it's in a different bed and is holding its blue petal colour just fine, thank you. The only problem with this shrub is that it hasn't grown as tall as some and is behind other, more exuberant plants. I haven't had the courage to move it.

Along with the lacecaps, I'm very fond of the paniculata type hydrangeas, including Limelight (with green flowers). This is 'Quickfire,' the earliest paniculata type to bloom. As its flowers age, they will turn rosy pink, and they speckle as they turn from white to pink. The florets are really, really large this year.

'Quickfire' is shooting up a lot of new growth and flowering at the same time. It'll flower until frost, or at least last year it put on a whole lot of new flowers in late summer/early autumn. I've been trialing this plant for several years and really like it.

This is an Annabelle/snowball type (H. arborescens). It suckers a lot, and blooms like a mad maniac. I have two of them, and this one I cut back hard last year. It had only a few blooms last year. This year, it has exploded in size and in bloom. The other one got its pruning this year so it's only putting on a small display this summer at the other end of the bed. The flower heads aren't as large as 'Annabelle' but they don't fall over too much, either.

Another view of my snowball hydrangea, along with some Jacob Kline bee balm and the slightly-overwhelmed Viburnum plicatum tomentosum 'Mariesii' (doublefile viburnum) off to the left. On the right are the huge leaves of a plant I've loved to hate for a couple of years, but which is redeeming itself this year.

That plant is the mophead hydrangea 'Endless Summer'. I've loved to hate it because it's been sullen for a couple of years. Last year, I took the shovel out and warned it that it had one. more. summer. in which to prove itself, or else it was moving to the compost heap.

Well. It's gone nuts. It's not flowering yet, but it's formed a lot of flowerheads and promises to put on a show. I think this is a definite case of being a hydrangea that needs a LOT Of water. Other summers, it's wilted some on days with hot sunlight. (Yes, we do get a few of those days. Today is one). This year, the ground has stayed wet, the plant hasn't wilted at all and it's growing like a triffid. It's perhaps being inspired by being between the snowball hydrangea and 'Limelight' paniculata hydrangea, which I pruned hard this spring and which also went completely nuts as a result. (We'll see photos of it soon. Right now it's just forming its flowerheads.) Anyway, 'Endless Summer' looks like it's finally going to live up to its promised hype of the past few years.

Quite a year for hydrangeas, indeed.


  1. Hi Jodi~~ An upside to the cool and rainy weather. There's always a silver lining, isn't there? Last year I had a fascination [obsession really] with mopheads that morph from pink to deep red. This year it's that deep purple I'm scouting out. There are several planted around town but I suppose the owners wouldn't like it if I brought my shovel and helped myself. Tempting though. Do you think the nurseries are carrying any? Heck no. Oh well. Somehow I'll survive. LOL

    Last fall I purchased H. paniculata 'Pinky Winky.' So far so good. It survived our heatwave unscathed and is currently in the midst of the white-to-pink transformation. ... I love your H. arborescens. Fabulous. Great photos all around! The novel sounds intriguing.

  2. You have a large variety of the beauties. I love them all.

  3. i love that richest shade of purple. Bravo, Jodi! Pick!

  4. Hail to the Hydrangeas. They are doing well here too. I have one that is blooming for the first time and I am sure it is due to the wet weather. yip yip...

  5. Those purple ones are making me drool! The only one I have is Endless Summer, just planted this year, and so far, eh. The leaves keep browning on me, but I keep it nice and moist. It's on the north side of my house, but gets late day sun but perhaps it's just too much. I hope it doesn't take years to perk up like yours!

  6. Jodi girl ! That purple hydrangea made me think immediately of a great "grape" popsicle ? LOL
    Seriously I had no idea there was such an intense purple hydrangea .. wow !
    I am so glad I took up your recommendation for Quick Fire .. it is looking great in my front garden .. I may have to move it in my back garden where it really doesn't get enough sun but bravely soldiers on .. Cityline types are doing well so far too ! I love their smaller size.
    Yes .. hydrangea are something else girl : )

  7. Oooh, jodi, that deep plum color on the one is AMAZING. I've never seen anything like that. And your blues, well, we will likely never see that consistently here, since our soil is strongly alkaline. My 'Bailmer' Endless Summer begins the year with bluish blooms, but they get more pink as summer wears on.

    You're right, the Endless Summer varieties require more water than most. I've got a ring of various types of hydrangeas around a deck that surrounds our large oak tree out back and of all the ones planted, both Endless Summers ('Bailmer' and 'Blushing Bride') are the first to wilt in any kind of heat or hot sun. Water them, and they bounce right back, but it's slightly annoying that I have to do that all the time. That being said, those two are DEFINITELY the stars of my hydrangeas, blooming non-stop all summer long. When the price comes down, I'll be purchasing the new one, 'Twist and Shout'.

    Okay, back to freaking out about the garden walk. The Master Gardeners are coming this evening to tour and the tour itself is Sunday.

  8. With all our sun so far Pee Gee is the only one that is thriving for us. The day will come when we can have more. :-)--Randy

  9. Hi Jodi,

    Funny you should post about hydrangeas just when I was thinking of them. They're blooming like crazy around my neighborhood and make me want one so bad. Although, the only one I've seen around here that I'd consider buying is a green one that deep purple one is killer.

    Thanks for the hydrangea tour.

  10. I have planted many hydrangeas since I moved here. I am looking forward to one day having beautiful displays as those in your post.

  11. I think it takes 'Endless Summer' a few years to establish a good sized root system to support all that growth and flowering. What do you think? This third year I have quite large plants with many blooms although, as you say, it has bee wet here also. Love Limelight, Annabelle and Quick Fire. No lace caps yet but soon! Yours are just beautiful.

  12. Those are breathtaking, I never really paid them any attention before, but wow. Thanks for the closeups.

  13. Can you hear that very loud sigh of happiness for you! Your hydrangeas are beautiful. The other sigh is in disappointment that I can't grow them here! But they are certainly great looking in your garden....the lacecaps are my favorites. gail

  14. I love the lacecaps too, and my hydrangea with a name that has Moth in it has done fabulously. Since I decided I needed to replace a wide swath of lawn with big shrubs I've been thinking of hydrangeas. I've seen huge oakleaf hydrangeas and I'm checking out the size others like Pinky Winky. And I'm researching the name of the one I have because I'd love another.
    I just attended a wedding in a garden that had mass plantings of Annabelle and it was a terrific effect. A reminder that mass plantings of almost anything are a good idea.

  15. I don't think I've ever seen a Hydrangea I didn't like. A bit too cold here and I believe my soil is the active ingredient in antacids but I still try everyone I can get my hands on.

  16. Mine are doing well also and hopefully will have lots of blooms next year. Most of mine were just put in the ground early this summer. You have so many nice varieties and of course, I like the PWs best.

  17. Spectacular post, Jodi. Thanks for sharing these cool photos.


  18. I love, love hydrangeas! In one of my first years of gardening I planted some "Endless Summers." They've done ok for me, but as I've learned more about hydrangeas, I realize I like varieties other than the mopheads more. "Endless" has taken a major growth spurt this year, although not blooming as much as I'd like--the cool, wet weather here has helped, too. Mine always turn pink in our alkaline soil, though, because I always forget to add some acidic food:) Last fall I added a "Limelight," and now I've decided I love the paniculatas best of all. You have such a lovely collection of so many types, Jodi!

  19. Oh this is a grand post on hydrangeas and yours look huge. I am so glad to hear about the hard cut back and the recuperation. You worry about those sorts of drastic measures. They look really pretty jodi!

  20. Hi Jodie. Long time no visit. We've been setting up another house in the city which is begging for hydrangeas, ferns, hostas and azaleas. Rhododendron would be lovely as well, but the soil is too bad for them right now. LOVE your hydrangeas!

  21. Hi Jodi, lush photography with perfect saturation! This is my first stop by. I could eat that pale blue hydrangea! Your blog is a "plum."


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