Here’s to hydrangeas!

Mophead or lacecap, no not a form of Victorian dress but very pleasing additions to our garden wardrobe. Designer name: Hydrangea.

Still going strong in August, my pots and borders display a wide variety of colours of these buxom beauties – a few white, a couple pink, under which I rarely resist the excitement of adding a few rusty old nails to the soil in order to watch the flowers turn blue as the ground below wallows in acidity.

They take well from cuttings and half of my mini collection started life in this manner, mainly from some Cornish shrubs, a county where they seem to grow extra well – they like the sea air and ice-creams as much as I do! Talking of ice cream – paniculata ‘Vanille fraise’ is a particularly sweet treat sounding variety and one that fades from Mr Whippy white to berry pink over time.

Of course the macrophylla types are the kings and queens of the hydrangea kingdom – really out competing the rest in colour and size. In fact the flowers of hydrangeas are said to stand for ‘boastfulness’ – and with these ones, they’ve much to boast of. Massive powder puff pom-poms in a range of bright colours. There is even one called ‘Camilla’ – one to add to my namesake collection which already includes a sweet pea and a dieffenbachia! (These go some way to making up for the fact that my name means sacrificial attendant!). Try ‘Schloss Wackerbarth’ – amazing flowers of yellow-green, red and blue: a real talking point and under £10 – lasting far longer than an M&S meal for two!

They like a fair amount of water – their name coming from a union of the Greek words for water and vessel and are happiest in a partially shady or sunny spot. I noticed that Hydrangea quercifolia was particularly popular this year at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival – large white panicles moving around the showground in wheeled baskets almost obscuring their new owners!

Pink hydrangeas have been known to take on rather a romantic meaning, with a well-known Asian florist describing them as “the beat of my heart” – and along with peonies, it seems that these floral cushions are adorning many a bridal occasion up and down the country.

So whether in your border or bouquet, here’s to the hydrangea!




Written By Camilla Bassett-Smith

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