Today we’re in Elie Gilbert’s garden.
I’ve been gardening for at least 70 years, but I’ve never seen a year like this for hydrangeas. Here in my Plymouth, Massachusetts, garden, we recently had one of the rainiest Julys on record, and the hydrangeas just loved it, rewarding us with both aggressive growth and a magnificent display of blossoms.
I have a large assortment of hydrangeas in both my hill garden and patio garden—lacecaps, mopheads, bigleaf (Hydrangea macrophylla, Zones 5–9), tall oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia, Zones 5–9), and even a dwarf one called ‘Pia’. Although I love them all, I have to admit that the lacecaps are my favorite because of the delicacy of their flowers.
The ‘Nikko Blue’ hydrangea can be stunning, both for its intense blue color and the size of its blossoms. Most of that strong blue color results from the high acidity of our soil, so I never have to add anything to it to maintain that color. However, some hydrangeas, like ‘Pia’, always remain pink in color, regardless of how acidic the soil is. But just like other hydrangeas, they prefer an acidic soil to grow their best.
I can’t say enough about my oakleaf hydrangeas, because they offer something of interest all year long. They begin by putting out enormous oak-shaped leaves, which can often reach 10 inches in size. Then when they come into bloom, their large panicle-shaped flowers open white, then transition through several shades of pink over the summer. When fall arrives, the leaves turn a wonderful crimson color, and even after the leaves drop off, the cinnamon-colored bark on this beauty shreds off in long strips that flutter in the wind.
I can’t think of any gardener in the Northeast who doesn’t have at least one hydrangea in his or her garden. It just seems to be a part of our gardening culture.
The hill and patio gardens with hydrangeas
Mophead, lacecap, and oakleaf hydrangeas
Lacecap hydrangea ‘White Wave’
‘White Wave’ blossom
Patio garden with lacecap hydrangea ‘Blue Wave’ and mophead ‘Cityline Paris’
Oakleaf hydrangea changing from white to dusty rose
Lacecap hydrangea and Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis, Zones 4–9)
Lacecap hydrangea nestled in the shade of a birch tree
‘Nikko Blue’ hydrangea
Hydrangeas in view from the hill behind the house
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