Hydrangeas equal summer equal June and July; the very essence of this season. These are the best blooming summer shrubs. P.S. There is a hydrangea vine. These shrubs like water and depending on variety, they tolerate sun some sun but light shade is very acceptable also. Water is crucial. Most of them are deciduous so selecting elegant evergreens as companions or backgrounds is very important for balance and the winter landscape. Many hydrangeas make excellent tub/container plants that can be moved into place as the come into bloom. By selecting different varieties and species, it is possible to have a very long season of bloom within the color ranges of white, pink, blue, and lavender. Those with variegated leaves generally look better with some shade.
Some can have their color changed by adding acid or alkaline fertilizers. The macrophylla species or mophead and lacecap cultivars are the most generally seen and color changes are easier to accomplish. They also are easily cut and dried for off season flower arrangements, including wreaths. Nikko Blue is the standard for blue cultivars. My favorite white is Sister Therese and Hanabi is a fine pink. There is one semi double hydrangea called Domotoi that usually varies to almost white and various shades of pink, usually light pink. Another hydrangea with different shaped flowers is Ayesha that resembles the lilac in shape and is very pretty when it stays in the lavender range. Flower size can vary—I just got a new one called Everlasting Wings that has huge white and lime green flowers with serrated petals and I'm looking forward to seeing how big it might grow without flopping over.
Three other Hydrangea species are excellent garden plants also. Start with Annabelle, an arborescens cultivar that has round white snowball like flowers that fade to green. This variety will spread by runners so you can easily make new plants fro gifting or plant sales. Hydrangea quercifolia, the oak leaf hydrangea, has cone shaped white flowers, with attractive leaves that have great fall color. This plant can get tall. The third choice is one that has fuzzy leaves and peeling bark called Hydrangea aspera with lace cap like flowers tending toward toward pinks and blues. In its native Asian habitat it can get huge in spread. Quarryhill Botanic Garden has some asperas that have been grown from collecteed seed that have to be seen to be believed the size.
I like using Japanese painted ferns and dwarf conifers with hydrangeas as companions.
If scent is important to you, check out Azalea occidental. It can have cultivars that bloom during June. Azalea viscosum is another deciduous late blooming fragrant one, Both enjoy being near a water feature.
Sandy Spencer, in collaboration with Polo de Lorenzo, contributes regular updates to "What's New" at the Sonoma Horticultural Nursery.
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