2015-07-16 / From The Garden

The Hardy Hydrangea

By Cynthia Gibson

Endless Summer, Pink, Pinky Winky, and White Lace hydrangeas Endless Summer, Pink, Pinky Winky, and White Lace hydrangeas Hydrangeas are trouble-free shrubs that deliver buckets of huge blooms for your front hall bouquet or for a dinner party arrangement. They have a tremendous range of colors from which to choose, and little to no fragrance. What is best about the hydrangea is that it can take a mighty frost and come back to life in the spring. Last winter was very cold, as was the previous winter. Our hydrangeas fared far better this year. You can see them in all their glory from now through August.

Native to southern and eastern Asia, the interesting thing about hydrangeas is that they all begin as green flowers. Bored with bland white and green blooms, the French discovered ways to turn the shrubs into varying shades of blue and pink when they were first shipped to the Continent from China in the late 1700s. Today they are considered a classic Aquidneck Island flower.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. After this past winter you all might be yearning for a bit of endless summer. In this case, you can have your “endless summer” and plant it too! Endless Summer is one of the seriously blue hydrangeas that reach their peak this week on Aquidneck Island and Jamestown. If blue is your choice of color you can buy Endless Summer, with its puffy large delicate mopheads of sky blue. For a deeper blue, select Nikko. It has the color of a true Delft blue. A new introduction for 2015 in the blue hydrangea category is Let’s Dance Bo-Jangles. You have got to love the name.

For a frilly lace-cap blue hydrangea, you should select Mariesii Perfecta. This lacy variety fits the bill for Victorian plantings, and is wonderful for gardens and walkways and paths.

Pink hydrangeas have become a new favorite. Their colors range from blush pink to deep magenta, bordering on purple. Incredible Blush is one of the softest, subtlest pinks in the marketplace. It grows easily; within two years your young shrub will be filled with large tuffets of blossoms that gently blend a ballet pink and a pastel lavender. It is lovely and different.

Pinky Winky looks like an inverted ice cone. When it first blooms, it is a pure white. As it ages the base of the cone-shaped flower turns a darker pink and the middle of the flower head slowly shades from dark to light pink to the very tip, which is white.

One of our island’s steadfast hydrangeas is the white Annabelle. It will have some of the largest flower heads you will see all summer. Despite its size it is demure and fine, like Belgian lace.

Garden tip: Add aluminum if you want your hydrangeas to turn blue.

Drying hydrangeas is tricky; it is best to consider them a good filler for fall dried-flower bouquets. Regardless of the variety, keeping the vibrant hues can be very difficult; dead flowers just want to turn different shades of brown. Your hydrangea will do the same thing. You will see hints of pink, and blue and perhaps a hint of green, but they will mostly fade to simple shades of brown and beige.

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