knows what a hydrangea looks like. Non-gardeners
may not know the name but mention a big, mop
head flowers and they will remember it.
The trouble is there is more than one type of
hydrangea. Even the mop headed types have differences.
There is the common Hydrangea macrophylla which
is divided into Hortensia with the typical spherical
flower head made up of sterile flowers and Lacecap
with flattened heads with small fertile flowers
in the centre surrounded by larger sterile flowers.
Confusion is centred around the fact that they
change their flower colour depending on the
amount of lime or lack of it in the soil. Acid
soil encourages blue or shades of purple while
alkaline, limy conditions will make the flowers
pink or red.
H. villosa has beautiful dark green, velvety
leaves and rich blue fertile and rose-lilac
The leaves and stems of H. sargentiana are very
bristly with purple fertile flowers surrounded
by white, sometimes tinged with purple, sterile
flowers. It has an upright habit of growth making
10 ft in height.
One of my favourites is H. paniculata ‘Grandiflora’
with large flower heads shaped like a bunch
of grapes made up of mainly white sterile flowers
that become tinged with pink as they age.
The oak leafed species H. quercifolia has deeply
lobed, oak-shaped leaves and white flowers.
Then there are the climbing hydrangeas with
H. petiolaris the best known. It is deciduous
and vigorous with dark green leaves that turn
buttery yellow in autumn. It clings to its support
using aerial roots. The clusters of white, fertile
and sterile flowers appear in summer. Be warned,
given the chance, this climber will climb to
The evergreen climbing hydrangea, H. seemannii
has leathery, bright green leaves with greenish-white
fertile flowers and pure white sterile flowers
in summer. It is not fully hardy succeeding
best in a sheltered, sunny site. It is not as
vigorous as H. petiolaris but will grow to 30
ft in height.
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