"Hydrangeas have so many winning attributes, it's hard to imagine an easier group of plants to grow, or any other flowering shrubs capable of providing vibrant color for so long a season"
-from the Introduction
The large number of hydrangea cultivars developed in recent years has done much to increase their popularity across North America. Gardeners in colder regions, who could not grow these brilliant bloomers, now have many choices available. Today there are new super-hardy, dwarf and compact varieties; new colors; and new forms of these satisfying plants.
Glyn Church celebrates these developments in this comprehensive guide. Illustrated with lush color photographs on every page, Complete Hydrangeas features:
The author's advice, guidance and enthusiasm will have readers enjoying these show-stopping blooms in their own gardens.
Glyn Church studied at Pershore College of Horticulture and the famous Chelsea Physic Garden in London. He now operates Woodleigh Nursery in New Zealand, where he grows an extensive range of hydrangeas.
Hydrangeas are back in fashion after a few decades of being ignored. I find it hard to fathom why their popularity ever waned when they have so many wonderful qualities. Hydrangeas can be everything from formal shrubs in a courtyard to the visual highlight of a woodland garden. If you only have a paved area, or perhaps no garden at all, you can still enjoy hydrangeas in containers, maybe as window box subjects in an apartment, as a flowering potted plant on your dining table, or in vases around your living areas. No other plant is so diverse, so resilient or gives such pleasure for so long.
Over the years hydrangeas have won me over completely. From initially thinking of these plants as simply a fill-in shrub for summer color, I now see hidden depths and qualities in every one. This has driven me to some lengths to acquire new hydrangeas; everything from importing new varieties to extend the range available, to trekking through remote regions and abandoned homesteads looking for old faithfuls that have survived the centuries. The old house may fall down and disintegrate, but next to its foundations the ever-resilient hydrangea lives on. In this quest I've been extremely fortunate to have had the help of Corinne and Robert Mallet in France, Mat and Mary Kay Condon in the United States and Maurice Foster in England. All these enthusiasts have introduced me to new plants and sent me material. In New Zealand I was indebted to the late Os Blumhardt, who kept an old labeled collection of hydrangeas long after most people would have dug them out as "unfashionable." With Os's help I've been able to restore some long-lost varieties to Europe and the United States. I've also trekked around the world searching for wild hydrangeas in Korea, China, and the Himalayas. In Bhutan we found hydrangea plants as big as old pear trees. Not only were they large enough to climb, but on one occasion I observed langur monkeys among their branches, teasing a yapping dog below.
Someone in the United States (Martha Stewart, I think) decided in the year 1999 to call the hydrangea "the plant of the next millennium." I would be delighted to think these shrubs could be popular for the next thousand years, and with the never-ending range of colors and new cultivars available, there's no reason that this can't be prophetic.
The macrophylla type of hydrangea has a new-found popularity, primarily for two reasons. Firstly, the shrubs are now appreciated as exceptional providers of long-lasting cut flowers to decorate homes throughout the year. Secondly, for garden use, growers have discovered what are called "remontant" varieties capable of sending up new flower stalks all summer. In cold regions flowering canes may die in winter, or the early flowers are frosted and killed in spring, resulting in no flowers during the months following. Now, with the remontant types sending up new flower stems from below the frosted buds, even people in cold regions can enjoy hydrangeas in their garden. People like Michael Dirr, professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia in Atlanta, have set up extensive breeding programs to find hardier cultivars and ones resistant to common diseases. There has also been a huge increase in the number and popularity of H. paniculata and H. quercifolia as these are more reliably hardy and will therefore grow in more regions of the country. This has encouraged nurserymen to look for new clones of these species and has given us some splendid new varieties to grace our gardens -- doubles, pinks and bicolored forms, all adding to the hydrangea's appeal.
In Japan, the home of many hydrangeas, the shrubs were long seen as inconstant because they can change color depending on the soil type in which they grow. Despite this limitation, their popularity continues with the Japanese, who are now introducing a host of delicious double-flowered lacecaps in both the macrophylla and serrata series. It seems that all over the world these classic garden shrubs are enjoying a renaissance.
Appendix I: Hardy Varieties of H. marophylla and H. serrata