Photo and article by Donna Iverson
Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. That is the comment most people make on seeing a hydrangea bush in flower. The flowers are large, fragrant, showy and, well, beautiful.
As many of you already know, the flowers come in many colors including pink, white, lavender and white depending on the soil PH. Alkaline soil produces the pink color while acidic soil turns the flowers blue. Gardeners often alter the soil PH to get their preferred shade. Lime makes the soil more alkaline and aluminum sulfate acidifies it. Although if you want to go the natural route, add coffee grounds and egg shells for acidification.
Are hydrangeas native to our area, I wondered ??
Of five types of hydrangeas, two are native to North America: the smooth heart-shaped leaf or wild hydrangea (arborescens) which can grow to 7 feet tall and look like a tree and the oakleaf (quercifolia) variety. The other types mostly originated in Asia, including the French, panicle, and climbing hydrangeas.
Hydrangea bloom from spring to fall and are usually planted as a hedge in home landscapes. They prefer morning sun, afternoon shade and lots of water. Deer will eat them if they are very hungry. But deer eat any plant if they are hungry. The plant is a long lived plant, lasting 50 years or more.
An old fashioned plant, hydrangeas make an excellent addition to a cottage garden and will grow in containers on your patio or deck The flowering shrub is definitely becoming more popular and was named plant of the year in 2018 by the Royal Horticulture Society in the UK.
A pollinator plant it is not and will not attract bees so if it’s pollinator plants you are seeking to add to the yard or garden, hydrangeas won’t cut it.
Hydrangeas do have a long history, dating back 64 million years to the time of the dinosaurs. But it wasn’t until 1739 that the plant got its name from a Dutch botanist named Jan Frederik Groconius, who thought the flowers looked like an ancient water pitcher.
For more information on how to buy and care for hydrangeas, check out the https://americanhydrangeasociety.org. The American Hydrangea Society offers Zoom meetings for enthusiasts. “A fascination with the hydrangea in all of its forms is the common thread that unites the members of the AHS,” says their website.