All gardeners favor certain plants; our penchant changes over the years as we develop expertise and daring. I'm currently enthralled by hydrangeas, and have been for the past several years.
What's not to love? These beauties offer 3-season color, lasting blossoms, structure in the garden, a range of hues from pure white and ivory to pink to lavendar, to blue, red-purple and on through to green. They're relatively deer-resistant, and increasingly hardy here in Zone 5. I plant at least one each year, and my collection has flourished to now include approximately ten different types. I'm already scouting the catalogues for my '09 baby. (maybe climbing hydrangea, H. petiolaris?
One of the varieties I put in last year was 'Lady in Red'. I'd seen her mentioned in several publications, and finally spied a well-grown specimen when Muriel and I visited the New York Botanical Garden last June. Oh my! The serrated leaves, flushed with red, the quantity of pink- shading to-antique-rose blooms, the full, old-fashioned arch of the branches....I knew I had to own one. Luckily, my local Agway had several. One landed in the bed of my truck and was soon at home in Back Yard Garden #1 (all my gardens have names), tucked in nicely between miscanthus 'Morning Light' and hosta 'Sagae'.
What other hydrangeas do I grow, and why? My all-time favorite is 'Preziosa', (see above, snugged in behind the perovskia and hydrangea 'Nikko Blue'). 'Preziosa' is an old variety, difficult to find in these parts. (though White Flower Farm offers it this year---good thinking!) It's a loosely rounded shrub, bearing a quantity of pink/rose/green/beige blooms from July to October. Its flowers dry beautifully. I also enjoy 'Glowing Embers', a deep burgandy. And 'Nikko Blue', which I find not too different in appearance from 'Endless Summer'. (Neither of the preceding two varieties dry well). 'Blushing Bride' is a petite wonder at the front edge of the White Pine Garden. I'm in awe of hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky'. The colors! The size! And my blue lacecap, 'Bluebird', with a bit of assistance, blooms a deep blue each summer, though not for as long as the mopheads.
New to me is 'Let's Dance Starlight', a compact, deep-pink lacecap, and 'Limelight' which promises to bloom an intriguing yellow-green.
My hydrangeas have seldom been deer-nibbled, but I do apply repellent once a month, 12 months a year. I grow my garden in rich, compost-laden soil, and thus do not fertilize much, except for an occasional dusting of Milorganite, which is broadcast as part of my defeat-the-deer arsenal.
The whole issue of changing color on hydrangeas is best taken up in a future post, and will be.
It may be time for you to get back in touch with a shrub from grandmother's garden. Try hydrangea; you won't be sorry.