Hydrangeas Are No Longer My Wall FlowersWednesday, July 19, 2006
For most of my life I was a wall flower because I could not dance. I have come to identify with my over 35 hydrangeas as plants that nobody acknowledges as being important in a garden. They are seen as mostly ordinary plants. I have striking hostas and beautiful roses. Most of my roses peter out by mid July and some of the hostas are developing slug holes and their flower scapes look messy, unless I now cut them off. What's in bloom throughout my garden now and are pristine and crisp in their greeness? The hydrangeas are. I have come to appreciate their ease of cultivation, that they are pest free, and best of all, that they are faithful. I have pruned them incorrectly in my ignorant past but they always came back to greet me in the spring. The ill reputation of hydrangeas (hortensias in Victorian England) is perhaps due to the fact that most people have one kind, the blue or reddish mopheads of the Hydrangea macropylla type. I have many macrophyllas that are far from ordinary looking. Note the black stems and the delicate colouring of Hydrangea macrophylla 'Nigra' (top, right). I will never understand why it seems to be a secret that many hydrangeas (when their pollen is out) are intensely fragrant. They smell of honey. This is particularly the case with the Southern US species, Hydrangea quercifolia (bottom) (named after its oak[quercus] shaped leaves) and the Hydrangeas paniculatas . Some hydrangeas are not fragrant, just beautiful as Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blue Wave'being held here by Rebecca. I find it appropriate that Donald Duck's first chance to star in a cartoon (without having to compete with Mickey) was in 1937. But he did have to share a bit of his fame with an agressive but tender Hortense the ostrich. Sooner or later you just have to notice them even when they are growing well in dark corners where nothing else would.