Hydrangea in New England

Hydrangeas are a quintessential part of a New England summer. Picture a cedar shake coastal style home located over the vast waters of the Atlantic. Can you picture the woody plants gracing the foundation of the home? I imagine all along the foundation are gorgeous hydrangeas with massive white blooms nodding in the ocean breezes.

Incrediball

After we purchased our home, we were asked by our association to remove huge invasive burning bushes alone the front foundation and plant something else. We were new to the area so we consulted a well-known landscape designer who suggested go with aborescens hydrangeas. Why not, I thought. We’re in New England now. Yeah!

Incrediball

It’s been 3 years and the Hydrangea arborescens ‘Abetwo’ Incrediball are absolutely gorgeous at this time of the year. Two are shaded part of the day but the third has a lot of hot afternoon sun…. and that one performs even better than the more shaded hydrangeas. The Incrediball is a carefree hydrangea with real staying power and very few diseases or pests. Since it blooms on new wood, we prune the shrubs close to the ground in late winter to encourage vigorous and strong stem growth and better form. It has paid off. The shrubs are over 5′ tall and fill the foundation well. Blooms are incredible (Incrediball?) and are held aloft on strong steps. All amazing but especially amazing is that they held up blooms in 3″ of rain in a fast moving gullywasher that we had a few days ago.

Incrediball.

The problem is…. I don’t like them there. Perhaps if I owned that cedar shingle style home on the seacoast, they’d be perfect. But we live in a nice New Hampshire neighborhood and they just don’t look right to me.  I don’t like bare branches as a front-of-the-house foundation all winter and  I’ve NEVER been crazy about blooming shrubs dominating a front foundation. I guess I’m an old-school gardener.

So I’m making plans for an evergreen border that I should have done in the first place. I’ll let flowering shrubs overflow in other parts of the garden…. the viburnums, clethra, and several other hydrangea that add drama to my back borders, but evergreens will be out front. Period. Final.

The good news: These are excellent pass-along shrubs. Aborescens can be shared. When the time is right, I will divide the root balls into quarters and each one will be a lovely new Incrediball hydrangea planted en masse in someone else’s New England garden. They would make a lovely hedge…

 

 

9 thoughts on “Hydrangea in New England

  1. Gorgeous hydrangea, but I agree that having bare branches all winter makes the front of the house look … well … bare. I’d love to hear what evergreens you plan to put in.

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    • Yew and rhodys seem to be the foundation plants of choice in this area. They do thrive, but to be just plain ornery, I’m looking toward the Ilex family and perhaps a smaller evergreen dwarf winterberry. No decisions yet.

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      • We have some rhodos that aren’t doing well. I’ve put Ilex glabra in my boggy spots and they are thriving – the leaves have such a great texture and color (both new and old). Dwarf winterberry is a great idea!

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  2. Those look something like the old classic white hydrangeas that are so rare now. They are all so brightly colored now. If not blued, they are naturally pink in our alkaline soil. When I was a kid, big hydrangeas grew in those tiny front yards (where were merely setbacks of a few feet) of those crowded homes in San Francisco. I can’t imagine why they are all gone now. They remind me more of San Francisco than New England.

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      • May plants that need to be watered can survive without water in San Francisco. It is so foggy there, and very different from most of California. You would never guess that such a dank climate is only about fifty miles from the semi-arid Santa Clara Valley! Hydrangeas survive in parts of Golden Gate Park that are not irrigated. I sort of think that hydrangeas just went out of style for a while in the 1980s, and by the time they became trendy again, newer and smaller varieties were all that was available. The smaller ones are certainly more proportionate to the smaller gardens there.

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