Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas were my mother’s favorite flower. Neither my mother or father were into gardening. My father loved to cut grass, lawns were his thing, and he enjoyed spreading Scott’s Turf Builder on our lawn. But shrubs, trees or flowers? Forget about it. I don’t have any memories of my mother gardening, save for the memory of her watering hydrangea bushes we inherited with a summer home my parents bought in Brigantine, in the 1960s. That was her first introduction to the flower/shrub, and outside in her madras plaid shorts and summer top, she would be outside with a hose, watering them frequently. She loved the showy puffballs, which I remember being blue. One of our neighbors was an elderly couple, who also had quite a few hydrangea shrubs, and mom learned about their care from them. One day, I saw my mom putting pennies in the soil. She had heard that the copper in the pennies would help turn the hydrangea blooms pink. I recall my mother also creating cuttings through water. I would watch as little tiny white roots would appear in the glass. I don’t recall if any of them actually took.

My mother passed away in March, 2001, days before I moved to our new home in Lewes. When she died, our family ordered many hot house hydrangeas that were readily available for the Easter market. They looked beautiful in the church and I know she would have been pleased. I took one home and planted it in my side yard, one of the first landscape plants of our newly built home. It had already been forced to bloom, so I didn’t have any expectation for it that year. The next year, the shrub grew rapidly, producing many of its large, heart-shaped leaves. But no blooms. I had gotten a job with Cooperative Extension and asked our horticulture agent why it wasn’t blooming. “If it was a hot house plant, it may never bloom,” he answered. “Sometimes, they won’t.”

I resigned myself to a very healthy and rapidly growing leafy shrub. To satisfy my urge to see some hydrangea blooms, I bought other macrophyllas – Nikiko Blue – was described by many to be the most intense – actually produced a very light, pale blue in my garden soil. By our third summer, I was delighted to see that “mom’s hydrangea” – the funeral plant – had set many buds and in this case, the third time was the charm. What had been pink in the church had produced gorgeous deep violet blue mopheads. I was thrilled.

Since then, I have added at least one or two hydrangea plants a year, in honor and in memory of my mother. I ordered a variety of lacecaps from Wayside Gardens, and I can’t remember what variety they are! I fell in love with Oakleaf hydrangeas and now have two shrubs of a slightly different variety. I have grown to really love lacecaps, and have several varieties. Last year, I purchased my first “Limelight” and I have yet to take photos of it. It has leafed out nicely, enduring its first winter in our yard. I look forward to seeing it.

In 2010, we decided to line a short, southern-facing fence with a row of white hydrangeas. I think I actually had in mind the “Annabelles” the big showy mopheads, but the tags said they were just the white macrophyllas. Well! We got a surprise! Three of the row produced the advertised white macrophylla balls. One turned out pink-white-yellow (Very old fashioned looking) and two on the end turned out to be lacecaps, producing slightly different colors.

The gallery below are some of my earlier photographs. My goal is to have clusters of hydrangeas everywhere! Once I get my husband to agree to a garden path trellis/arch, I hope to get a climbing variety!

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