Mophead hydrangeas receive all the attention this time of the year with their outstanding pink, blue-ranging-to-wine or magenta blooms. But there are other types of hydrangeas that are equally deserving of attention. One that I fell in love with a few years ago is the Lace-cap hydrangea. With a central cluster of what appears to be unopened buds, surrounded by single pale-blue petals, this shrub always claims attention from those strolling about my gardens in August.
The blooms of Lacecap hydrangeas appear as if a flock of blue butterflies has landed on the shrub. Carla Allen photo
Their effect is looser and more graceful when compared to the traditional mophead blue hydrangea. It looks as if the shrub is covered with dozens of blue butterflies.
'Veitchii' and 'Blue Wave' are two Lacecap cultivars often stocked by garden centers.
The Peegee hydrangea grows into a large vase-shaped shrub covered with cone-shaped blossoms. These gradually turn from white to blush as the frost hits them. Unfortunately they are subject to wind damage, as I noticed when visiting our local cemetery which had hundreds of blossoms scattered on the ground after the passage of Tropical Storm Irene.
The Oakleaf gets its name from the shape of its beautiful large leaves that are just as much of an attribute (if not more) than its white flowers. These leaves often turn a brilliant red, orange, yellow and burgundy in the fall if they are planted in a sunny location with a little afternoon shade. Exfoliating bark adds to winter interest. The Oakleaf hydrangea tolerates and can even thrive in much sunnier and drier areas than the mophead and lacecaps, which prefer moist, semi-shady spots.
The Annabelle hydrangea is one of the older hydrangea types and also one of the hardiest (to Zones 2 and 3). The huge, white "drumstick" blooms can reach up to one-foot in diameter and are abundantly produced.
Last but not least, there's a climbing hydrangea, promoted as a good vine for shade. It's initially show-growing and slow to flower, but can eventually reach up to 80 greet. Established plants can produce a spectacular floral display. Because the stems emit a sticky substance that leaves a residue, it may be best to grow this on a tall tree or to cascade it over the surface of a rock wall.
A popular question from readers is how to dry hydrangea blossoms. Cut the blooms, strip off the leaves and arrange them in a vase, with or without water. Leave them to dry. It's not necessary to hang hydrangeas upside down to dry them unless the stems are very thin and weak.