Hydrangeas are immensely popular and rightfully so; they are showy, easy-care flowering shrubs that work for you, not the other way around. In the Hamptons, a garden favorite is the familiar mop-head hydrangea, H. macrophylla, a standout with its fabulous pink, blue and purple flowers. But there are other less well known, equally worthy hydrangea beauties, and I’d like to celebrate a few of my favorites:
Hydrangea x ‘Sweet Chris’ (Big Smile Hydrangea), a cross between H. macrophylla and H. serrata, inherited the best attributes of both parents. Many hydrangeas are chameleons and change flower color depending on the ph of the soil — pink in sweet, alkaline soil, and blue or purple in acid. Sweet Chris takes it one exciting step further. In my garden (acid soil) the gorgeous lace-cap flowers are bi-color with fertile centers of rich ocean blue, contrasted with lacy caps of pink sterile flowers with serrated edges and blue button noses. A hydrangea designed by Dior. Irresistible.
New to my garden this year is Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Hanabi’ which means fireworks in Japanese. (It is sometimes sold as ‘Fugi Waterfall’, or ‘Shooting Star’). Hanabi’s exquisite, lacecap type flowers have huge pink fertile centers surrounded by long-stemmed, pink-blushed white, double sterile flowers, which parachute from the center like birds in flight.
With my acid soil, I expected the flowers to be blue, not pink. In fact, Hanabi shares a garden bed with the bluest of blue lacecap macrophyllas. A mystery, to be sure. Hydrangeas are surprising as well as heavenly.
Update on H. angustipetala ‘ MonLongShou’ (Golden Crane Hydrangea): Back in February I wrote about wanting (lusting after?) this treasure. (For details and a photo see: “More 2011 Successes and 2012 Obsessions”). But for months it was touch and go as to whether I could actually get it. So my grateful thanks to Paige Patterson of Marders Nursery in Bridgehampton, N.Y.; through her diligent efforts I now have two small plants in my garden. One came with just a sliver of a flower — yet it was big enough to smell. I’m happy to report that Golden Cranes’s flowers are indeed fragrant. Hallelujah!
Finally, be aware that hydrangeas love to make whoopee. As a result, my garden boasts some extraordinary volunteers. Yours will too. Makes life interesting.