Smooth Hydrangea: It Grows On You
My relationship with Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) can be likened to an arranged marriage. I didn’t choose this plant, it was there when we moved into our house 13 years ago. At first I found it mildly disappointing. But as we shared good times and bad, my attitude moved to one of quiet affection.
I can’t speak to the Hydrangea’s attitude, we don’t discuss our feelings much.
I have an instinctively standoffish attitude towards Hydrangeas generally, for reasons I can’t really articulate. It may stem simply from the name “Hydrangea” itself, which sounds somehow fussy and Victorian.
However, I have come to appreciate the big, white (never pink or blue) flower clusters, covered with bees in early summer. The rounded, dark green leaves are also nice. These shrubs look good in the back garden underplanted with variegated Bishops Weed (Aegopodium podagraria).
Smooth Hydrangea is happy in light or part shade. Also, turns out it is a pretty tough plant. During the drought of 2005, there were a couple of Hydrangeas I didn’t water at all. They withered away over the summer. I thought they were goners, but they bounced back the following spring.
They will also bounce back from aggressive pruning, though you may lose a year’s flowers.
Similarly, the Smooth Hydrangeas on the west side of the house don’t seem to mind growing in soil that tends to be fairly dry, due to a rain shadow cast by the eaves.
And I should add that Smooth Hydrangea is native to Eastern North America, including southern Illinois.
I used to think that my Smooth Hydrangeas were of the cultivar ‘Annabelle’. However, I now realize they must be some other variety, possibly ‘Grandiflora’. ‘Annabelle’ has huge flower heads, so big that they often flop over in the rain. The flowers on my Smooth Hydrangea are definitely smaller.
Do you have Hydrangeas in your garden? Do you find that you and your Hydrangeas are growing closer together or further apart?