WRITTEN BY Blair Farris
Summer is upon us, and gardens across the country are in full bloom. An all-time favorite for designers and garden lovers is the hydrangea. Hydrangeas used to be mostly shade shrubs in old gardens. But with new varieties, there is one for almost every garden setting. They are so versatile—pairing with boxwoods for a more formal look, or with ferns and hostas for a more cottage garden feel. Their palette can include white, blue, green, pink, purple, red, and burgundy. I myself have five different hydrangea varieties in my garden.
ENDLESS SUMMER HYDRANGEA
These are wonderful because they bloom profusely on new wood and old wood. It used to be that the Nikko blue hydrangeas only bloomed on old wood, so you had to prune them at the exact right time or risk having no blooms at all. These showstoppers are a must-have for most gardens in the US with a hardiness rating of zones 4–9. Not sure which zone you are in? Check the Plant Hardiness Zone Map below.
This variety features huge white blooms on tall green stems. These beauties are sure to brighten up any shady garden. And a bonus—they do pretty well in part sun too. The only drawback is that the huge blooms do get weighted down in a big rain, but they are well worth it overall. They also have a hardiness range that reaches across the states.
Native to the Southeast, oakleaf (also known as hydrangea quercifolia) loves its woodland habitat from North Carolina to Tennessee. Starting out as green and white, the blooms pick up subtle shades of pink as they age. The blooms stay on the plant into the fall, and they make wonderful cut flowers. The plants are easily recognizable by their oak-like leaves which give them their name. They can grow up to seven feet tall, but there are many varieties.
These paniculata hydrangea hybrids are one of the few hydrangeas that actually thrive in the sun. They need at least 4–6 hours of sun a day, are hardy in zones 3–9, and reach up to eight feet tall. The bloom starts out as a lime green color, shifting to bright white in the summer, then fading to an array of pink, red, or burgundy in the fall. They are not fazed by the cold winter and are excellent cut flowers. For smaller gardens, look for “Little Lime” that matures at about five feet.
This is another showstopper that is wonderful for shady areas. The blooms on these lovelies are more subtle than their mophead cousins. Their flower structures are borne on flat-topped clusters where florets bloom around the edge. The delicate blooms will brighten any garden, pairing well with shade perennials like hostas, ferns, and Lenten rose. Don’t be fooled by their delicate blooms—they are cold hardy to zone 4 and withstand the heat of zone 9.