Grumpy Gardener's Guide to Hydrangeas
Don’t let the Grumpy Gardener scare you away - he really knows how to help you choose the right plants so you can create a beautiful Southern garden. Hydrangeas are one of the most popular plants in Southern gardens, not only for their riotous beautiful blooms but also for their ability to take the Southern heat. Sure, some mopheads and lace caps will droop in the evening humidity, but keep them watered and they will perk up the next morning. French hydrangeas are a favorite plant among Southerners. We love to grow, clip and share them with friends and family. In the warm days of summer, big balloons of blues, pink, purple, and white blooms seem to float up like magic from the lush green foliage of these shrubs. French hydrangeas, or mopheads, with their globelike, brightly colored flowers, are what most of us recall growing in our grandmother’s yard. Lace cap hydrangeas, a sister to the mopheads, have flowers that seem to float in flat, delicate looking clusters above the foliage. Their appearance is light and airy, beckoning bees and butterflies to the garden. Oak leaf hydrangeas are another popular variety of hydrangeas. You might find their cone-shaped blooms growing naturally in the woods of the Deep South. In fact, they’re so naturally prevalent in this part of the country that oakleaf hydrangeas were named the state wildflower of Alabama. Their beautiful, cone shaped flowers, which bloom in late spring and early summer are just the beginning of their beauty. When the weather cools, their leaves add to the fall color by turning rich shades of red, orange, and maroon. Even during the cold days of winter they have something to show off—a cinnamon-colored peeling bark that adds warmth to gardens across the region. Once established, oakleaf hydrangeas can tolerate drought, but try to occasionally give them an extra drink during long dry periods. A layer of peat moss will help it retain moisture and keep the soil acidic, which they prefer. Pine straw or leaves are also good cover options. Their handsome, deeply lobed leaves and elongated clusters of white flowers pair well with almost any landscape. Oakleaf hydrangeas make an ideal companion for iconic Southern plants such as Southern magnolias, camellias, Southern shield fern ground cover, red maples, and sourwoods.