The Summer of the Hydrangea

Growing up my favourite thing to do was visit my grandma’s house. Her house was your standard red brick but with a huge porch that beckoned you to sit awhile. In front was a garden bed of hydrangea bushes. I have an old photograph of my brother and me with grandma’s collie, Shawn, in front of gorgeous white hydrangea blooms.

If you were to venture into her back garden, the first thing you would notice or smell would be the climbing roses. There was a white wooden arbour in the rear garden bursting with trailing pink rose buds. My love of lavender, lilacs, and roses come from that very garden.

My small condo garden features favourite plants remembered from my childhood. This summer the standout plant was my white Peegee hydrangea (OPALS ranking of 5). Its growing conditions wouldn’t be considered ideal by most: up against the rear deck and brick wall, blazing afternoon sun, and near a gas exhaust pipe. But each year this tenacious plant rewards me with blooms.

Let me tell you a bit about the Peegee hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) and why it’s one of my favourite plants. It’s the most cold-hearty of all hydrangeas. Perfect for our Canadian winters! This variety produces cone-shaped flower clusters which are in bloom from mid- to late summer right through the fall. It can be pruned to be a shrub or small tree.

The summer of 2017 will be highlighted in my gardening journal book. Rain – rain – and more rain. Then add lots of humidity, and you have the ingredients for either drowned plants suffering from root rot or massive blooming plants. I’m pleased to report it was the latter. The hydrangea heads were the biggest ever and the number of blooms outstanding. The plant became the “star” in the neighbourhood. Most neighbours remarking on the shrub’s sheer size and mass of white. A true show-stopping display of blooms that provided lots of “Oohs and Aahs.” Opening my back window, I breathe in their floral smell.

Peegee flowers start out white, and as summer turns to fall they turn pink and then rust colour. I watch for the ideal time to cut some bloom stems when there is pink with traces of white. Then they are put in a pail in my garage for drying out. My preference is to remove the leaves as they get quite brittle after drying. Once the flowers dry I put them in a vase for a beautiful indoor arrangement.

Each fall, usually in mid-October I prune back the branches and remove the dead flowers in preparation for the winter.

I hope that if your garden has space, you will consider planting a Peegee hydrangea — I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


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Happy Gardening! Janice