An alternative to ivy

Ask anyone to name an evergreen climber for a shady wall and odds on the reply will be “ivy.” But there is an alternative – a member of the hydrangea family.

Hydrangea seemanii may not be as well know as H. petiolaris, but there are distinct similarities. Firstly, it’s not a plant for the impatient. You plant it a the base of the vertical structure you want it to climb and for the first few years it just sits there. “Have I been sold the wrong plant?” you ask yourself. Don’t rip it out and get another. Climbing hydrangeas take a few years to settle down and conquer their vertigo. Suddenly they will take off and then the task is limit their ambitions (if that is what you need to do).

Hydrangea seemanii - 2013

Unlike hydrangea petiolaris, H. seemanii keeps its shiny green leaves all year round, although like all evergreens it will shed some from time to time, but not all in a heap in the autumn. The fat flower buds sit for some time before opening, looking like a cauliflower head for a few days before opening fully, when the hydrangea resemblance can be fully appreciated. Left to its own devices, this will reach thirty feet, but the previous year’s growth can be easily peeled away from its host in early spring to limit the height. Although not as hardy as some of its relatives (it’s a native of Mexico), mine survived -8C without showing any ill effects.

Hydrangea seemanii - 2014

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