Three years ago, I decided to renovate the planting in my front garden. Over the years, it had grown into a mish-mash of plants with no overall theme or pattern, things I had seen and liked, but which somehow didn’t ‘work’. It was all too bitty with nothing of stature to pull it together.
The section I was working on faced east with a three feet wall behind it. Although the front garden is sunny, the soil in this section stayed moist, allowing a wide selection of plants to be considered, although those requiring sharp drainage would probably not cope. After many hours of research and visiting gardens, I plumped for two hydrangeas. Not just any hydrangeas, but two with black stems.
Growing up in a seaside town, one of my earliest memories is of tiny front gardens with enormous hydrangea bushes covered in fat balls of dusty pink flowers. These newer varieties arrived on the scene a few years ago, and add a new layer of interest. The flowers are smaller than the monstrosities of my childhood, but more refined and stylish. Hydrangeas are not to fussy in their requirements, only needing a soil that retains moisture to support their ample foliage, enough sun to ripen the wood carrying the flowers, and enough feed to ensure they grow lustily. Food, drink and sun – I think we can all relate to that!
With space for two of these shrubs, I quickly nominated a white form, and although my soil is slightly acid, allowing me to grow blue-flowered hydrangeas successfully, I decided to grow a pink one, where proximity to a wall and potential lime in the soil would assist its colouring. I chose hydrangea macrophylla ‘Nigra’
and hydrangea macrophylla ‘Zebra’
The latter would prefer a little more shade to prevent the flowers scorching in very hot conditions, but otherwise the plants are happy with an annual feed and mulch in spring. Now I just need to find something low to grow in front of them.