Modern life and design in our historical American Foursquare home

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Hydrangeas in the garden

By on September 3, 2013

We inherited a beautiful ornamental backyard garden when we bought this house (you can see photos of it in our exterior house tour). Some of the most stunning plants are the hydrangea bushes.

Hydrangeas in our garden | Rather Square

The previous owner put a lot of time, effort, and money into the garden’s planning and upkeep, and she gave us a quick tour in March before we moved in, when most of the plants and blooms were dormant. It was hard for us to visualize what the garden was going to look like in spring and summer, but I tried to take notes on everything she said (so hopefully we’d have a clue what things were when they bloomed).

Garden Notes | Rather Square

According to my notes above, there are three Little Lamb hydrangea bushes on the side of the house. When we moved in, they had lots of green leaves but no flowers, and just blended in with most of the surrounding bushes and plants. But as the weather warmed up, they suddenly seemed to explode with thousands of little blooms packed into giant globe-like clusters.

Annabelle Hydrangea | Rather Square

In late spring the flowers were green, but then quickly turned white in June and lasted for weeks. It was like having a mini flower wedding in our backyard all summer long – beautiful!

Annabelle Hydrangea | Rather Square

Then slowly the white turned back to a really pretty pale green, and here’s how the hydrangeas looked at the end of August.

Hydrangea | Rather Square

With autumn coming, I’ve been doing some research on pruning things in the garden, including hydrangea bushes. I learned that there are several varieties of hydrangeas, each with a specific pruning method – but when I found images of Little Lamb hydrangeas, they didn’t really look like the ones in our garden. These flower clusters are a lot more conical and pointy than ours.

Little Lamb Hydrangeas and Our Hydrangeas | Rather Square
(photo on left via Missouri Botanical Garden)

Instead, our particular plants look a lot more like Annabelle hydrangeas, the best known variety of Hydrangea arborescens.

Annabelle Hydrangeas and Our Hydrangeas | Rather Square(photo on left via Creative Commons)

So I think our hydrangea bushes are actually Annabelle hydrangeas, and it turns out that this variety is really easy to maintain. It’s very hardy and thrives in a large climate range. You can prune it at any time of year except for spring. If it’s pruned a lot, it will come back with fewer but larger blooms. And if it’s not pruned at all, it will have more blooms, but they will be smaller.

I don’t know if our hydrangeas have been pruned in the past, but they are pretty big. The best advice I’ve come across so far is to prune it to about 24 inches from the ground in the autumn. This allows enough stem to remain and build growth onto itself to better support the large Annabelle bloom heads during the following season. So I think I’ll try that once autumn arrives and the current blooms are finished. I’m also toying with the idea of adding some short fencing along the walkway to help contain and support the flowers.

Annabelle Hydrangea | Rather Square

Hydrangea | Rather Square

What do you think – are these indeed Annabelles? Hydrangea lovers, any advice for us as we get ready to tuck Annabelle in for the winter?

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September 3, 2013

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