Plant of the month - hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are gorgeous shrubs.  Their voluptuous flower heads make a fabulous statement in the summer garden and many take on pinky hues into autumn.

There are masses of varieties to choose from.  The glorious Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ with its giant globes of lacy, creamy flowers is one of the earliest to flower.  H. ‘Strong Annabelle’ has tougher stems and there’s even a ‘Pink Annabelle’.

The popular Hydrangea macrophylla goes pink in alkaline and blue in acidic soils.  To guarantee colour, go for white cultivars such H. macrophylla ‘Madame Emile Mouillere’, a fabulous white mophead that becomes tinged with pink going into autumn.  Lacecap varieties, with flattened heads of tiny flowers and sterile florets, can be very pretty.  Try H. macrophylla ‘Veitchii’, H. Macrophylla ‘Finya’ or wine-coloured ‘Rotschwanz’.

Hydrangea paniculata with their conical blooms take longer to flower and add colour later in the season.  The popular H. paniculata ‘Limelight’ has heads of lime-green flowers that fade to cream, then pink in autumn, and H. paniculata ‘Confetti’ is a compact, light and airy variety.

Finally, the oak-leaved hydrangea H. Quercifolia is another American variety with oak leaf-shaped leaves that turn a dramatic pinky red.  ‘Snowflake’ has large cones of late blooming white flowers.

Hydrangeas do like to be kept well-watered in the summer and add plenty of organic material such as garden compost to help retain moisture.