White Elegance - Hydrangea arborescens


Hydrangea arborescensIf I could have only one species of hydrangea in my garden I would choose the smooth hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens. It is native. It will grow in acid soils or in alkaline soils. It will grow in full sun or shade, even fairly deep shade. It has a lots of flowers which grow on new wood so there is no challenge to the flower bud hardiness. It is hardy from Zone 3-9. H. arborescensIt grows from Canada to Florida and west to Missouri. It thrives in Minnesota. The further north it grows, the more sun it will tolerate.  I have rarely seen a pest problem although the deer do like to nibble on the new growth. Deer repellents help with this. I walked the garden at the hour of the gloaming last night. The white flowers of the H. arborescens (I think this one is H. arborescens 'Grandiflora') glow in low light. It is elegant. H. arb closeupI am not so crazy about the 'improved' cultivar 'Annabelle' which has incredibly large flower heads. That sounds great...until it rains and they bow to the ground in humiliation paying the price for their ostentatious display. The species stands straight and tall in the rain and the large number of flowers make up for the smaller size. It is hard to find the species at the garden centers. New and improved is not always so. I have paired this plant with Persicaria polymorpha and also Fallopia japonica. H. arborescens with PersicariaIt does not really need 'pairing' but what gardener can resist? I would love it with a white flowered astilbe or a variegated brunnera. I need more of this plant. It is easy to divide. This is a task which is on the list for late fall or early spring which is after leaf drop or before the leaves emerge. White is so very elegant in the garden and for those who work long hours, returning home in the dusk or leaving before dawn, this shrub will greet you with brightness. I admit, I may be a bit jaded toward this plant as it is one of the plants I clearly remember growing in my grandfather's garden. Those memories from childhood are tainted with love and affection if one is very lucky. I guess it was inevitable that I would adore this plant.