11 pink hydrangea

From the previous post it is easy to get the impression that all my hydrangeas are blue – and that would not be far wrong! Many hydrangeas swing from pink in alkaline soil to blue in acidic, but as many will not change colour dramatically as a result of soil ph. I DO have pink hydrangeas, and in the Beech Borders I plan to plant some more, as there the flowers are almost all pink.

12 pink lacecap hydrangea

In this post I wish to concentrate on some of the many species and  varieties of hydrangeas, as people don’t always realise how much they differ. Most obvious is the difference between the mopheads or hortensias with their fewer, hidden fertile flowers (first picture) and the lacecaps (above) where the infertile ray florets usually surround the small, fertile flowers in the centre.

13 YouMe series double hydrangea

Recently a new range of double-flowered hydrangeas, the YouMe Hydrangea series, was launched with dramatic and unusual double flowers; I bought a few last summer and photographed this on a still very young bush recently.

14 My double hydrangea

Much to my surprise I discovered this double growing along Oak Avenue recently; it was planted at least five years ago and was almost certainly grown from a cutting – but where then is the parent plant??? I had actually stood closer to investigate its lovely white centre when I realised it was double – but as you can see, not all florets are double.

Blue lacecap hydrangea 1 Blue lacecap hydrangea 2
Blue lacecap hydrangea 3 Blue lacecap hydrangea 4
Blue lacecap hydrangea 5 Blue lacecap hydrangea 6


Colour is mostly not a reliable identification tool, merely a help. But the shape and number of the bracts of the ray florets and their distribution around the plant, the relative size and proportion of the blooms and the way they change after fertilisation and during the later part of the season all help in identifying the many cultivars that at first glance might appear very similar.

16 Brightest blue which fades to inky blue

In our climate, where they are so happy, most years brings a gradual change of colour over many months as the flowers age; these bright blues become the colour of old-fashioned bottled ink.

17 Powder blue fading to chartreuse

And these start of a soft but saturated powder blue and fade to chartreuse – a wonderful combination!

18 Jewel colours

Sometimes the young flowers also show change and variation. These jewel-like purples indicate that this plant might be a dark pink or even red in alkaline soil.

19 Yellow variegated hydrangea

Sometimes you find variegated leaves. This plant with yellow variegation is particularly striking. When I set off to photograph my more common white variegated plant, I found it had disappeared… I must do a proper search and see if it is overgrown and overpowered or completely lost. Coming to think of it – how many years since I last saw it, anyway…


Whilst on leaves: Hydrangea quercifolia, the oak-leaf hydrangea has a very different leaf and wonderful autumn foliage, much better than the mopheads and lacecaps in the H. macrophylla family where there is a vague yellowing only. Its conical flower-heads are always white, fading quickly through russets to brown before bleaching to straw by autumn; their dainty filigreed nature causes them to catch the frost most beautifully later in the year.

20 Hydrangea quercifolia

20b Hydrangea quercifolia, Prunus sargentii and Camellia sasanqua 'Blanchette'

Here you can see a large grouping of them on the edge of the arboretum in autumn, framed by Prunus sargentii and with Camellia sasanqua ‘Blanchette’ in the centre.

21 hydrangea serrata

H. serrata is superficially very similar to a small-leaved, delicate lacecap H. macrophylla, but as you get to know the plant, you realise that they are quite different. H. serrata ‘Preziosa’ with its richer, redder pigmentation is the loveliest, but I have yet to find it in South Africa. It is one of my all-time favourite plants.

22 From powder blue to patinaed

This picture shows the remarkable range of colours a single plant can show. Taken in autumn, before the first frosts put pay to the display, there is a young flower, a faded flower from earlier in the season and one that has turned brown after being scorched by the heat very early in the season. However often the scorched flowers, which having been damaged tend to bleach to pale brown rather than show metallic colour, retain their shape. Besides – the garden is simply too large for regular deadheading!

23 Jaded hydrangeas and inflamed maples

In a good year flowers change colour slowly and are never scorched or parched, so that their show continuous right up until the autumn leaves turn.

24 Singing the blues

Because of our long summers, secondary growth often provides an autumn flush of flowers. The way they combine with autumn leaves adds a whole new dimension to the beauty of hydrangeas at Sequoia!

25 Patina on autumn hydrangeas

As a good season progresses, the flowers that developed in shade become richer and richer, and their original flat colouring is forgotten in the opalescent mix of their maturity.

26 Hydrangea close-up1

Whilst searching through my files I came across this series of particularly lovely close-ups… Don’t believe anyone who says that hydrangeas are not subtle!

27 Hydrangea close-up 2

Look at the way the shadow falls across this petal…

28 Hydrangea close-up 3

And just look at the little spider sitting on an anther, less than 2mm across I would guess, and below her what seems like an aphid (eek!). I only noticed them when I developed this ultra-close-up photo!

29 Powder blue

More detailed than the spider I can’t get, so let us end our walk with the big impact of a gorgeous powder blue hydrangea in its prime around Christmas time.


13 thoughts on “HOORAH FOR HYDRANGEAS part 2

  1. Just incredible photography and colors. I started a hydrangea bed last summer. I’m excited to see what will return this year after an unusually cold winter so far. Most of mine were grown from cuttings and were given mulch to protect them.

    I’m also curious about the colors I’ll see when/if they do bloom. Most were purple to blue, but my soil is more acidic than where the parent plants are growing. I’d like to see more blues than pinks. I have way too many pinks.

    • Hi Tom. I’d say the cold winter was less of a problem than late frosts might be. And with your more acidic soil you’re bound to get good blues from purple-blue cuttings. Good luck!

  2. To think of hydrangeas blooming at Christmas is something I cannot wrap my brain around, but how delightful! All that you show are stunningly beautiful. The lacecaps always catch my attention first. We struggle with them here, for the late frosts that haunt our spring often will zap the flower buds. Some varieties are better about forming flowers on new growth, our only hope with the macros and serratas. The oak leafs are natives here however, and are very easy to grow and flower. You are so right, the fall foliage is most colorful. I do love your late bloomer with the yellows of fall, what a combination! 🙂

    • Hello Frances and thanks for your comments! About six years ago we had not one but two sessions of very late frost. It took my hydrangeas two years to recover fully, so I can sympathise!

    • Hi Noelle. I’ve often wondered what would happen if I could grow a duplicate of each of my hydrangeas in an alkaline soil. Would I then have predominantly pink flowers, or simply more pink ones?

  3. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I love all those jewel colors on your hydrangeas. Here we are limited to the white hydrangea paniculata — also lovely, but in a quieter way. -Jean

  4. I’ll bet that aphid wasn’t around much longer with that predator right there! Why I love spiders. . .

    This pair of posts was quite inspiring. I have murdered a hydrangea that was growing here when we moved in and have been reluctant to try another one. (Okay, maybe it was involuntary plantslaughter.) But this post is making me reassess my fears.

  5. The blue hydrangea against the golden fall foliage is breathtaking! I love these plants! I started planting hydrangeas in my garden a couple years ago and I think this year they will be mature enough to really bloom well. Thanks for this and your previous post. Both are fabulous.

  6. Thank you so much for giving me the link to this post! It’s one I’ll have to come back to and linger over – the photos are so beautiful. I’ll take a photo of the leaves of my unusual hydrangea and post it – your help with identification is appreciated.

  7. Pingback: WEEKLY PIC: DECEMBER10 WEEK3 « Sequoia Gardens Blog

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s