Exbury Gardens may be well-known around the world for its spring displays of
rhododendrons and azaleas, but there is another acidic-soil loving plant that flowers later in the year and which also puts on a tremendous show – the Hydrangea.
‘We have spectacular displays of summer colour and interest’ said Head Gardener John Anderson. ‘Exbury’s Herbaceous borders are now in full bloom, whilst the exotics are starting to flower in the Sundial Garden. For mass impact and lasting interest though, our Hydrangea Collection takes some beating. We have hydrangeas planted in various corners of the Gardens, including at the far end of Witchers Wood and in the Winter Garden, but particularly in the Yard Wood. Here visitors can explore Hydrangea Walk, planted with a range of Teller hybrid hydrangeas resplendent in deep blues and pinks.
The walk was inspired by a visit the late Mr Leo de Rothschild made to Mount Congreve in Ireland. Many of the hydrangeas planted here are now at their peak, though we are actively adding to the collection and have planted new varieties in recent years.’ John is very keen to acquire the complete range of Teller hybrids. ‘Teller’ is German for saucer, a reflection of the size and shape of the flower heads, with many of the varieties being named after birds’ names.
‘Hydrangeas have a long flowering season’ points out John. ‘The first hydrangeas will flower in May and we can expect interest all the way through to the first frosts of October. The banks of colour are very striking and there is a variety of flower heads, from the ‘Mopheads’ and the multi-flowered heads of the Macrophylla range to the giant ‘feather duster’ blooms of Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’. We also have climbing hydrangeas, including Hydrangea petiolaris . When we opened our Jubilee Walk in 2012 we planted a number of climbers on oak trees, reviving a tradition from the early days of the Gardens. To see a climbing hydrangea in full flower amidst a tree canopy is a sight to behold.’
Cultivation: For best results, Hydrangeas can be planted from October to April in good loamy soil that is moisture-retentive and previously enriched with well-decayed manure, compost or peat. They are best grown in a sheltered position, against a wall or hedge or beneath a canopy of high trees. In colder areas the tender young growths are easily damaged by late spring frosts. Avoid growing in positions where morning sun after night frost may damage the growth.