Old Reliable: Hydrangeas

Two hydrangeas in full bloom flank an entrance .

Two hydrangeas in full bloom flanking an entrance .

We’ve had one of the strangest summers in Toronto. A cool wet spring followed by the driest July and August in decades. Those months gave us rain in the form of torrential downpours, but the problem with a hard rain is that doesn’t penetrate the soil, and much water tends to run off.

A couple of day-long gentle rains came as a relief in what was mostly a broiling September; however the rain wasn’t much of a consolation for the dead-looking brown sticks in the ground, aka the clump of Joe Pye Weed in my garden. (Surprisingly, my swamp milkweed fared better in the summer drought.)

Which garden plants can stand up to the feast and famine that drought and climate weirdness bring? Hydrangeas are one. My Limelight Hydrangea came through with flying colours. Hydrangeas prefer moist soil, however they are tough, once established. Mine has been in place for three years, and this summer has never looked better.

Planting with shrubs is one of the hallmarks of a low-maintenance garden landscaping, and  hydrangeas are one of the best choices. There are so many types to choose from, with either pink, white, blue or green flowers. They are great space fillers, and really pay off in the home landscape. In late summer and early fall, in neighbourhoods all over the city tough, beautiful hydrangeas are in full flower. The impact they make is so effortless, it’s crazy not to have at least one, or better yet, a group of them in your garden (if you have room). And those big, blousy flowers: that’s another terrific benefit to hydrangeas: they provide you with free cut flowers for the house. Cut a few to stand on their own, or mix them with other flowers and foliage for instant elegance.

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