Gardening resources > Life-long learning > Master gardener program > Favorite Plants of Master Gardeners > Hydrangea
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Hydrangea arborescens

Sandy Bierbrauer.Sandy Bierbrauer (right) has a strong connection to Hydrangea arborescens, a summer-blooming shrub. Sandy, a Master Gardener of Ontario County and a former botany professor at Stockton College in New Jersey, recently retired to a 100-year-old home near Naples in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.

She brought with her a cutting of Hydrangea arborescens, a shrub that has been in her family as long as she remembers. In the late 1920's, her father painted a landscape featuring the shrubs in full bloom. That painting hangs on Sandy's dining room wall in Naples.Painting by Sandy's father. Click for larger image.

The garden at her home is new and the shrub is just getting a start. But Sandy is looking forward to it maturing and flowering to bring back memories of her childhood.

Hydrangea arborescens is a reliably hardy hydrangea in her Zone 5 garden. While some other species of hydrangea are less reliable, H. arborescens is a tough deciduous shrub that forms flower buds each spring on new growth, insuring that even after a hard winter the shrub is ready to bloom by mid-summer.

Hydrangea arborescens. Click for larger image.This hydrangea is not fussy about soil pH. Sandy's clay soil has a pH of 6.8. Its blooms are white and make an excellent cut flower that holds up in a vase for about a week. After their pure white blossoms fade, they take on a greenish tinge and are also good as natural dry flowers to bring indoors.

"I like to use it as a house foundation plant, as my father did decades ago," says Sandy. She is very much at ease with a deciduous plant as a foundation plant and hopes that other gardeners do not reject using a non-evergreen shrubs in that role. It is also stunning planted away from the house where it can be viewed from a picture window in the house.

Hydrangea arborescens cv. 'Annabelle'. Click for larger image.Some newer cultivars have been developed in recent years. One of them, cv. 'Annabelle' (right) is considered a striking improvement, with its larger, white flowers in great abundance on the shrub.

More information about Hydrangea arborescens from the University of Connecticut.

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