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.
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.
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.
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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