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14 August 2014

Climbing Hydrangeas

If you are looking for a climbing plant to cover a shady wall in your garden, the a climbing hydrangea could be what you need.

It is a useful low-maintenance climber for a shady or north wall, though it will also thrive in a sunnier position in a moist soil. However the flowers do not last quite as well in a sunny spot. Plants can be slow to get established, and often make little new growth in the first few years. However, it is well worth the wait, as in midsummer the white lacecap-style hydrangea flowers are huge, up to 10in (25cm) across, and can almost cover the stems completely. They can grow up to 15m tall x 5m wide.

Before planting your hydrangea, dig plenty of organic matter into the soil, and after planting and in subsequent years apply organic matter as mulch. This could be garden compost, farmyard manure, well-rotted leafmould or composted bark. You can feed your plant annually if necessary with fertiliser in late winter or spring. This should suffice for the season, but shouldn't really be necessary on richer soils, though could be helpful on lighter, sandier soils. Too much feeding, however, can encourage excessive soft, leafy growth, with plants less likely to develop flower buds and more at risk from frost damage in colder winters.

Climbing hydrangeas are best propogated by layering.

Two varieties for you to consider are:-

Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris - This climbing Hydrangea thrives in some of the most shady, inhospitable areas of the garden. Although slow to establish, it will eventually romp along a wall or fence, clinging by aerial roots. Its almost heart-shaped, dark green leaves turn yellow in autumn, and masses of showy, lacy, white flowerheads appear in late spring and early summer. This hydrangea flowers on the previous seasonís wood, so if you need to prune it back, do so in late autumn or early spring, although doing this will restrict flowering the following year.

Hydrangea seemanii - An invaluable, woody, evergreen climber, which can attach itself to walls and fences by producing aerial roots. The attractive leaves are mid green and leathery and will provide year-long interest. From early summer interesting clusters of greenish cream flowers appear and grow up to 15cm across. These last well into autumn and provide a beautiful dispaly.

Both of the above species are pruned after flowering, simply by removing spent flower heads and trimming any wayward shoots back to healthy buds.

Try to find a place in your garden for a climbing hydrangea - I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
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