Yes - the mophead varieties are lush and sexy, coveted by gardeners for centuries. Their massive heads in rich pinks and violet blues (depending on the soil) are irresistible to many.
But it’s the understated elegance of its cousin, the Climbing Hydrangea, I enjoy the most as it quietly caresses the stone wall at the base of our side deck. It’s a slow-growing, climbing vine with graceful branches and dense, heart-shaped leaves. Native to Japan, this vine was introduced to the United States in 1865 by the American consul to Japan at the time.
The main stems of Climbing Hydrangea grow vertically, as much as 30 feet, with horizontal side branching that give it a three-dimensional effect. My brother has a beauty climbing up the maple in his front yard.
If there is no structure to climb, the vine grows as a mounded 3- to 4-foot shrub. The bark on mature branches is an attractive, exfoliating (shedding) reddish brown.
Climbing Hydrangea requires cool, moist, well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter. It does not do well under hot, dry conditions. It prefers sun to partial sun and requires shade in the warmest limits of its range. Climbing Hydrangea is slow to get started but vigorous once it gets established.
This Hydrangea blooms in late spring to early summer with flattened clusters of white, fragrant lacecap flowers, about 6 to 10 inches wide — smaller flowers in the center surrounded by a ring of showier flowers.
Sure it’s not as flamboyant and vivacious as the mopheads. But it’s a hardy thing that will creep or climb, softening a barren stone wall or giving shape and character to a linear, upright structure in your backyard. Climbing Hydrangea is a low-maintenance plant and that’s a great thing for the do-it-yourself gardener.
Is there one in your yard or your neighborhood? Send us a photo. We’d love to share it with FIY readers.
first photo source
text and Climbing Hydrangea photo by Ann D. Travers