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Southern Living Hydrangeas

Southern Living Hydrangeas

By Kim Toscano, Southern Living Plants
Photographs courtesy of Southern Living Plants

Few gardeners can resist the appeal of a hydrangea in full bloom at the garden center. The gigantic flowers beckon, obscuring nearby plants in their shadows.

Luckily, hydrangeas are just as showy when you bring them home to the garden. These versatile beauties perform wonders whether planted singly or in mass, as a focal point or backdrop.

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Center Stage

Hydrangeas love to show off, flaunting their billowy blossoms all summer. Why not take advantage of the long bloom season and dramatic display by placing a specimen front and center? Consider planting ‘Big Daddy’ Hydrangea as a focal point near the entrance to your garden or alongside the patio. To keep the show going after blooms expire, leave dried flower heads in place over winter.

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Supporting Cast

When including more than a single specimen in the landscape, the effect is quite different. When planted in mass, the bold blossoms of hydrangeas create a soft swath of color, rather than a sharp pop of excitement. The hydrangeas seem to relax a little, settling in among the other players on stage. Of course, they are still bold – in color and architecture – and add to the drama of a planting. Mass plantings perform particularly well beneath a canopy of high trees or along a woody or evergreen border.

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Brilliant Backdrop

Specimens like Dear Dolores™ Hydrangea provide a strong setting for a diversity of perennial plantings. Perfect for transitional areas in the garden, they pair well with both sun-loving and shade-loving perennials. Set hydrangeas toward the back of the planting, alongside evergreen and woody shrubs for winter structure. Plant the foreground with a mixture of forms, textures and colors for a dynamic landscape.

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Curtain Call

Two incredibly successful locations for hydrangeas are beneath windows and along fencerows. Set three plants in front of a double window to frame the view, both inside and out. Sit back in your favorite reading chair and enjoy the riot of color. Or try lining an old fence with a row of hydrangeas to soften the hard lines. The same effect can be achieved along stairwells and rigid walkways.

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Stage Directions

Proper location and care will ensure hydrangeas perform their best in any role. While hydrangeas love the spotlight, they can’t take the heat of the summer sun. Plant hydrangeas in a shady location or an area receiving morning sun and afternoon shade. Avoid hot, dry or exposed sites. Hydrangeas require well-drained, acidic soil with plenty of organic matter or humus. And they will need plenty of water in the summer, so plant them in a location where you can easily irrigate. Mulch plants to help retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.

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