The green plants in my friend’s little yard kept her happy all winter long, until suddenly it wasn’t anymore. She wants flowers. It’s a common craving in the spring; who doesn’t want to join this party of color and fragrance.
Balcony and backyard gardeners who desire flowers struggle because most flowering plants need six hours of sunlight a day to do the job well. “Lavender,” begs my friend. “A few red geraniums.” “Daisies? She entertains fantasies of snapdragons and petunias en masse. But with her few hours of morning sunshine, disappointment followed by pests and disease is the likely outcome of her dream.
Then I suggest hydrangeas and her mood improves.
Hydrangeas like morning sun a bit, as long as it doesn’t spread out into the hottest part of the day, and will even bloom in shade, as long as it’s bright.
They also do well in pots. In Tokyo, where hydrangeas are synonymous with a hot, rainy summer, potted hydrangeas are sold during the Hydrangea Festival at Hakusan Shrine, where more than 3,000 hydrangeas bloom. (Which is considered undernourishment when it comes to temple planting – there are over 50,000 hydrangeas at Hodoji Temple in Chiba Prefecture.)
Buyers bring them home from the temple, enjoy them indoors or outdoors for the season, and then put them in the trash. If you want to keep these old broomhead hydrangeas in a pot for the long term, you will need a container at least 500mm wide.
Hydrangeas originated in Japan and were taken to Europe by early plant collectors where they were bred into the plants we know. In 1970, a Japanese grower, Hiroshi Ebihara, imported European hydrangeas and started a breeding program that resulted in compact hydrangeas with large, multicolored flowers. They are sold in Australia as the “Mai-Ko” series.
Other dwarf hydrangeas followed, and the most recent breakthrough is even better – repeat bloom. In an old hydrangea, there is one flower head per flowering stem per season. Plants in the “Endless Summer” range will produce a new flower on the old stem if the old flower is removed. So now you can have new blooms on a hydrangea from mid-spring through fall with a little judicious deadheading. The “Original” is the classic pink or blue broom, while the “Blushing Bride” is white, maturing to pink. Both are about one meter by one meter.