So farewell, then, hy-flipping-drangea

I have had a hydrangea in the garden since I came here. That’s not unexpected; most of the gardens in the area have hydrangeas. Some are gorgeous colours – my favourite is the mix of deep pinky/purply/crimson.

My hydrangea is not deep pinky/purply/crimson. It’s baby blue. With shades of faint lavender fading to washed-out greeny white, turning to unpleasant brown.


Around its feet are wild garlic, all sorts of bluebells (rapidly becoming one sort of bluebell, and the wrong sort), some St John’s Wort, a vast number of Welsh poppies and more of the crocuses.

crocus patch

The hydrangea is very old, very big and very reluctant to put on any sort of show. We’ve pruned it, with varying degrees of savagery, in an attempt to persuade it to a) flower more prolifically, or b) die.

This is the time of year for pruning hydrangeas.

Only this year I had a fit of the vapours:


Take that!

And because hydrangeas can spring back, even from this, take even more of that:


It’s been mattocked, and the root is now reposing on the bonfire heap. I defy even a hydrangea to come back after that.

Now I need to clear up this bed, remove the rest of the Great Root of Doom – and decide what on earth I’m going to put in its place. Any ideas? My soil is acid, the bed is in shade a lot of the day and the wall faces east (killer winds) but does provide shelter from the prevailing westerly wind. There’s an old pear tree nearby which really prevents the introduction of anything large or tall (and is the reason why there are no distance shots of the bed – I’ve taken some but they’re all pear tree).  The world is my oyster, or possibly my azalea, but I’d better do something quickly before the rest of the bed is colonised by the wild leeks and interloping bluebells. So, suggestions please (no, not another hydrangea).

And now I’m off to psych myself up for the village Garden Club’s spring show on Wednesday. I’ve never entered anything in a flower show before, and I would pick the year of the Big Winter Blast, wouldn’t I? Well, at least everyone else is in the same boat…


29 Comments Add yours

  1. Pauline says:

    It sounds as if you have been pruning away all the flowering shoots in the past, what a shame! Cutting back to a bud should have meant it would flower each year. How about a hardy Fuchsia as a replacement, these just need cutting right down each March and flower on wood produced in the current year.

    1. kate says:

      I’m not sure, we were fairly careful, but yes, some probably went as we did want to reduce its size. I had wondered about a fuchsia as they do very well round here, but I can’t make my mind up…

  2. Christina says:

    As above but I would have to agree about ridding yourself of anything where a large amount of flower turns brown – my silver anniversary buddleia did the same thing and I dug it out and put it on the slope where its presence with or without brown flowers is okay. Christina

    1. kate says:

      The brownness was irritating, and it was very strange that it could be obscured by the pear when in flower properly (when it did flower properly), and yet the moment the mopheads turned brown, it seemed to leap out at you…

  3. Dobby says:

    Snap. I had a huge one (Hydrangea that is) too when I moved in here. I did prune it, but it was never going to be anything but huge, so it too came out.
    I got another one, well Karen got it for me, that is smaller and a lovely white. Fron Goch do some lovely specimens. So I wouldn’t rule out another one totally.

    1. kate says:

      They can be real thugs, and I’m not remotely surprised you had one – I think they’re compulsory! The bed definitely needs something light or bright, whatever I put in…

  4. What about a Leucothoe? Evergreen and rather unassuming in summer but boy do they do their thing in Autumn and winter. They come in varying degrees of size. Another option could be enkianthus another that prefers and acid situation, deciduous but autumn colour is beautiful.
    Personally I liked the colour of your hydrangea but if it’s not doing its job then it’s time to go!

    1. kate says:

      Now there are two very interesting suggestions – and I could do with some autumn / winter impact down there… thank you, am off to check them out!

  5. jan rushby says:

    What about a Morello cherry, a Garrya elliptica, or a Daphne? Perhaps with heuchera and hellebores around the bottom?

    1. kate says:

      Well, I’ve got a cherry plus I’m not sure the space is big enough, also got a daphne quite close – but the garrya, hmmmmm….. and hellebores….

  6. croftgarden says:

    I must have the only seaside garden without a hydrangea. Do I want one, well no, but anything that grows above 18 inches would be nice.
    How about a winter jasmine?

    1. kate says:

      I’d not thought of that – it would be a good spot for one, too. I’m getting a lovely list together!

  7. Anna says:

    I like Pauline’s suggestion of a hardy fuchsia – they’re tough customers, not fussy and seem to have few pests. Good luck with the garden club spring show 🙂

    1. kate says:

      They also grow like weeds round here, so I’d have no worries about one surviving. And there are loads of different ones I could go for, too.

      Woke up the am to find that heavy frost had decimated the daffs. If I’ve got enough for the show it will be most surprising….

  8. Hannah says:

    I have a similar problem with a giant fuchsia which was also subjected to mattock-ing, alas to no avail. Have fun deciding what to plant!

    1. kate says:

      Oh dear – that doesn’t bode well for the complete destruction plan!

      1. Hannah says:

        No, I claim that it’s blocking the light from the peach tree next to it which is why it doesn’t fruit well. Although having a peach tree in rainy Ireland could also be the problem!

        1. kate says:

          I’m impressed by your optimism – peaches outside, wow!

        2. Hannah says:

          Optimism bordering on foolhardiness!

  9. Cathy says:

    I’d go down the Garrya and hellebore option that Jan suggested if it was my garden – but it’s not so, tough luck, you have to make your own decision! I had a hydrangea which I similarly hoiked out last year but I gave it the slim chance of survival in an out of the way place – fortunately, I don’t think it has made it 🙂 It’s not that I dislike hydrangeas altogether, just not that one there!

    1. kate says:

      Someone had some Garrya at the garden show as we were setting up this morning – had a chat and I think it’s going to get to about the same size as the hydrangea, and ideally I want to go smaller. I daresay there’d be a variety which might work, though. I’m still cogitating… and the wild leeks continue to spread.

  10. wellywoman says:

    Wow you showed it. 🙂 Would a rose work there? Could look lovely against the beautiful stone behind. Garryas can get really quite big and I’m a bit unconvinced by them. There is a huge one in our village which does look incredible at the moment but its leaves can look quite manky and have a tendency to go brown.

    1. kate says:

      D’you know, I’d never even thought about a rose? They don’t generally do brilliantly round here, but this might be just the right spot… and it would be manageable, too. I really miss my old anonymous deep.dark red roses from my old garden. Hm, wonder what they were?

      1. wellywoman says:

        I was thinking last night about it and wondered about one of the beautiful species roses. They are much more able to cope with a variety of conditions and less prone to everything that seems to want to attack roses. I saw a gorgeous specimen of Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’ in a garden last year or there’s even Rosa glauca.

        1. kate says:

          That’s a really, really good idea – the species roses are a different kettle of fish. Hmm, I fancy something amazing, and R. moyesii Geranium certainly is that. Deep red would look good just there….

  11. Love the idea of a rose, but if you fancy a fuchsia pop over here, I have lots! I am giving my mopheads a stay of execution and moving the lacecap to the back garden, but I wouldn’t bet against me not having any in two years time.

    1. kate says:

      I think I’ve finally settled on moving an unhappy Osmanthus delaveyii – it should do well there. At the very least better than where it currently is, where it is still about 2 feet tall after three years. Hmm.

      I’m feeling strangely liberated!

      1. There is something almost magical about the freedom that comes from finally getting rid of a plant that hasn’t been making you happy for ages. I hope your osmanthus rewards you with a mighty growth spurt and a profusion of scented flowers in season. Assuming we still have seasons…

        1. kate says:

          So do I (I’ve explained to it that it’s on borrowed time…)

          No sign seasons here…

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