Growing A Climbing Hydrangea, & How To Get Started

DSC08963Who wouldn’t be impressed with this seriously lushtastic climbing hydrangea eh?Whether you’re a green fingered planting whizz or just an admirer of OPGs (Other People’s Gardens), an established climbing petiolaris is truly a thing of beauty.

And here’s the thing. They’ll grow mostly anywhere. Full sun or shade, sandy soil or clay, as long as they have a vertical surface to cling to, up they’ll shoot. How I’d never seen a fully grown one before this year is of utter bewilderment to me, but I guess  the best way is to know someone who actually has one of these splendid specimens in their garden. Which I didn’t.

The second best way, which I did, is to visit a local Open Garden event and gaze in awe at some stunning examples just like the one above dwarfing the bicycle. I wondered how in the blazes I’d never noticed one before now. It’s like that thing where you first meet someone and they live just down the road from you, and then after than meeting you see them absolutely everywhere even though you’ve never seem them anywhere, ever before.

This was another stunner, clinging almost impossibly to the corner of a gable elevation to show off a blowsy extravaganza of white flowers.

The curious thing is that I’d actually bought a teeny one last year at Tatton Garden Festival and planted it next the entrance path at Moregeous Mansions, loving hydrangeas anyway and liking the idea of a climbing one, without really knowing what it would look like. And suddenly, I knew. Even when not in flower they’re rich and luscious, their large emerald green leaves providing the perfect foil for red brick or chunky timbers.DSC08967Like most hydrangeas they don’t like to be too hot and dry all the time – my regular ground level hydrangeas have all suffered in this 2018 heatwave and have needed watering regularly. They need to be watered well during the season when first planted and they love our (usual) English weather of sun and rain. They like the occasional feed (special alkaline food for hydrangeas, remember) and will thus reward you with giant heads of white lace-cap showiness, consisting of small fertile flowers surrounded by larger sterile ones. The fewer large flowers around the edge con pollinators into dive bombing the flower heads, where there’s a plethora of pollen filled mini flowers centrally. Not too much energy wasted in producing the biggies therefore. Clever buggars. DSC08964Here’s where I planted mine last year. Can you see the climbing shoots starting to spread their way upwards, that large brick wall just dying to be covered in lace-cap!img_5771Apparently it’s quite common for them to take a couple of years to get going but once on the move, they can grow to over 5m high, taking 15-20yrs to peak. There was literally no movement on mine last year, which is probably why I was so gobsmacked to see the size of the ones I did at the Open Gardens. This year however, the shoots are creeping out and after seeing the full grown examples, I decided to give it some help.

Here’s a mini InstaStory showing my thinking…..

And here’s the corner from the other angle before and after Mr Moregeous fixed the painted trellis for the young plant to cling to. This isn’t actually necessary as climbing hydrangeas will cling to brick. But, with me being a lady builder and all, and having seen plants cause awful damage to brick work, I’d rather my climber be clinging to a timber frame rather than our mortar joints!

Ever practical here, you know the script.2018-07-30_0001.jpgI actually really like the look of the new frame, which we’ve painted in Railings to match the rest of the external timbers and compliment the dark grey decorative bricks. Not that you’ll be able to see that once the climber gets going.

Planting a garden is a long game, you’ve to be patient and do some planning but it’s all so worth the effort. That’s why I love the Open Gardens so much, they give amateur gardeners chance to see real gardens in full leaf and see what works are what doesn’t, ask questions and get advice. I probably wouldn’t have noticed and recognised a fully grown climbing hydrangea and had the idea to build my frame. See how it works?

And if you’re not a patient homeowner or renovator, just remember this (a feeling we all know so well)…. time flies so fast that before you know it, what you planned has already happened. So, it’s well worth planting that slow grower after all, that is, if you want a beautiful outside space to compliment the inside one you’ve spent so much time and effort on.

Have I persuaded you to look at a bare wall with new eyes? I do hope so x

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