Home / articles / Hydrangeas


Above is one of my favourite garden photographs. I took it in Cadhay Gardens in East Devon some years ago.  These gardens are only open on Friday afternoons from Easter to September each year but they are certainly worth a visit.  Perhaps I will do a post on the gardens at some time in the future, but right now I’m going to talk about Hydrangeas, a plant which is so ubiquitous in our UK gardens that it is sometimes overlooked for its beauty.

“Hydrangeas,” says The Hillier Guide to Connoisseur’s Plants, “are noted for their long flowering period in summer and autumn. Essentials for their success are moisture retentive soil, as they are rather thirsty shrubs and, for the large-leaved species.”

There are several varieties, but mainly they are dome-shaped (sometimes called mop-head) or flat (sometimes called lace-cap).  The hydrangeas beside the carp pond above at Cadhay is a dome-shaped (mop-head).

The Hillier Guide says that excellent companion plants for hydrangeas are hostas (plaintain lilies) as they like the same conditions and provide dramatic contrast with their large bold foliage and spikes of lily-like flowers.

Whenever I see hydrangeas in gardens I always want to photograph them, and I’m always attracted to the blue flowered varieties even more so than the pink, although admittedly the pink of those in the photos above look rather good against all the greenery and the reflective waters of the carp ponds.

I took this photo of a lace-cap hydrangea in Knightshayes Court Gardens (National Trust) some years ago, and I love the varying shades of pink and blue in this lovely plant.

These three examples above were in Trelissick Gardens (National Trust) in Cornwall, photos taken two years ago.

A great mound of Hydrangea at Saltram House Garden, near Plymouth and, below, in close up …

And then the one we bought this week at the Avon Mill Garden Centre, near Kingsbridge, Devon.

I am now looking forward to planting this (or getting husband to plant it for me, an even better idea) once I have chosen the right place for it.  As we have a north-facing back garden with a huge walnut tree in our tiny garden, finding the partial shade that these plants enjoy shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

And finally … my header photograph showing hydrangeas in the gardens of Berry Head House Hotel and in Battery Gardens, Brixham …

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Until next time.





About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

Check Also

Mainly Flowers

I took this photograph early on Saturday just before I switched on the television to …


  1. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Hydrangeas are beautiful aren’t they, I put a pink one in here but it hasn’t done too well I think the soil here has too much clay in it. I hope yours does well one of my favourite garden flowers.

    • Margaret Powling

      I have an idea that they like an ericaceous compost but I could be wrong – I will need to check that out before I plant our new one. But moist soil and in partial shade (although all those I photographed were in full sun!) I used to have a lovely pink one in the garden but when we had a water meter installed we had to put a little path to the meter so that it could be read by the people who come to read meters, and so as the hydrangea was in the way, it had to go and it didn’t like being transplanted and died.

  2. what beautiful photos of hydrangeas, Margaret. They are lovely, and are also grown here, imported to The Antipodes, at some time. However, the colours are not as vibrant. Perhaps we are not using the correct compost.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, hydrangeas are beautiful plants, but I really don’t know which compost is best for which colour; I shall see I shall have to investigate this, perhaps at my local garden centre on Google it.

  3. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Well, this post has certainly overshadowed my little blue hydrangea! It’s small stature is due to our heavy clay soil, I think. What lovely photographs. I think mix of lilacs and blues is one of the nicest colour combinations for anything, not just hydrangeas.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I love lilacs and blues, too. Indeed, they always remind me of the pretty dress my seamstress aunt made for me and which I mentioned in one of my childhood posts (I think!) that had a pink satin under-slip and then the blue georgette dress which went over it, the colour combination then was really beautiful. I also like lime green and blue, such as alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle) with muscari (grape hyacinths).

      • Eloise (thisissixty.blog)

        Lime and blue is indeed a lovely combination. I also love blues mixed with Jade green.
        We are overrun with muscari and have to dig some out every year. They are so pretty when in flower but irritatingly untidy in the period after flowering before they can be cut down!

        • Margaret Powling

          Muscari grow like weeds, don’t they. Already they are putting on green leaves for next spring! And blue and jade green look lovely together, too. There used to be an old saying, blue and green should never be seen, but I totally disagree … well, look at a blue sky and green fields!

          • Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

            I remember my grandmother saying that blue ang green should never be seen. Even as quite a young girl I thought that seemed silly because of grass and sky! Yes, I have little green muscat I shoots popping up everywhere.

          • Margaret Powling

            So I’m not the only one who was told that blue and green should never be seen. I think much depends on the particular shades. Chinese blue with lime green looks wonderful, but pale blue and pale green not so good, I think it’s best to put light with dark but not light with light when it comes to blue and green. Yes, muscari can be very invasive, but I’m loathe to remove them, they are such a pretty blue.

  4. They are lovely, we only have one in the garden as they grow quite big and our garden isn’t (quite big). We have lived here for 41 years and it was planted by the previous owners so it has done well. It’s mostly pink but starts out with a few blue flowers and at the end of the summer they turn pale green. We’re on clay soil but with the variety of colours we get I don’t think telling you that is helpful!

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, I think that sounds lovely, Alison, as you get a variety of colours on the one plant! Yes, they do grow big, but this little fellow (or lady) is very small now and I hope t keep him or her to a reasonable size (if, indeed he or she grows at all – we’re not very good gardeners even after all these years of trial and error … very much error!)

  5. I realize that this post is mainly about Hydrangeas, but for some reason this a.m. when I looked at the photo of you, realized how much (but far younger) you look like Dame Judi Dench. Both lovely ladies!

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Margaret, and even though Dame Judi is almost a decade my senior I shall take that as a compliment! Others have also remarked that I resemble her (although my husband doesn’t see it!) When I was younger – much younger, I might add! – the person to whom I was most likened (apart from her height, as she was very tall) was the dancer/actress, Juliet Prowse. She starred with Elvis in the early 1960s film, GI Blues. But to be mentioned in the same sentence as Dame Judi, I am honoured, so thank you very much!

  6. Oh those colours in your photographs are just beautiful. When I was a child I always thought that hydrangeas looked like the perfect bridal bouquet 🙂

    I, too, am a fan of Judi Dench. Her series ‘As Time Goes By’ is gorgeous and even though I’ve seen every episode several times I will still sit and watch it. I loved her in ‘Her Majesty Mrs Brown’, with Billy Connolly. Her short, cropped hair style is stunning and one that few women can wear and look stylish. She can do no wrong in my eyes !

    • Margaret Powling

      My memory goes back to the 1960s when Dame Judi was just starting out in her acting career and she’s just gone from strength to strength, hasn’t she? Have you seen the Marigold Hotel films? If not, I think you would enjoy those, Lara. And she was good as M in the James Bond films, too. She is still an excellent and very versatile actor.

      • Yes, yes and yes.
        I loved the dynamic between Dench (M) and Daniel Craig (Bond). Those Marigold Hotel movies were gorgeous.

        • Margaret Powling

          So glad you like the Marigold Hotel movies, Lara. I think they’re great. We have also had a couple of series of documentaries here where six ‘personalities’ who are now getting on in years, shall we say, go first to America to sample retirement there for a few weeks, and then in the second series, they go to India (as they did in the fictional Marigold Hotel films) and sample retirement, Indian-style. These were thoroughly entertaining and very interesting programmes, the group dynamics were good, too. There were actors, dancers, a TV doctor, a TV presenter, and others, all were professional people and reasonably well known, and it was good to see them as they were in ‘real’ life, often not made up for the camera, and just enjoying life (or not) in their old age with the aches and pains from which many of us suffer.
          I have just had a look online and there are DVDs of these two series. They are called The Real Marigold Hotel, and there are two separate series. If I had to choose just one, I’d buy the 2nd series, when the group went to India.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *