19 October 2017 - 10:19am

Getting on trend with hydrangeas!

Gardening, like most things it seems, is victim to fashion. Some years ago, many gardeners wouldn’t dream of going near dahlias, now they are right back in fashion, especially the Bishop of Landaff, which has been glorious here at Charnwood this year and is still going strong as I write in mid September. If I remember to dead head it and give it a little feed and plenty of water, it will carry on until the first frost. Hydrangeas are one of those shrubs now back in fashion. They were all over the big garden shows this year including Chelsea and some, such as Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ now has the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. They look lovely in a woodland setting and, as this is predominantly a woodland garden, we went for the gentler, looser flowering type rather than the gloriously blousy, lipstick pink, mop head varieties you so often see adorning sea side gardens. One we’ve tried before and failed with but are having another go with is Hydrangea Quercifolia meaning ‘with leaves like an oak’; the Latin name for Oak is Quercus. The leaves are, as the name suggests, just like a big oak leaf, which go a glorious colour in autumn. It is a real feature of this lovely shrub as well as the lovely white flowers in summer. The second is H.paniculata ‘Phantom’. It, too, has gorgeous flowers, starting out greenish and fading to white. We planted them with a few handfuls of mycorrhizal fungi to give the roots a good chance of getting going as the soil here is heavy clay, a bit unforgiving for a new plant. Then we watered them really well and will continue to do so right into next year. Peter has erected a little wire protective fence around them both to keep the bloomin’ rabbits from chewing them. Finally, a decent mulch of our fabulous garden compost and we have done all we can for now to give them a good home. Late July Peter and I visited Kew gardens, for both a general wander and more specifically to take a look at the Great Broad Walk Borders. Two new herbaceous borders, 320 metres long, were created around 2 years ago. A lengthy design process began in 2013 and generous private funders supplied the dosh. Planting started in 2015 when, on 6 October, eight topiary yew trees arrived and instantly gave the design formality and structure. 30,000 plants then followed, in batches of around 1500 and, thankfully, during a mild autumn so perfect for planting. It is early days; herbaceous plants take a while to get their roots into the soil and looking and feeling at home. But in July 2017 the results are already looking wonderful so next year they should be even better. During the same trip we went and had a stroll through the planting around the Olympic Park in London. Again, some gorgeous planting, mainly prairie style, with huge drifts of grasses and tall perennials (see photo). Lots of inspiration to keep us working on and enjoying our garden!