Photo: J.G. in S.F. (Flickr)
Like dainty June brides, the white lacy flowers of the climbing hydrangea are a joy to behold. Hydrangea anomala petiolaris is a vigorous deciduous vine from the orient. It has glossy green leaves and flower heads composed of tiny fertile blossoms as well as large sterile ones.
This plant is slow to get established in our gardens, but in moist, well-drained soil once it starts to climb, the sky’s the limit. Not only can it reach high, but its lateral branches also reach out from its supporting structure, giving it a two dimensional mass of flowers.
It is a vine with a wonderful textured look and its branches, with peeling bark, are attractive also in winter. It can transform ordinary walls and fences into works of art.
Some years ago when I was on a garden tour I saw my first climbing hydrangea blooming exuberantly on a limestone wall and knew that it was a plant I must have. I have collected hydrangeas for years, but in my Indiana garden, the pink and blue shrubs that bloom on old wood, often suffer during our spring freezes.
The white flowering hydrangeas that bloom later on new wood, are much more reliable as they are unaffected by our cold. The white climber is a star performer and when it begins to bloom I feel like singing “Here comes the bride.”