On this Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, I’m going to focus on one plant: my ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea arborescens. Until I met ‘Annabelle,’ I didn’t have much luck with hydrangeas. Their performance was just so-so. We have extremely hot summers, and even in the shade, my hydrangeas often sulked. Once again, I must credit my friend, Wanda, for my love of ‘Annabelle’ as she introduced us two years ago. Her shade garden was bordered with these beauties which she grew from cuttings. Thank you, Wanda. For several years, I grew an old fashioned mophead hydrangea (I don’t know the variety,) and it did pretty well, except that we also have cold winters, and late freezes. The mophead often had beautiful leaves, but no flowers due to being nipped late in the spring. Because ‘Annabelle’ flowers on new growth, she is never badly hurt.
I also grow the Everblooming series of hydrangeas. Thus far, I am not that impressed.
Like a wallflower at the big dance, ‘Annabelle’ sits at the back of two shade borders looking nondescript until she starts to bloom. Her large blooms start out as tight green balls which expand until they are ten inches across. At this point, they turn a beautiful snowy white, the perfect thing to brighten shady spots. After a month of blooming white, they turn a lovely light green again as they age with their final color a soothing light brown.
In my garden, the beautiful ‘Annabelle’ blooms from early June through September. She begins with the daylilies and is so constant that sometimes I forget her, so I am remedying that now. Those who don’t know her sometimes mistake her for an Eastern Snowball bush Viburnum opulus, but her flowers are much larger and more delicate, and she blooms later than the snowball.
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, ‘Annabelle’ is hardy in USDA Zones 3-9, so almost everyone can enjoy her beauty. She is considered a smooth leaved hydrangea, and I can attest to that. Her foliage is somewhat different from the other hydrangeas I grow, but I don’t grow her for her foliar attributes. I grow her for the luscious blooms and easy care.
I read that she is not drought tolerant, but I would say she is more so than my other hydrangeas. When she starts to wilt, she is a good indicator that I need to water the shade garden. Her flowers are so large that they droop to the ground after the rain. They can be staked, but I like the drooping effect.
Next year, I’m planting another ‘Annabelle’ on the other side of this arbor. Maybe they will both droop toward the center aisle for a pleasing effect. Plans like these are what keep me gardening. It’s always the dreams of what to do next.
‘Annabelle’ has excellent disease resistence, and she is bothered little by insects.
Again from MOBOT, “This species blooms on new wood, and may be pruned back close to the ground in late winter each year to revitalize and to encourage vigorous stem growth and best form. Plants may die to the ground in harsh winters. If not pruned back, any weakened and/or damaged stems should be removed in early spring.”
Those prunings can be turned into more plants with rooting hormone and potting soil. There’s nothing like rooting your own ‘Annabelles’ and then spreading them throughout the shade garden.
According to MOBOT, ‘Annabelle’ is a native and was found near Anna, Illinois. I’m sure glad someone found her. She’s a great example of an easy to grow native who found a permanent home here.