Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Climbing Hydrangea: What You Should Know

My climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris ) was purchased for primarily one reason. I wanted a non-invasive flowering vine that could self support without a trellis. It is a nice plant, but I wish I had studied more than the nursery description before selecting it. If I had, I would have gone with something else.

If you are considering the purchase of this lovely species, let me help translate nursery speak for you.

"a bit slow to establish"
By this they mean that it will take six, yes six years to flower. Oh it will have lots of pretty glossy leaves before then, but don't expect flowers anytime before your newborn enters kindergarten.

"vigorous growth once established"

Translated? 60-80 feet, but not just up. It also grows OUT. It grows fast and furious even if you never fertilize, water or otherwise care for it. It will do this even in shade. In other words, once it does establish, stand back for the plant explosion.

See above, this also means good luck trying to kill it.

"striking exfoliating bark"
In winter your friends that are inexplicably examining the hydrangnea's bark even though it is 20 degrees outside will say, "what's wrong with that plant's bark?" I'm underwhelmed with the bark. To my eye it looks gnawed on. It's not a reason to purchase the plant. A tangled web of gnawed on bark is not my idea of seasonal interest.

"plant needs no support to grow upward -- so you don't have to worry about tying the vine! "
Don't attempt to remove it from the side of your house unless you are planning on repainting and possibly replacing the siding entirely. Those little feet attach themselves firmly. I ripped a branch off the side of the balcony and took wood chunks with it. This plant laughs at strong winds.

Climbing hydrangea is a magnificent plant, but it is one of those where placement is key. It will attach itself to anything near it and if that item is not able to withstand significant support, it is toast. It is also a plant that you need to be willing to wait sometime for. If you have the perfect spot, and some time, it is a plant you may well grow to treasure. I currently have a love hate relationship going with mine. I love it in bloom and I hate having to chop it to smithereens twice a year to keep it from eating my house. One day, it will have to go, but for now it is a reminder for me to study a bit before purchasing anything described as "vigorous".


Bangchik and Kakdah said...

I may just consider having hydrangea soon... thanks for the nice and elaborate info. ~ bangchik

The Impatient Gardener said...

Boy, you aren't kidding about the speed with which this thing grows. Definitely a challenge for an impatient gardener such as myself (I consider it character building). Mine is now three years old and had two buds on it. I'm shocked about that part. The other part is that it is about 2-1/2 feet square. Hardly zooming up the tree. My mom has one that is probably seven or eight years old now and it is so tall (20 feet?) and so beautiful that I know it's worth the wait. Unfortunately I have mine growing up one of the few ash trees in our yard, and of course the emerald ash borer has now been discovered on the other side of the county, about 20 miles away. Guess we'll just hope we don't get any of those buggers here.

Helen said...

Very funny! I was just thinking about writing a post that would give real-world translations of gardenspeak. But I guess I was a little "slow to establish."

Ellie Mae's Cottage said...

Thanks for the translation! Wow I can't believe it grabs so tightly to the siding of your house. Well I won't be getting this one any time soon... I think I'll stick with the bush variety. -Jackie

Beegirl said...

Fantastic post. The "carefree" part had me laughing out loud! Thanks for the heads up..I'll be passing this one by..!

Stacy said...

Thanks Bangchik!

IG, that's horrible about the ash borers. What they have done is so tragic.

Helen you should do it! I love "what they say, what they mean threads!"

Jackie, I'm fairly certain my ten year old could climb this thing and it would hold her just fine. They should figure out a way to cross it with peonies and salvia and all those other floppers.

Beegirl, not into house eating plants I take it? ;)

Heather said...

I have one of these, still sitting in a pot. I heard about the slow establishment (what I heard was 3 years...not six!!!) and I also heard about it sticking to ANYTHING...and was leery putting it up against my house. I think I'll be returning it, no matter how beautiful it looks when it really takes off.
Great blog, today. Thanks for the laughs.

Tatyana said...

Hi Stacy! I was a bit sleepy reading new posts, but yours woke me up in no time! I have two of them planted on the side of the garage. Should I dig them out? Well, in 8 years boys'll graduate from school and we probably will downsize and sell the house.... If the house could be found in the green mess with gorgeous blooms...
You made me think!

Stacy said...

Tatyana? Dig them out? LOL, how much do you like to prune?