I just got back from my annual New England summer beach vacation (I usually flip flop between Newport, Rhode Island and Cape Cod-this year it was the Cape). It was all lazy beach days, clam bakes, lobsters, buckets of steamers, morning walks on the beach, evening wine on the beach, Lilly Pulitzer, kayaking through salt ponds/marshes, seagulls, shopping, reading…and HYDRANGEAS-beautiful blooming hydrangeas everywhere!
Hydrangeas are the signature flower of coastal New England, and they were seriously gang busters this season; it was almost like a contest of whose hydrangea bushes were more zoftig and bursting with blooming color than the others. I think this residence – known as the “Hydrangea House” – is the winner:
Set among the backdrop of the grey shingled homes that dot the coastal landscape, these gorgeous blooms really popped in colors of pink, white, blue and purple.
Although the hydrangea is native to Japan, it is very tolerant of salt which is why it is commonly used in New England’s coastal landscapes. Hydrangea bushes grow 3-6 feet tall and wide, and prefer moist, well-drained soil. The small, individual flowers bloom together into large balls, or “mop heads”.
They bloom July through August and and do best with morning sun and afternoon shade. The color of the flower depends on how acidic or alkaline the soil is…
acidic soil produces blue…
alkaline soil produces pink…
…and a neutral pH soil produces white.
You can amend your soil when planting hydrangeas to achieve the desired hue.
Anyone in New England, can incorporate hydrangeas into their landscape (there are many different hybrids for different gardening zones); however, they bloom best on the coast line because the ocean moderated temperatures tend to prevent spring cold snaps (which damage the buds) and allow for an almost always successful bloom. And that, my dear, is why the hydrangeas bloomed so magnificently on the coast this year, and not in my own backyard! I also lost my gorgeous weeping cherry tree from our crazy winter and spring climate, but I digress….
You can still enjoy the New England coastal look of hydrangea bushes; they’ve created species for all different gardening zones and sun/shade variations. Just do a little research and talk to your local garden center about getting the right plant for the right location in your garden. That, with proper pruning and care, will give you a little bit of coastal New England Bella Vita in your own back yard!
If you want to further experience the beauty of hydrangeas and learn more about planting and care, head over to the annual Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival. Sponsored by the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society, you can take garden tours and partake in a variety of lectures and classes. The Cape Cod Hydrangea Society also gives opportunities to further your skill in creating magnificent hydrangea gardens through their Hydrangea University.
Rosa Rugosa or Beach Rose, is another coastal flowering bush that you may see growing wild in the sand dunes or in a curated garden. You will definitely enjoy it’s strong, sweet fragrance! Rosa Rugosa is a hearty rose bush that can grow in almost any well-drained soil and in any light. It is disease-resistant as well. A definite no-brainer for a coastal low maintenance plant that will add color and fragrance to your garden!
Picture Source: vitalsignsme.org