On a recent trip to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens I was blinded by a dazzling display of a golden barberry paired with a kaleidoscopic Pistachio hydrangea – which got me thinking. What other plants make good companions for hydrangeas?
So in the interest of helping your create artistic plant combinations and have another excuse to go plant shopping here are a few ideas from my photo library that you may like to try.
Consider repeating the color of the hydrangea flower with a foliage plant to add emphasis.
In the image below the marbled pink leaves of Rose Glow barberry set the scene for this vibrant pink hydrangea
For a softer look, blades of a white variegated grass such as Miscanthus are perfect behind white panicle flowers such as the peegee hydrangea.
Or use a softer toned grass as a carpet to skirt a large hydrangea, hiding the bare shrub ankles without distracting the eye from the seasonal beauty of the blooms
For grab-your-sunglasses drama what about this combo seen at the Bellevue Botanical Garden that proved to be my inspiration for this post? Rather than repeat the raspberry pink bloom color, or even the secondary blue-lavender eye within these Pistachio hydrangea blooms, these designers opted to highlight the yellow-green notes of emerging blooms for a high intensity color punch.
Now see the same concept played out in a much gentler way with All Gold Japanese forest grass tucked under this soft blue lace cap hydrangea.
Timing is everything when you want to combine flowers with flowers.
Below is the same hydrangea that you saw with the Rose Glow barberry, viewed from a different angle. Here you can see how the crisp white blooms of an adjacent hydrangea soften the scene. Since this is a pond-side planting the white adds to the visual cooling – rather like adding ice cubes to your cocktail!
Want something more subtle? Loved this hebe whose flowers perfectly matched the lilac hydrangea bloom behind. Delightful.
Or here's an easy one from my own garden. Rozanne geranium blooms for so long you can't help but get this right! This hardy geranium is also a real mingler so its tendrils will weave their way along hydrangea branches with little assistance from you.
Many hydrangea blooms change color as seasons progress. Consider planning a companion planting to highlight those dusky fall shades. Angel's Blush peegee hydrangea turns from white to a delightful rose shade which echoes the color of Gateway Joe Pye weed looming overhead, the scene brightened with the yellow ox eye sunflower (Heliopsis) daisies planted to one side. A scene to look forward to.
Watch out for my new book Gardening with Foliage First (Timber Press, January 2017), coauthored with Christina Salwitz, where we have several amazing combinations using hydrangeas including some winter ideas!
What about pairing the hydrangea blooms with the colors of berries, stems or even bark?
Wondering which hydrangea to choose? I can't even begin to help you there as there seem to be a gazillion to select from! I recommend deciding what size and color you want first, then the flower shape. From there ask a nursery professional to help you select the best varieties for your area and to give you tips on successful cultivation.
I also like to know who has grown my plants. There are several excellent hydrangea growers that sell to the nurseries and stores including Proven Winners and Baileys Nurseries that sells the Endless Summer collection of luscious hydrangeas so look for their branded pots.
What are YOU pairing your hydrangeas with? Leave a comment below or post a photo to me Facebook page for us all to enjoy!