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Vermont Garden Journal: Get Familiar With Climbing Hydrangeas

Climbing hydrangea is a hardy, beautiful vine that grows in shade and has attractive, large white flowers.

Hydrangeas are common landscape plants that hail from Asia. While many know the shrub versions of hydrangeas, such as "mophead" or blue hydrangea, the smooth leaf or "Annabelle" hydrangea and the panicle hydrangea, fewer gardeners are familiar with the climbing hydrangea.

That's too bad, because hydrangea petiolaris is a hardy, beautiful vine that grows in shade and has attractive, large white flowers. It's a great plant to cover a wall, arbor, fence or trellis.

Climbing hydrangeas are hardy to zone four. I remember visiting a gardener in the mountains of Ripton and seeing one at their house growing well. While they will flower best with at least part sun, you can grow this vine on the North side of a house or garage. Climbing hydrangeas are slow-growers, but they eventually can reach 30-to-50-feet tall. They grow by clinging to a flat surface with holdfasts or small cups on their vines. For this reason it's best not to grow climbing hydrangeas on siding since the vines will be difficult to remove should you need to repair or paint. The best surfaces are stone, brick or a separate, sturdy wooden trellis.

Climbing hydrangeas like moist, well-drained soil. For the first five years the growth is slow, but it picks up as the vine ages. The fragrant, white flowers are produced in June or July followed by attractive berries. One of the beauties of this vine is the bark. In winter, the cinnamon colored, peeling bark adds a nice element to your winter landscape.

While most varieties of climbing hydrangea have dark green leaves and yellow fall foliage color, "Miranda" is a variegated form with yellow edges on the leaves.

Now for this week's tip: if you don't have grow lights for seed-starting, try lining a shoe box with tin foil, standing it up on its side and placing the seedlings in front of the box in a South facing window. The foil will reflect light and hopefully keep your seedlings from getting leggy.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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