30 July 2016

In the Spotlight: Annabelle Hydrangea (hydrangea aborescens Annabelle)

This is the beginning of my mini-series on hydrangeas for zones 3-8. *typically. Many people don't believe you can successfully grow hydrangeas on the prairies so I am compiling a feature on hydrangeas for those who want to but never knew they could.

the bloom is larger than my husband's head!
Annabelle Hydrangea (smooth hydrangea) - native to the eastern United States 
Height:  3 - 4 feet tallWidth:  3 - 4 feet tall
Hardiness:  zones 3-8 Canada
Blooming Time: late June to September.  You may leave the flowers in place to dry as they will persist through the winter, adding interest in the garden.  As you can see from the photo above, the flowers can be 10-12 inches across.
Sun requirement:  full sun, part-sun, light shade
Tolerates: rabbit, erosion, clay soil, shallow rocky soil
Intolerant of drought.
Maintenance:  low

Annabelle hydrangeas bloom on new wood.  In Alberta, Canada it is recommended to prune Annabelle Hydrangeas hard within a few inches above the soil in spring (late March early April, weather permitting).  

Annabelles make nice cut flowers
Annabelles are large abundantly flowering hydrangeas.  The ball-shaped cluster of flowers opens slightly chartreuse in colour, quickly whitening to a bright white, then brown to a light tan as they age.  The foliage consists of big rounded sharply toothed leaves with pointed ends.  The leaves turn yellow in the fall.  The bark is green.  This hydrangea is a quick grower, achieving heights of 4-5 feet once established.  Mine is about 4 years old and stands about 4 feet tall, maybe slightly more.

The bush is loose in habit, rounded in shape.  Stems come from the root or branch off from pruned site.  No apparent bugs nor disease issues.  The only complaint I have is that they tend to bow down under the weight of those ginormous blooms.  This always seems to happen after a particularly windy time or period of heavy rainfall.  I did get some supports this year but after the fact and found it difficult to prop them up.  Maybe I should just rig some soft rope around them for support?   Do give them ample room to spread out.  Six feet per plant may seem generous until they begin bowing on you.

They require moist, well-drained soil.  I like to enrich my soil before planting with a bit of compost and peat moss.  Mulching will retain moisture and will help provide some insulation during the winter.  Annabelles are not fussy about soil ph and, no, you cannot alter the colour of these blooms through manipulating the ph.  

Annabelle hydrangeas have a long life-span of up to 20 years.  

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