Sunday, September 20, 2009


Whilst Arabella Sock may be a little obsessed with bottoms, I thought I'd go upmarket slightly and talk about pants. Well, actually hydrangeas. Recently Plant Mad Nige had a bit of a rant on the subject of rhododendrons. I have similar feelings about hydrangeas. I realise that it's a bit of a sweeping generalisation to dislike a whole genus. In fact, there are even some hydrangeas that I admit to liking - next door's climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp petiolaris) very kindly gives us the majority of its flowers, which mingle rather nicely with our own Clematis 'Black Prince'. Others rave about 'Annabelle' and oak-leaved types but they just look blousy and dull to me.
Lace caps I can just about cope with (in other peoples' gardens), but that is more due to my
mellowing with age. These are almost attractive, with the sterile flowers round the edge appearing to bungy-jump off into the void below.

But the real objects of my dislike are the mopheads. Great big pastel pom-poms - like a row of geriatric cheerleaders. When we moved into this house, there were two in large tubs in the front garden. When the revolution came, they were first against the wall (or to be more accurate, into the skip). An irrational dislike, I know, but one I'm not working very hard to overcome.

The reason for the title? Chez Mouffetard, these abominations are known as "old lady's pants" as they come in the sort of colours one might imagine elderly ladies 'apple gatherer' undies to be.

A "fine" display at Arley Gardens


Lucy Corrander said...

Climbing hydrangeas are so nice, they don't count as hydrangeas at all.

I wouldn't grow hydrangeas unless I had a stately home and needed to fill up some of the space - and then I'd want them to decide what colour they are and stick to it.

Very close up, each little floret is very pretty - but one can't spend one's whole life with one's nose pressed up against a hydrangea.


Arabella Sock said...

My elderly next door neighbour has an hydrangea - it is definitely pants! Whatever faded colour it was it now looks rather crispy and unpleasant (best not continue the pants analogy further) and I can just see the top of it lurking behind the fence.

I have seen a lot of the nice hydrangeas at Savill Gardens about this time of year.

By the way I didn't start the 'bottom' thing. I'm sure it was James and his cherubums.

Victoria Summerley said...

I've never heard the expression "apple gatherer undies" before - it's wonderful. And I loved the description of "geriatric cheer leaders". I'm totally with you on hydrangeas, ESPECIALLY those mophead types that can't decide what colour they're going to be.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Those mopy mopheads are not my thing either and I quite agree on the climbing hydrangea as I had one in my old garden and am about to plant one in the Bliss garden too.

NewShoot said...

I'll still stick up for Annabelle. I couldn't work out what the fuss was about until I lived with one for two years - the length of flowering time with the subtle change from lime green in Spring (a much underused flower colour!) through to cream in Summer then back again. She's fussy though - can't take heat or the flowers scorch (like Arabella's crispy pants) and needs lots of water, but what a gal!

Ms B said...

Now come on, don't be so prejudiced, each plant has it's place & mophead hydrangeas have theirs. I think most of them look their best in a woodland garden. A fantastic little garden in Pembokeshire, Colby Woodland Garden, has some lovely ones & I agree about Saville gardens: this time of year they look lovelfantastic. But I must confess that my favourite mopheads are actually white & in my view look lovely anywhere. I have a 'Madame Emile Mouillere' which glows in the shade at the back of the garden.

Unknown said...

I completely understand why people revere Hydrangea's and Rhododendron's, but there are always one or two decent family members that have their place!

I wonder if the dislike comes from them being outdated in the fashion sense? They were once extremely popular and there is still quite a big call for them. But garden tastes change and they don't really fit in with the modern garden?

What really bugs me about Hydrangea's is seeing specimens that have been left unattended and unpruned for a season or two with the last years faded blooms still attached. I walk past one in a chapel grounds most days and I just want to go in and prune it!


HappyMouffetard said...

Lucy - quite!
Arabella - I'm glad you stopped the analogy when you did.
Victoria - yes, why can't they be pink OR blue, not some mottled mess?
Yolanda - good to hear. I would plant one, but next door's is doing so well, I have the benefit without the effort.
New Shoot - perhaps I've been harsh on Annabelle, but if she does have such dreadful cousins...
Ms B - I do try to like all plants, but I've taken against mopheads. perhaps I would prefer a white one as they at least know what colour they shoudl be.
Ryan - I don't think it's a fashion thing. If I like a plant, I'll grow it despite what anyone else thinks. Hydrangeas just wind me up :-)

Juliet said...

They wind me up too - or at least, to be strictly accurate, my parents' one winds me up - it bushes out across their drive and you can't get down the path to the front door without wading through the blasted thing. It has given me a lifelong loathing of them - I've probably got a hydrangea complex or something.

Wendy said...

I must say though, your lace-cap is veeery pretty!

I don't think the mopheads look nice in my neighborhood (bunch of split level houses in the suburbs), but in RI, where every little cottage, beachhouse, bungalow has it's mophead/sedum combo - it's quite nice.

Frances said...

Hi Happy, funny how when something grows easily for you, it is despised but if it were finicky and difficult would be much sought after. Our few mopheads get zapped with late frost nearly every year, so that a flower that makes it is a treasure. We have recently added a dwarf oak leaf called Little Honey with very brilliant golden foliage. The oak leafs will bloom on new growth, so are well suited to our climate. Pants, HA

Gail said...

I do like the lacecap hydrangeas. The mopheads, especially the blue, not so much! What's your stand on the big green flower balls of Snowball viburnum;) gail

Dawn/LittleGreenFingers said...

I was quite open-minded on the subject of hydrangeas. Now I shall just think 'granny knickers' on first sight. Thanks!

HappyMouffetard said...

Juliet - there's something about them, isn't there?
Wendy - I suppose location is everything.
Frances - true! What you can't gro becomes more precious to you.
Gail - not overly keen on those vibernums. Perhaps I just have a 'thing' against big ball-like flowers.
Dawn - sorry! (but not very sorry...)

Rothschild Orchid said...

You do have a point. Plain pink or blue ones I really dislike; they are like a big frilly pair of granny knickers.

I do however quite like some of the more interesting climbing ones and must confess to recently eyeing up a white Hydrangea paniculata with some interest.

P.S. I absolutely love your new aster title picture. Gorgeous!

Esther Montgomery said...

I've mentioned you and Hydrangeas in the same breath on Esther's Boring Garden Blog (Flattening the Knoll and Contemplating Age). Hope this is ok.


Karen - An Artist's Garden said...

What can I say?
It is such a good thing that you don't live here Hydrangeas grow so well and everyone has one ... or 10.

I did find myself wondering if I should buy one for the garden, but the moment passed