I think it’s true to say that mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrocarpa) are entering a spell in the garden fashion wilderness. Of course they may have been there for some time without me noticing: I am not the most cutting-edge of fashionistas.
Anyway, they’ll be in good company: rhododendrons and conifers have been stubbornly refusing to become trendy again for years despite brave recent efforts at rehabilitation.
Nobody seems to like mopheads any more. They’re old-fashioned, granny plants, blobby, boring. I am ripping them out in every garden I’m doing.
This lot are the heads I saved for drying from a clump of mophead hydrangeas in the chicken garden. You wouldn’t normally, of course, be pruning hydrangeas now: the advice is to wait till spring to allow old flower heads to give some frost protection, then trim down to a pair of buds.
But these are soon to become ex-mopheads. I’m clearing the lot of them: their owner doesn’t like them.
Fortunately she does, however, like hydrangeas, and we’re replacing the mopheads with other varieties. For there are many hydrangeas which have not followed the mophead down the slippery slope to oblivion and remain resolutely fashionable.
So we’re trying to decide between the lacecap ‘Mariesii’ (powdery purple flattened and very beautiful sprays of florets), designer’s favourite ‘Annabelle’ – possibly a bit too compact, though that does mean we can plant around them (I’ve always thought the flowers too large for the plant, mind you); and H. villosa, a big handsome bruiser of a plant I love for its strokeably felty leaves alone. The bed is by the house though so this one might be a bit too wild and woolly for comfort. We’re also thinking about H. quercifolia – fabulous oak-shaped leaves which turn deep red in autumn, but the flowers are paniculata types, like big creamy icecream cones – back to blowsy, then.
At the moment ‘Mariesii’ is a neck in front. Any other suggestions very welcome!
Well – I’ve always been gardening, but not in other people’s gardens for a while. That’s all changed in the last couple of months and I’ve taken on three large and beautiful country gardens.
The first I privately refer to as the chicken garden: slightly unfair as it’s a lovely 6 acres around a fine old rambly house. Or at least it will be lovely: I’m currently rescuing the cultivated bits around the house from a spaghetti-like tangle of bindweed and doing lots of new planting.
All accompanied by Henrietta here – my keenest fan – and her sisters, including three chicks and some guineafowl. They love it when I turn up as I’m Worm Provider Extraordinaire. So attentive are they I’m constantly worried about pinning one to the ground by the head with my fork.
They are very free range so we’ve developed a few ways of chicken proofing the garden. The main one is choosing the right plants.
Shrubs are easiest but boring planted en masse – so here’s my top 10 tough, more or less chicken proof perennials which will cope with a bit of experimental pecking.
- Salvia ‘Mainacht’
- Liriope muscari
- Sanguisorba ‘Red Buttons’
- Anemone x hybrida
- Aster ‘Little Carlow’
- Oriental poppies (these regenerate from the roots even when scratched to bits)
- Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’ (plants which cover the ground densely offer no scratching opportunities)
- Cirsium rivulare ‘Purpurea’
- Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue”