Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ is a beautiful shrub. Large white balls of flowers on long stems from the end of July and into August. But this variety of hydrangea has a reputation for flopping due to the size of the flower heads. Wire supports help but they don’t look great.
A natural support is box hedging. I was inspired by the photos of Gina’s garden on Instagram to plant Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ in a front garden that has borders edged with tall box hedging.
Two years on, the hydrangeas have established and look stunning. Billowing clouds of white flowers contrast beautifully with the green of the box hedging. Some of the hydrangea stems are holding each other up as they have grown densely together. Others flop gently on to the box hedging.
As the hydrangea flowers fade, they turn a lovely bronze colour that looks particularly good on a frosty winter’s morning.
Usually box hedging is not happy when crowded out by herbaceous perennials. Patches of dieback can appear. This often happens with perennials like geraniums that put on lots of foliage early in the season, and block out light and air flow to the low hedging. However, box hedging copes well with Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ as the flower heads only start flopping when they are full sized in mid to late July. This gives box enough time for the new Spring growth to harden off. As the flower heads age, they lighten and lift off the hedging enabling better air circulation- an important factor to discourage box blight.
The box hedging needs to be at least 60cm high to provide adequate support. Any lower and the hydrangeas will fall straight over it. In early Spring cut off the old flower heads to the nearest two strong buds, rather than cutting the Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ back to the ground. This helps the stems to thicken and become stronger to hold up the new flower heads.
Trimming the box hedging can be a little awkward. Carefully tie the hydrangea back using string and posts, lifting the flower heads off the hedging enough to allow access for the shears or trimmers. But still be careful as it’s very easy to cut a hydrangea stem by mistake. On the plus side, Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ make lovely cut flowers for the house.
If you have a box parterre or border edged with box hedging then I definitely recommend Hydangea ‘Annabelle’ for a low maintenance planting solution that has maximum impact. They will need regular watering, especially if we have a summer that has been as dry as this year. But it’s worth the effort when you can enjoy the results.