Supporting Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ with Box Hedging

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.

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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.

Mature Beech Topiary with Personality

I use the social media network Instagram to share photos of my work. I enjoy the feedback and interaction with other topiary enthusiasts from all over the world. Photos of a project that always have a good response is six mature standard beech balls. They form a visual barrier between a garden and the neighbouring paddock.

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The history of the beech balls is not fully known. The beech trees existed when the current garden owner purchased the property 30 years ago. I would guess the intention was to create a pleached beech hedge. But the creative flair of the current owner’s late husband meant the beech were rounded.

The last four years I have been responsible for maintaining this beech topiary and have been working on developing their curved shapes.

Each beech ball is different. Some are becoming more oval in shape as their neighbours exert their dominance. I like to emphasise this individuality when trimming, rather than trying to achieve a consistent ball shape. I do however keep them at the same height from the base of the topiary ball to the top, in relation to the sloping ground.

Each beech ball has its own personality, much like you find with old yew topiary. Their quirkiness adds more interest than a row of standard trees. Every September I feel like I’m visiting old friends when I go back to trim and shape them. Haven’t actually given them names yet but I will admit I do have my favourites.

Success with a Stubborn Wisteria

Nothing more satisfying as a gardener than having success with a plant that is being awkward. These two wisteria had stopped flowering and the owner was contemplating cutting them down.

The wisterias had flowered in the past so there wasn’t a defect with the plants. I gave them a hard prune so all the wisterias energy was directed into fattening up the flower buds. I also gave them a good feed with a slow fertiliser and made sure they were well watered.

Thankfully this spring we have been treated to a magnificent display. Now the challenge is to keep the flowering this spectacular next year and not put it down to this being a very good year for wisterias.

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Planting a new box parterre

Work on the new parterre is continuing well. The site was cleared last autumn of all the existing planting and shrubs. I had to remove two large Spirea, which was a shame but they did not fit in with the formal look I am trying to achieve in this area.

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I have now planted a large, square box parterre with a small, square box parterre in the centre around the sculpture of the contemplative boy.

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Fortunately I had four 25cm box balls left over from another planting job in the garden so I’ve used these on the corners on the large parterre to add a bit more interest.

The box is the common Buxus sempervirens. It’s only 10-15cm high now but will soon grow when the roots have established. I want to maintain the hedge at a height of 50cm. The garden owners are currently trying to source a small stone plinth for the sculpture.

The area is planted with snowdrops, which I was careful not to disturb when planting the box. I also planted Schuberti alliums and Apricot Beauty tulips for some late Spring interest.

For the Summer display I want to plant Salvia x jamensis ‘Hot Lips’ in the area between the large and small parterre.

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This perennial is a favourite of mine for its long flowering period and its aromatic leaves. With an ultimate growth height of 50 to 100cm, the Salvia flowers will be clearly visible above the box hedging but not too tall to look out of scale.

There is now a continuity to the garden as the new parterre links with the adjacent extended parterres that are part of the new rose garden I am creating.

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Looking forward to sharing images of this area as Spring and Summer progresses.