About Heritage Hydrangeas

About Hydrangeas

Ideal shrubs for the discerning gardener

This website is all about hydrangeas. A long-time favorite of gardeners, hydrangeas are easy, reliable plants to grow. They thrive in partial shade, in moist but well-drained soil and do well in coastal gardens.

Everyone recognizes the classic mophead as a ‘Hydrangea’, but the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, UK, published their new list of accepted species names in January, 2011, listing 49 species of Hydrangea (www.theplantlist.org). We have reproduced this listing at Taxonomy of Hydrangeas including some recent updates.

The Royal Horticultural Society, in the RHS Plant Finder, lists 17 species that are in general cultivation and available to gardeners. Of course, each and every species has a great many cultivars (approximately 1653 cultivars are listed in the RHS Plant Finder). There is much more to this truly interesting genus than the widely-recognised mophead!

At Heritage Hydrangeas we grow over 130 cultivars from across 15 species, but we have some way to go to collect the entire set! We believe that many of the old cultivars – heritage hydrangeas – introduced decades ago, are still superior to many cultivars more recently introduced. For example, H. macrophylla ‘Blaumeise’, introduced in 1979, is still considered to be the best blue lacecap despite many similar introductions over the past 37 years. Similarly, H. m. ‘Lanarth White’ (1949) remains one of the best white lacecaps. We welcome new introductions to our collection, but only if they are exceptional as are H. m. ‘Kompeito’ (2009) and H. paniculata ‘Le Vasterival’ (2012).

A small section of the hydrangea display at the Heritage Hydrangeas garden.

Hydrangeas were originally native to two regions: east Asia (especially China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and south to Vietnam and Indonesia) and the Americas (Appalachian Mountains, USA, and south via Central America to Mexico, Costa Rica down to Ecuador, Peru (Andean Mountains) plus Chile and western Argentina.

Approximately 60 genera follow this biogeographic pattern of morphologically similar plants originating in these two regions. Examples are Calycanthus, Clethra, Cornus, Hamamelis, Illicium, Tiarella and Hydrangeas. Perhaps these disjunctive genera once occupied a continuous temperate forest in the Tertiary period.

(Ref: Jun Wen. Evolution of Eastern Asian and Eastern North American Disjunct Distributions in Flowering Plants. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, Vol. 30:421-455, 1999).