hydrangeas & other plant combinations

amocJuly 19, 2007

Hi All,

I had a horticulturist make a plan for a few beds for me. However, I have a hard time sticking to her plan :-) I keep doing my own thing and mixing in with her ideas.

So, one of the beds that she made had some small leaf rhododendron, daylilies, echinacea, black eye susan and maybe some other things. I decided to move my endless summer hydrangeas into this bed. However, they entirely stole the show :-). I do not like so much the daylilies or echinacea/black eye susan next to the hydrangea. But I like the leaf contrast with the rhododendrons and with the irises. And I like that the rhododendrons, iris and hydrangea bloom at different times, so no clashing there. I also have a pink clematis going on the house wall, and that seem to match well with the hydrangea.

So, what other combinations have you tried with the hydrangeas and you loved? The flowers on mine are both pink and blue (why?)and i like them that way. I am not sure what to fill the bed with once the dayilies, echinacea and black eye susan are out.



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ostrich(3a AB)

Anda, I found the combination of ES hydrangeas, black eyed susan, echinacea and daylilies to be interesting, because in my area (which is also zone 5), ES does need some afternoon shade, while all the other things that your horticulturist chose require full sun. Hmm...

I think that you may want to do a search and see some photos posted by various people here. I have seen lovely combinations of ES with astilbes, hostas (try the variegated ones like Paul's Glory), tradescantia blue & gold, dicentras etc. on this forum.

Good luck!

P.S. Please show us some pics if you can!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 10:32PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Oops! I meant that it was interesting for your horticulturist to place the rhodies next to the other perennials, because in my area, the rhodies require afternoon shade while the others do much better in full sun...

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 10:52PM
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It may be a very personal approach to plant combinations, but I try to match things up based on how they might grow in nature. Hydrangeas are woodland understory plants, so have a natural affinity for plants of similar origin or those that share the cultural conditions one might locate in dappled shade or on the edge of a forest. The hostas, dicentra and astilbes mentioned above, also ferns, brunnera, hellebores are a great match. Same for rhodies or other shade preferring shrubs. The combining of hydrangeas with native prairie plants that prefer open, sunny and even rather dry conditions is a bit too much of a reach for me.

Makes me want to question the reasoning behind this placement by your "horticulturist"....what were they thinking.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 9:15AM
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Thanks for all the suggestions! I

As I said, the hydrangeas were not part of the plan, I just moved them there because i thought it was a better place for them (and it was). I was about to throw them away for not blooming, this was their last chance!

The bed is rather large, surrounding the house and patio on one side. It has a Heritage river birch on it (still a small tree right now). There is a shady side (dappled shade)of the bed where the hydrangea and rhododendrons are located. And there is a sunny, south facing side on the other side of the tree, slightly up hill from the hydrangea. There is yet another side of the bed that is further from the tree, that again has close to full sun conditions. The rhododendrons are "Olga" which are tolerant of full sun and are doing very well. So the Iris can still be on another side of the bed and do well.

The rest of the plants she recommended are appropriate and doing well, except that I now like the hydrangeas and would love to chose everything to go well with them.

So, to clarify, as you move away from the hydrangeas there is more and more sun. They are located west from the house and north from the tree. I think some hostas can take more sun. Not sure about the others as I have no experience with shade gardening... all my trees are all young still...

So, does that change your suggestions? I do like the idea of growing plants as they would grow in nature, and as the birch grows I will incorporate more shade plants. But I will still have space there for plants that love more sun.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 12:12PM
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If the leaves of a plant you are considering are too similar to hydrangea leaves, consider variegation on the other plants. I recently saw a comment from another GardenWebber, ego45 I think, who used yellow variegated hostas near the hydrangeas. It looked very nice.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 12:59PM
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I have a similar situation with a shade garden (with ferns, hostas, astilbe's, dicentra, ferns etc. and, of course, lots of hydrangeas) that gradually transitions in a full sun area. My sister is a landscape architect and has helped me with the plan. What we did in the part sun area off the shade garden is use keep everything lavendar and white (in your case, maybe blue, pink and white?). The plants there are salvia, climbing roses, irises and columbines (all of these seem to not blend well). Then, in the full sun area, I have lilacs, phlox and daylilies (this is a purple and yellow theme).

I suspect that, like me, you don't like the combination of colors (maybe there's too many) and the different styles of plants you have going on. I also would not like echinacea, black eyed susan or daylilies by my hydrangeas. Those plants have a more "prairie" feel to them (as a poster previously alluded to), where hydrangeas have a more classic feel - that's why we used classic plants to transition into the sunny garden (roses, irises etc.). Does this help?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 9:25PM
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Garden Gal, now that you mention it, i think that's what it is. I could not figure out why i did not like the echinacea with the hydrangea, the flowers are also pink... And the daylilies and black eye susan are yellow which is too much color for me.

So now, going for plants that have a more "classic" feel, I was thinking of peonies (a tree peony would take part shade), iris and siberian iris (or japanese iris), and a white and pink asian/oriental lily mix. I also have variegated forms of both irises, which could add interest. And I love peonies, I have them in many other places across my yard. All of these do well in my soil, I have them in other places in the yard.

Now as you see, I am going for leaf combinations. How many different leaf kinds can you have in one bed without having it look too busy? To recap, I have hydrangeas, rhodies (which I think will stay),clematis, iris and on the list I have siberian iris (possibly variegated), peonies and lilies. I'd love to sneak in some hostas as well :-) Is this too many?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 10:44PM
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Hey there - happy to help!

I don't think you can have too many different leaf combinations (I have hydrangea, fern, 3 different hostas, astilbe, toad lily, brunnera, pulmonaria, heuchera) all in the same little area. A bunch of these are variegated (in different ways: brunnera are silver and green, hostas are white in green in different combinations etc.). I think that's a great thing to mix in.

The only thing I would say is keep the greens green (no blue hostas), repeat the plants in different areas of the garden and plant in multiples (3's, 5's) of each plant. That helps the eye transition from plant to plant and provides more of a presence for each.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 11:39PM
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