Forever and endlessly: hydrangea musings



Just like their name, discussions of the Endless Summer series of hydrangea hybrids seem to go on and on and on. I am trialing the “Twist and Shout” (above) this year (I am sure a few of you are doing the same), which means that I won’t really have any results to report until next summer, when I’ll know if the plant survives the winter and produces blooms. It’s pretty, and like the rest of this group, is said to bloom on old and new wood. I’ve never grown lacecap shrubs before, just a few mopheads, a climber, Annabelle, and a couple paniculatas.

I have always been fairly successful with my hydrangeas. The one failure I had was with a very small PeeGee, and other failures that I have heard of with the original Endless Summers also seemed to involve very small plants, with the buds just a few inches above the ground. At least in this part of the world, it seems better to buy a larger, more mature plant. This may or may not go against gardening wisdom (in fact, it sounds wrong even as I type it). There is a huge mystique surrounding hydrangea survival in the colder zones; we all have our theories. Big plants work for me, and so does protecting them in some way from the winter wind.

What I don’t like about the Endless Summers is their indeterminate coloring. Add acid for blue, add lime for pink, but mostly what I see is kind of a muddy light purple, unlike my Forever Pink macrophylla (NOT from the Forever and Ever series), which starts out deep pink and gets pinker, ending up a deep reddish brown in late fall. That there is a ton of misinformation about hydrangeas online is demonstrated when you do a search for FP. You’ll find a wide range of attributes and advice, much of which is contradicted by my experience with the plant.

I guess it’s only right that hydrangeas should excite so much debate; they are distinctive, glamorous, offer many choices, and are ultra-generous with their flower show. Few other shrubs will produce and maintain blooms over such a long period of time, though I know some gardeners find them untidy.

“Twist and Shout” looks a bit small to me, but I have high hopes for it in my little urban microclimate. I will also be assessing the performance of two other hydrangeas I bought at the end of last summer: the paniculatas “Limelight” and “Swan.”

The climber is bigger than this now. Forever Pink is at right.

My favorite hydrangea ever though is not a shrub of any size or color: it is the climber h. petiolaris. Sure, it took a few seasons, but once it got going, look out! It now forms a continually spreading backdrop for the pond, has a lovely fragrance, and way more buds than I can count. A magnificent plant.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Like Elizabeth–my favorite hydrangea is not the traditional mophead or even lacecap. I live in Central Alabama with a yard with lots of sun. My favorite hydrangea is my Pee Gee (H. paniculata Grandiflora. That baby takes our blistering sun and high humidity summers and keeps on ticking.

    I have to admit that I can’t get excited about red hydrangeas. In the primarily acid soil of my area—if your hydrangea is anything but blue, people are going to ask what you’re adding to the soil to change its color.

  2. This whole blue-pink hydrangea thing seems a little to much effort for my liking – perhaps I’m still scarred by the assorted voodoo my grandmother used to carry out on hers with mixes of old pennies, new pennies, peat and all sorts of other additions (acheiving only a miserably muddy pink). If I want blue in the wrong area then perhaps a nice ceanothus will do the job instead.

  3. I have a climbing hydrangea doing really well in the most impossible spot–directly underneath a Norway spruce, where it gets no light, no water, and break on the pH.

  4. My fave hydrangea is my ‘Sykes Dwarf’ oakleaf. Wow those oakleafs are handsome plants… and since I have no room for a real oak on my little urban lot, it makes me doubly happy.

  5. For anyone interested who lives down in this neck of the woods, there is a Hydrangea Field Day coming up June 7th at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, FL (155 Research Rd.). Dr. Gary Knox will be doing the presentation and is field-testing a lot of the varieties. These events are always a lot of fun and for you Master Gardeners out there, this does count towards education hours! I’m looking forward to seeing how some of the new varieties have held up here in N. FL, having planted a couple of nice plants last summer only to see them dry up and die from (customer’s) neglect. Sigh.

  6. I’ve enjoyed growing the two varieties of Endless Summer and the various Forever and Evers in containers in my Boston urban garden, where they’ve done quite well. But my all-time fave for a shady in-ground hydrangea is the oak-leaf hydrangea — any and all of them.

  7. I had climbers at my last home. They were going up the 2 story brick side of my home. OMG they were so beautiful, my favorite thing. The people that moved in after us, ripped them out! I died. Seriously.

    I dont have any where to replant them in my new home but did try the twist and shout this year. Mine is in pleanty of afternoon shade (from the covered veranda) so I wonder if mine are more pink than your which you state is a dirty purple. It could be the soil acidity level and what my other plantings are casting off, unsure. But I dont see that coloring, mine are still somewhat vivid.

    I also have 100 feet stagered row in the back yard of white endless summer blushing bride. They were planted in the spring, they are about 2.5′ in width and didn’t produce much for flowers. Maybe each plant produced one or two. Or none. So I’m a little unsure about that one. Again, they get allot of afternoon shade/filtered sun, under a tall tree line. But because they are white in the endless summer line, im not expecting the drama color you seem to be.

    I enjoyed your article. 🙂

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