During a visit to my hometown of Lockport, N.Y., a place I very rarely set foot in, though it’s only 40 minutes away, I noticed that hydrangea heaven seemed to have set up shop on the very block where I grew up.

Oh, yes, I’m sure you’ll all say stuff like “Oh, yeah, I had that, but I got sick of it and pulled it out,” or “We treat those as weeds where I live,” but I adore hydrangeas and would love to have 2 or 3 of these voluptuous beauties on my property. I wonder how they get them to grow that way? I suppose by trimming, but then how do the trunks get so thick? I don’t know the cultivar (PG types?), and have rarely seen the shrub treated this way. Except on this street. It was late and I didn’t have time to closely examine these, or to question their owners.


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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 regular 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. I believe those type of hydrangeas are “tree” hydrangeas, or most commonly, pee gee hydrangeas. I have two that are over 20 feet tall. And they’re in their glory now, waning from bright cottony white to a soft pinkish glow.

  2. Those are beautiful specimans and look like Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ which are pretty common cemetary trees here in RI. If you prune them back to the main stem in late winter, you will get this kind of flush. These must be pretty old. This cultivar was introduced in the late 1860’s according to Michael Dirr’s book ‘Hydrangeas for American Gardens’.

  3. My favorite and most colorful Hydrangea paniculata is Pinky Winky. I planted one from a 4 inch pot a couple of months ago and it’s grown over 3 ft. It’s now blooming and is outperforming the other Hydrangea paniculatas that I planted 3 years ago.

  4. Oh, peegee hydrangeas are just SPECTACULAR–a romantic, old-fashioned plant that is really common in the countryside of Washington County near old houses. So, 15 years ago, I planted five of them near my 200 year-old house in the village of Cambridge, NY, where they did…nothing. Then, when I moved to Saratoga five years ago, I planted five here, where they have done…nothing…except wilt every time we fail to get rain for four days.

    I did move one to my country place two years ago, where the soil is rich and moist. It’s still a small bush, but the flowers on it are the size of Pluto. I think it’s clear why this is a graveyard bush–wants super-rich soil!

  5. We were lucky enough to move to a 70-year-old house that has two giant PeeGee hydrangeas on the southwest side, right up against the windows. The fragrance through the last half of the month of August is heavenly — spicy, smoky perfume drifting into the house. The flowerheads are just starting to blush pink.

    I have pruned them in early spring in varying degrees over the past 3 years, taking out crossed branches and dead bits. In fall they get composted manure and some Holly-Tone plus a new layer of bark mulch.

    They seem much larger this year.

    They are COVERED with bees of all varieties, especially honeybees.

    Funny. I didn’t know honey was made from plastic.

  6. Ok, so what I am hearing is that these were probably there when I was growing up and I should have been admiring them rather than playing street frisbee with my mom’s Corelle ware.

  7. No–I think the street frisbee was a better use of your time. My mother, too, was heavily invested in unbreakable dishes so ugly that since I couldn’t break them, I just decided to leave home at the first opportunity.

  8. I have one of those in my yard. I inherited the property from my in-laws in Friendship, NY. I love it. And this year it is gorgeous. I would love to have a couple more but have never been able to find them around here. They smell so good this time of year and the petals are so soft.

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