Gardening columnist Carol Hyperlink discusses oakleaf hydrangeas

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A few years ago we felled the trees on our 33 hectares. After all the trees were gone, the hill behind us was exposed and we discovered that about an acre had been covered in oak leaf hydrangeas.

At that time, I was potting several shrubs to sell at the Etowah County Master Gardener’s annual plant sale. After doing this job, we started digging up a large number of shrubs that we transplanted into our landscape.

Large, creamy grapes are just beginning to form on the cluster of large oak leaf hydrangeas that grow on the edge of the forest to the right of our landscape. The raised bed location receives morning sun and afternoon shade.

The growth medium in the bed consists of composted plant material and forest topsoil. We haven’t applied commercial mulch in this area in years. The trees in the area provide an enormous amount of leaves and pine needles that act as natural mulch.

This is the area that we tried to naturalize with native plants. As oak leaf hydrangeas send out runners and produce new plants, the bed is full of small plants that are too young to flower this season, but eventually the bed will be filled with mature oak leaf hydrangeas.

In addition to a large oak-leaf hydrangea, this border contains some brightly colored azaleas that bloom in early spring, as well as a collection of irises, daylilies, and gladioli that bloom at other times.  We planted native ferns as secondary crops that have spread throughout the area to form a natural ground cover.  Along the foundation is a gardenia that will present beautiful white, strongly scented flowers later in the season.

We have also planted oak leaf hydrangeas in other areas of the landscape. One area is a raised bed near the porch. This bed also contains some brightly colored azaleas that bloom in early spring, as well as a collection of irises, daylilies, and gladioli.

To complement the native hydrangeas a few years ago, a friend gave me a box full of native ferns that she had dug up in the woods around her mother’s house. We planted them among the oak leaf hydrangeas as backup plants and they have spread over the entire area creating a natural ground cover that will eventually fill the expanded planting bed that surrounds a large tulip poplar near the house.

The large shrubs here also develop large clusters of flowers that wrap one end of the porch when the plants are in full bloom.

We planted additional oak leaf hydrangeas in a raised planting bed in the back yard near our pavilion. This bed is arranged around three large trees so that all of these raised beds receive both sun and shade. When all the oak leaf hydrangeas are in bloom in our garden, the place is beautiful.

Carol (Bonnie) Link is an Etowah County gardener and veteran gardening writer. Her weekly column is designed to help and encourage others with their gardening work. Send questions or comments to clink43@bellsouth.net.