‘Annabelle’ is the showiest hydrangea ever

‘Annabelle’ is the showiest hydrangea ever

How do we love you, Hydrangea? Let’s count the ways. Your showy, abundant blooms, vibrant green foliage, dependable growing habits, and ability to enhance your appeal year-round. There’s nothing not to love about the South’s favorite flowering shrub. The secret to hydrangea’s crowd-pleasing nature may be the different flower shapes available to gardeners – such as the cone flowers of the popular ‘Limelight’ variety or the popular mophead shape of French hydrangea – or the range of flower colors available on the market – such as the hydrangea rose. Choices of rosy pink ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ or mauve ‘Let’s Dance Rave’.

For a classic cottage garden, our top choice is the showy hydrangea ‘Annabelle’. And it’s truly a classic – ‘Annabelle’ was discovered in 1910 growing near the southern Illinois town of Anna. It’s part of Hydrangea bushes The family, which is commonly known as the smooth hydrangea. Soft hydrangeas are large, deciduous shrubs that grow wild in most of the eastern half of the country, as well as in Kansas and Oklahoma. The ‘Annabelle’ variety is a particularly vigorous and widespread grower, performing well in yards as far north as New York, as far west as Iowa, and as far south as Louisiana and Florida. The shrub had flowers so superior to most wild versions that gardeners couldn’t resist passing it on until a professor finally took notice and began producing ‘Annabelle’ commercially in the 1960s.

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Why you should grow hydrangea ‘Annabelle’

‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas are known for their huge clusters of green to cream-white flowers, which can grow a foot tall over a period of time. The shrub itself reaches 3 to 6 feet tall and wide. The flowers will become whiter as they mature over the summer. These large, delicate flowers are a distinctive feature of home gardens. The strong, sturdy stems grow straight upward, eventually bending outward under the weight of the heavy flower heads. It thrives in the Upper South (US), Central South (MS), Lower South (LS), Coastal South (CS), and USDA 6-9 zones.

Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ opens its snowball-sized flowers in late spring to early summer. The flowers will remain fresh until fall, when their leaves begin to turn golden yellow, and eventually fall off once the plant goes dormant for the winter. The flowers dry into paper flowers that can be used in indoor flower arrangements. ‘Annabelle’ fits well in a woodland setting, or in a mass planting along a fence or border, or on either side of the front steps leading to a wraparound porch. Tuck ferns or small foliage around your hydrangea for contrasting texture.

Caring for hydrangea ‘Annabelle’.

“Annabelle” like the others Hydrangea bushes, blooms on new wood. Prune it in late winter to avoid losing any flower buds. You can prune them back hard, to a foot or so from the ground, to prevent the stems from growing excessively during the growing season and drooping under the weight of their flowers. This fast-growing selection will send up new shoots each spring, ready to display its famous flowers all summer long. Like other soft hydrangeas, ‘Annabelle’ will propagate by sucking. No problem if you want to fill a corner of the garden with spiraling flowers. There are new versions of soft-flowered hydrangeas, such as ‘Incrediball’ and ‘Invincibelle’, but we will always have a place in our hearts for ‘Annabelle’.

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