How to grow climbing hydrangea, according to Martha Stewart

How to grow climbing hydrangea, according to Martha Stewart

“First he sleeps, then he crawls, then he jumps.” The old gardener’s saying fits this climbing hydrangea perfectly. Gardeners take notice, because this excellent vine, which can add tremendous beauty and greenery to your property, can become an addictive feature in the landscape. They must be used carefully – not excessively – because once established (which takes two to three years), a single vine covers a very large area!

Jose Picayo

How Martha learned about climbing hydrangea

I first saw climbing hydrangeas in Frank Cabot’s magnificent Stonecrop Garden, in Cold Spring, New York, which is now a state park. Many giant trees climbed huge green vines, which looked like a new species because their trunks were completely covered with green leaves and white flowers. I asked Frank about them, and how appropriate it was to plant such large species on and up trees. He told me it is suitable and does not harm the growth or health of larger trees as long as the vines do not burden the higher and smaller branches.

Growing climbing hydrangeas at Bedford Farm

I planted the first climbing hydrangea on my farm to cover the trunks of large sugar maples and spruce trees growing near houses. In several years the boxes were completely hidden, and they now look as I imagine the woods did in William Henry Hudson’s novel Green palaces. Five years ago, after a hurricane blew the tops off six massive spruce trees at the entrance to my property, it occurred to me during the cleanup that these “logs” would make perfect climbing pegs. We planted a single vine at the base of each. Today, due to the dense growth of the vines, the logs are 6 to 7 feet wide and 20 feet high. All year round they look like huge shrubs.

Jose Picayo

Beauty climbing hydrangea

The vines are most beautiful in bloom during early summer. By fall, the leaves turn a vibrant yellow, another beautiful landscape enhancement. They also have great winter color once the foliage falls. The exfoliating bark is a rich red-brown color, and the flowers often dry on the vines, adding an ethereal beauty.

How to care for climbing hydrangea

Climbing hydrangeas like rich soil and do well in full sun, partial shade and even deep shade. Because they are vigorous growers and have strong aerial roots that cling to all surfaces, you can plant them on sturdy structures, such as stone or brick walls, chimneys and homes. Avoid shingles and chipboard, which can be damaged by these small roots or “anchors.” Be prepared to prune the vines annually to keep them away from windows, frames, and even from spreading as a ground cover in the garden. Their enthusiasm for growth knows no bounds.

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