GINA PARKINSON on the fashions for plants and why she has soft spot for hydrangeas

PLANTS come in and out of fashion, their position on the garden catwalk influenced by what’s happening in the big flower shows of the year.

So dahlias, for example, were nowhere to be seen for years after their popularity in the 1960s and 1970s faded, their blooms to be enjoyed in a corporation bed in a local park only. Then the good taste brigade arrived with the elegant dark leafed ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and suddenly it was okay to have certain of these plants once again in our gardens.

Luckily we are all over this and dahlias galore are found once again in the beds and borders, from tiny pompom species to the biggest, blowsiest, brightest cactus type.

The same thing has been happening to hydrangeas: yes, those pink balls of blooms found in parks and along the side of car parks all over the country. These are always the plants cited by those who claim to hate hydrangeas, but look more carefully at this family of shrubs and there are the most beautiful plants to be found that will grace any garden.

We are getting quite a collection of hydrangeas in our garden as I have been a fan it seems forever. Some grow quickly: the pink mophead Hydrangea macrophylla is among these, with a cutting often large enough to flower within a couple of years. One baby we have here only has one short stem but it has managed to produce a full-sized flower, despite only being rooted last summer.

This strong growth is one of the reasons these particular plants are so widely grown. Once established they need little care and will fill a large area with colour for months. Even the dried flower heads provide winter interest.

Many of us had a poor show of flowers from our hydrangeas last summer, due to late spring frost damage. This year it is a different story and they are gloriously floriferous in the warm damp conditions they love.

One that was put into our garden as a small plant a couple of spring ago and which missed blooming last year is looking beautiful with plenty of flowers and the beginnings of new stems to thicken it out next year.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Love You Kiss’ is a lacecap with large white bracts edged with bright red surrounding central clusters of tiny flowers in shades of pink, red and green. The red picotee edging fades to pink as summer proceeds, but spring will see this theme picked up again with new stems often brightly coloured with an echo in the foliage.

Most hydrangeas prefer to be in semi shade, although they will cope with full sun as long as their main requirement for fertile moist soil is met. Given this they will settle very happily and need little care over many years apart from a spring trim.

For full shade choose the climbing hydrangea or the beautiful Hydrangea villosa, which needs support but is well worth the effort for its long velvety leaves and wonderful lilac flowers in late summer and autumn.


• Weekend catch-up

JULY has been a busy month in our household and the garden has been way down the list so a whole month has gone by since any serious work has been done on it.

Consequently my personal weekend catch up is very long, but top of it is to finish picking gooseberries grown fat from neglect . They can be topped and tailed, rinsed and dried then put in the freezer to be used at a later date. Gooseberries freeze very well and will keep for months.


Open Gardens


In aid of the National Gardens Scheme

• The Jungle Garden, 76 Gledhow Wood Avenue, Leeds, LS8 1NX, four miles north east of Leeds. A little out of our area but this garden is new to the NGS and may be of interest to gardeners liking exotic planting. The garden is on several levels with Gunneras, jungle style planting, raised deck, pond walkway and an elevated Jungle Lodge with aerial walkway with views over the garden. Open 11am to 5pm, admission £3.

• 3 Pilmore Cottages, Pilmore, YO61 2QQ, 20 miles north of York. Two-acre informal cottage style garden filled with specimens collected by two avid garden visitors unable to pass by the plant stall on a visit. Garden includes ponds, rockery, a clock golf putting green and miniature railway. Open 11am to 5pm. Admission £3.50.

• Queensgate and Kitchen Lane Allotments, Beverley, HU17 8NN, on the A164 towards Cottingham and opposite Beverley Grammer School. Split allotment site with 85 plots on one and a further 35 on the other with owners growing a range of fruit, vegetables and flowers. Some owners will be around to discuss their plots. Open noon to 4pm, admission £2.50.


Gardening TV and radio


8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.

9am, BBC Radio York, Julia Lewis. News and features from North Yorkshire’s gardens and countryside.

9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther with Joe Maiden.

9.05am, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. Joe Swift visits a Somerset garden.

9.35am, The Beechgrove Garden. Advice on harvesting potatoes.

2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Chairman Eric Robson and his panel of horticultural experts help an audience at Chester Zoo with their gardening problems.

Monday to Friday

1.45pm, BBC R4, Plants: from Roots to Riches. Kathy Willis continues her story of our history with plants including this week growing water lilies in the glasshouses of the 1840s and the consequences of transporting seeds around the world in the late 18th century.


8pm, ITV, Love Your Garden. Alan Titchmarsh attempt to tame the overgrown garden of senior paedriatric nurse Joan Myers who was awarded the OBE for her work in the NHS.


3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. From Shropshire with panellists Chris Beardshaw, Bunny Guinness and Bob Flowerdew and chairman Peter Gibbs.

8.30pm, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. Monty Don offers tips on composting, Joe Swift visits an unusual allotment and Carol Klein meets the charming horticulturist Roy Lancaster.