My One & Only Annabelle Hydrangea
Tips for growing Annabelle hydrangea bushes and arranging their beautiful blooms. Advice for when to prune an Annabelle hydrangea, and how to harvest.
For me, the struggle is real when it comes to growing hydrangeas. I love them so much, but have had little success growing them. I did have three Limelight hydrangeas in front of our porch on Sutton Place, and even though they were a bit top-heavy, the blooms were amazing. At our new house, I also have three Limelight hydrangeas on the side of our front porch. They are beautifully green, and full of buds, but not as big as the bushes on Sutton Place. When I first looked at this house last September, the bushes were full of lovely dried blooms. They currently look very healthy, so I’m hopeful the blooms will again be plentiful.
At our house on Sutton Place, I had one Annabelle hydrangea in our backyard, by our garden shed. Every other hydrangea I planted in the backyard, and there were many, either died or refused to bloom.
You may be wondering why I’m sharing a post on growing Annabelles, when I very clearly haven’t had much success. There are actually three reasons. First, I want you to know that even though some plants fail to thrive, it’s not always your fault. There are many, many reasons why some plants live, and some don’t. Second, I don’t want you to give up. Working outside, among flowers and plants, is one of the great joys of my life…and if you feel the same way, please don’t stop. Third, and most importantly, every time I’ve had a disappointment in the garden, I have learned something.
Success is measured in a million different ways. So even though you’ve experienced “failures,” if you learned something, I would call that success. Learning and trying are part of life…so just keep humming along!
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Because of my less-than-successful career as a hydrangea grower, I have read countless articles and blog posts on growing hydrangeas. The most asked questions are in regards to pruning. It can be confusing, but the answer lies firmly in knowing if your hydrangea blooms on old wood, or new wood.
When to Prune an Annabelle Hydrangea
- Annabelle hydrangeas (considered smooth hydrangeas) bloom on new wood, or in other words, the current season’s growth. To make sure that you are not cutting off any buds, the best time to cut your bushes back is in the late fall or very early spring.
- It’s perfectly OK to deadhead (remove spent blooms) your Annabelles any time. Annabelles can occasionally benefit from a hard pruning…but don’t do it every year.
- If your bushes are thin and leggy, or if your blooms are small, go ahead and hard prune in the late fall. Cut the stems back to about 18 inches so the new growth will have a sturdy framework. New growth will appear in the spring, and your bushes will be thicker, with bigger blooms.
*Author’s note: some master gardeners say to cut back Annabelles in the late winter or early spring. There are also some who say it’s fine to prune in the late fall. I found it confusing until it was explained to me this way: once the growing season starts, do not prune or cut back your Annabelles. So when to prune an Annabelle hydrangea? It’s fine to prune in the late fall, late winter, or very early spring.
Arranging Annabelle Hydrangeas
First of all, nothing could be easier than arranging Annabelle hydrangeas. Annabelles are so beautiful that there is no need to add any other type of flowers or filler to an arrangement.
- To harvest Annabelle blooms, cut the stems so they are about 12 inches long. Strip all but the very top set of leaves, and plunge the stems into a bucket of cool water.
- Use a tall vase or pitcher, so you can take advantage of the long stems.
- Re-cut the stems at an angle, and dip them in alum before adding to your vase or pitcher.
- To prolong the life of your arrangement, change the water every few days, and give the stems a fresh cut.
It’s a personal choice, but I don’t like to see stems between the blooms and the top of the vessel. I love when the fluffy blooms sit nicely on the top of the vessel, with a few leaves draping over the edges to add interest.
Like most things in my life, my garden is a continuing work in progress. Here at the Sugar Maple House, that is especially true. I removed some dying bushes, and replaced them with hosta plants. I added some Speedwell, and some daisies. I want to plant lavender, and I would love some daylilies. These are the plants that I love, and I miss having them. I hope they are thriving over on Sutton Place, and that the new owners are enjoying their beauty.
If you are wondering if I miss my Annabelle bush, the answer is most definitely “yes.” Cutting those blooms was a treasured highlight of every summer, and I looked forward to it immensely. Like all the other plants I left behind, I hope the Annabelle is blooming, and that the new owners love it.
Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your friendship. Happy gardening!