2020 is The Year Of The Hydrangea – Hurray!

Hillside of hydrangeas at Holehird Gardens
Part of the National Collection of Hydrangeas at Holehird Gardens

When I posted yesterday’s picture, I hadn’t realised how on-trend I was. In celebration of this being the Year of the Hydrangea, I want to show the difference between mophead and lacecap hydrangeas.

While mopheads and lacecaps are much the same in growth, habit and overall impression, their flowers have different forms. For most of us, this is a matter of style rather than of botany, as we’re not likely to try to grow hydrangeas from seed.  

Pink mophead hydrangea
This mophead hydrangea has big blowsy flower heads

Mophead hydrangeas have round heads packed with individual florets, much as the name implies. They’re the classical hydrangea flower shape, if you will.

Bright pink lace cap hydrangea
A lacecap hydrangea has a lacy cluster of fertile flowers surrounded by a ring of showy bracts

Lacecap hydrangeas are made up of two types of florets – a flattish, central cluster of tiny, fertile flowers, surrounded by colourful ring of outer florets, designed to attract pollinators. This mix gives lacecaps their starry, ethereal character.

Pink lacecap hydrangea with closed centre buds
Lacecap hydrangea showing the central buds closed
Blue lacecap hydrangea with opening buds
Blue lacecap hydrangea, its central flower buds opening
Lacecap hydrangea with seed
Lacecap hydrangea that has gone to seed wearing autumn colours

The bigger flowers that pack the mopheads and grow around the edge of the lacecaps are bracts rather than flowers, but we don’t need to get into that here. It all depends what type of visual treat you prefer… or you might be like me and enjoy them all.

It wouldn’t be a proper celebration without a little more hydrangea inspiration, would it?

Gallery of Mophead Hydrangeas

Blue mophead hydrangea
My sweetheart thinks a split rail fence can transform a plant – what do you think?
White mophead hydrangea, speckled pink, with blue centers
White mophead hydrangea, speckled pink, with contrasting blue centers
Hydrangeas with a garden bench at Holehird
Hydrangeas in Holehird Gardens’ hillside garden
Hydrangea with pink picotee edge against pale background colour
Mophead hydrangea with pink picotee edge
Hydrangeas along the roadside in Windermere
Hydrangeas from a private cottage garden tumble into the road in Windermere
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Magical Amethyst'
Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Magical Amethyst’
Green mophead hydrangea, splashed red
Green mophead hydrangea, splashed red
Arley Hall hydrangeas
Those Arley Hall hydrangeas again!

Gallery Of Lacecap Hydrangeas

Blue lacecap hydrangea shrub

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Gimpel'
Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Gimpel’ (lacecap)

When looking at pictures of named hydrangeas, it’s worth bearing in mind that some varieties change colour along the pink – blue line depending on the acidity of the soil, with variations often appearing on the same plant, as seen above. I always think that trying to change the acidity of soil in the long term is a big ask, but if you want to try to change the colour of your flowers, the more acid the soil, the bluer will be the bloom. Hydrangea flowers need to be deprived of aluminium and grown in an alkaline soil to stay pink.

Hydrangea 'Rotschwanz' has pink bracts around blue and cream flowers
Lacecap Hydrangea ‘Rotschwanz’
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Rotschwanz'
A well grown lacecap has an even covering of colour
Hydrangea 'Dark Angel Purple'
Lacecap Hydrangea ‘Dark Angel Purple’

Other Hydrangeas

I ought perhaps to mention that mophead and lacecap hydrangeas are types of bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla). Other widely grown forms of hydrangea include panicle flowered ones (H. paniculata), for example, ‘Limelight’;

Wollerton's canal garden with topiary, annuals and hydrangeas
Hydrangea paniculata line the edges of Wollerton Old Hall’s canal garden

smooth (H. arborescens), for example, ‘Annabelle’;

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' at Bressingham Gardens
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ at Bressingham

and oak leaf (H. quercifolia).

Oak leaf hydrangea
Oak leaf hydrangea

List of Plants of the Year 2020

The Garden Bureau announces their plants of the year in five categories. The full list is:

Annual Plant of the Year 2020 – Lantana
Perennial Plant of 2020 – Lavender
Edible Plant of 2020 – Corn
Bulb of 2020 – Iris
Shrub of 2020 – Hydrangea

The bureau didn’t explain which plant represented which category, no doubt thinking it self-evident, so this is my best guess, although lavender is not perennial in my sweetheart’s Mississippi garden and, in England, where it does grow as a perennial, it’s shrubby in habit.

The Herb Society of America has also announced their herb (actually a species):

Herb of the Year 2020 – rubus spp (bramble or cane fruit such as blackberries, raspberries and dewberries)

43 Replies to “2020 is The Year Of The Hydrangea – Hurray!”

  1. These H. macrophyllas are gorgeous. Sadly, we’re just one zone too cool for it and it dies to the ground, so we seldom get this amount of bloom. But at least there are the other species to make up for it. 🙂

    1. I read that at the garden where I photographed ‘Annabelle’ they cut that one back to the ground each year, but then we have a longer growing season than you.

  2. All so beautiful. I remember in northern Spain there were walls and walls of hydrangeas. It’s way too cold and dry for them out here.

    1. I know what you mean. I used to think red hot pokers were very old fashioned but I like them much more these days. Some of the old hydrangea plants are the best – they seem to positively thrive off neglect.

  3. I think I have never seen or heard of the lacecap hydrangea. My loss! Those buds are among the best ever! The photos that show some buds tight and some buds blossoming are my favorites. What an effect! Thank you!

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