Archive for Coastal Maine Botanical Garden

Landscape Problem Solved

Posted in How to, landscape design, native plants, Shade Shrubs with tags , , , , , on July 25, 2012 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

20120724-154006.jpg‘Invincibelle Spirit’ and ‘Incrediball’ smooth hydrangeas massed at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

Three things came together recently to help me solve a landscaping problem that had bothered me for years. First, I was reading one of my favorite blogs called Conrad Art & Glass Gardens authored by Larry Conrad. In a recent post he talked about his favorite combinations including one achieved by massing white and pink smooth hydrangeas. I have been interested in smooth hydrangea, H. arborescens, because it is very shade tolerant. I also like it because it is a native plant found through out much of the eastern United States, including Pennsylvania. The well known cultivar ‘Annabelle’ with very large white mophead flowers was discovered in the wild in the 1960s. It grows well in Maine and has proven to be quite deer resistant on the island where my family vacations.

20120724-185734.jpgWhite and pink smooth hydrangeas massed in Larry Conrad’s Wisconsin garden.

The second thing that brought me to this post was a landscaping dilemma at my family’s house in Maine. There is a perennial garden planted by the previous owners next to the front door. However, no one who uses the house wants to garden there. The native landscape is so beautiful we don’t need any added ornamentals. I had been wondering where to try Larry’s beautiful combination, and this neglected garden seemed the perfect place. I bought three pink and two white smooth hydrangea with the intention of emptying the bed and letting them fill it in.

20120724-195423.jpgSmooth hydrangeas at the entrance to the children’s garden at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

The third contributor to this post was a visit to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Donna from Garden Walk Garden Talk came to visit me in Maine, and I had to show her this gorgeous garden (among other Maine delights). In the fall of 2010 I wrote about my first visit to CMBG, and I will write a longer post about my recent visit later but right now we are discussing hydrangeas. Imagine my delight when we approached the CMBG children’s garden and found the hydrangea combination I intended to use lining the entrance. My project now had a professional seal of approval, and I couldn’t wait to get home and start digging.

20120725-113605.jpgInvincibelle Spirit’ smooth hydrangea at CMBG

There was a choice of which smooth hydrangea cultivars to use. The biggest determining factor was which plants looked the healthiest at the nursery where I bought them. Although smooth hydrangeas are extremely tough, taking both dry and wet soils, clay, drought, heat, shade, rocky soil, and almost anything else you can throw at them, I have found them difficult to establish if you don’t start with vigorous specimens. There are two pink-flowered cultivars: ‘Bella Anna’ and ‘Invincibelle Spirit’, which has been on the market longer. I have been told that ‘Belle Anna’ is an improvement on ‘Invicibelle Spirtit’, but the plants looked weaker and I don’t think you can improve on the ‘Invincibelle Spirit’ specimens at CMBG in the photo above.

20120725-113851.jpg‘Incrediball’ smooth hydrangea at CMBG

For the white smooth hydrangeas, I had a choice of tried-and-true ‘Annabelle’ and an improved version called ‘Incrediball’, which has even larger, to 12″, globular flowers. Although I wasn’t after larger flowers, I chose ‘Incrediball’ because the flowers are whiter than ‘Annabelle’, which has some lime in it, and because ‘Incrediball’s’ stems have been selected for thickness to avoid flopping when it rains.

20120725-120518.jpg‘Invincibelle Spirit’ and ‘Incrediball’ at CMBG

All the smooth hydrangea cultivars grow to around 3 to 5′ wide and 3 to 5′ tall in zones 3 to 9. They flower from June to September, but the dried flowers heads are quite beautiful through fall. They perform best in part shade, but will grow in full sun with consistent moisture. The straight species grows in full shade. They bloom on new wood so pruning in late winter is recommended to encourage vigorous new stem growth.


20120725-122305.jpgMy newly planted smooth hydrangeas

As you can see from the two photos above, my new hydrangeas have been planted. I anticipate that they will fill in the whole bed and crowd out weeds. I am still working on the wall but am quite happy with it so far. I hope the trench along the front will allow us to keep the nasty, tenacious grass out of the bed. If I get really ambitious, I am going to fill the trench with mussel shells from the beach.

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This post is my second experiment with publishing a post directly from my recently acquired “new” iPad. Although it was a little easier this time and I mastered bold captions and links, I still had to call Donna in Niagara Falls to help me. I also took the final two photos with the iPad, and I think they turned out quite well. I am very impressed with the camera function on the new iPad, but you can’t truly appreciate the incredible resolution unless you have a very good screen on your computer, which I don’t. I think I would recommend an iPad just for looking at photos, that is if you can afford it. We don’t have internet access at the house in Maine so portability was a big factor for me. But the major reason I got it, 3G/4G capability is a huge disappointment, which I will explain at a later date.


Nursery Happenings: The nursery is closed until the fall. Thanks for a great spring season!

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