Happy, Hardy Hydrangeas

Jeanie Gillis, manager of Pine Tree Nursery and Landscaping in South Chatham, is a self-proclaimed “crazy hydrangea person.” Her love of the exquisite plant is evident when you listen to her talk about them, and her knowledge of them is astounding. A past president of the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society, Gillis said she can find a variety that will fit any location.

“I can be a little excessive,” she said, laughing. “As a result, I try to (stock) every type of hydrangea that will grow on Cape Cod. I want to meet everyone’s hydrangea needs.” Hydrangeas can provide color and beauty through the summer and into the fall. “If they’re looking for an obscure variety, I’ll try to find it for them. If a customer wants a rare type, I will try to get it for them. I also have go-to types that will grow absolutely anywhere for anyone.”

Hydrangeas are among the most popular flowering shrubs for Massachusetts landscapes, yet they’re not truly native to this area. They may be abundant on the Cape, but they are actually shipped in from other growers up and down the coast and across the country. They just grow really, really well here, thanks to soil and climate conditions.

“We use several growers up and down the East Coast. We especially like to work with a local grower in Mattapoisett,” said Gillis. “We get a lot from him. But I get them from wherever I can find them, because I’m crazy about them. A vase-full is beautiful. Even one floating in a bowl is just stunning. They have an older, antique look about them which really appeals to people.”

The success if your hydrangeas will depend on where you live on the Cape. In other areas, off-Cape, you may need a hardier type that is more durable to slightly colder conditions. The ocean climate on the outer Cape makes Chatham and the surrounding areas just a bit warmer than the rest of the Cape.

People who live near the ocean love blue hydrangeas. In fact, the blue hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) is one of the signature plants in the Cape Cod garden. “People around here always have it because it reminds them of the ocean. Hydrangeas are easy-care, once you establish them. They’re very forgiving and easy to grow without much maintenance at all,” Gillis said.

It’s extremely easy to find hydrangeas everywhere – online, in nurseries and even the supermarket. And Pine Tree Nursery carries full, healthy and varied varieties, so that you can have blooms all summer.

“There are varieties for full sun, deep shade, and even partial shade,” said Gillis. “The Endless Summer series is great for blooms that are season-long.” There are also varieties of hydrangeas that are drought-tolerant and hydrangeas that like water, she added. You can add drip irrigation or soaker hoses to make them happy.

“We try to keep hydrangeas in stock all summer long,” Gillis said. “I like to get them in bloom, so people can just put them right into pots. I also love to do ‘living fences’ full of them. You want something by your front step in a pot? I can get that. My favorite thing is to unload a truck full of hydrangeas.”

To peruse a large and beautiful variety of hydrangeas around the Cape, the fourth annual Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival will take place July 6 to 15, at a series of locations. To find out more about Pine Tree Nursery, visit www.pinetreenursery.com.

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About Ann Luongo

Ann Luongo has been writing for Cape Cod and South Shore publications for over 15 years.

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