The Hydrangeas

Little Lime hydrangeasSometime between mid July and mid August, the Limelight hydrangeas come in to bloom. It is a moment worth waiting for. The fast growing large leaved plants bloom profusely on the current year’s growth. They are easy to cultivate, asking for not much more that some decent light and some regular water. The spectacularly large flowers are a gorgeous mixture of lime green and white. Limelight hydrangeas are known for their sturdy stems, which keep those flowers aloft in all but the stormiest weather. They do need a lot of room. A single well grown shrub can grow 8′ tall by 8′ wide. Hydrangea “Little Lime”, pictured above, is a hybrid of Limelight that only grows 4-5 feet tall, and as wide. They make themselves right at home in an informal or cottage style garden. But its relaxed habit of growth can look just as interesting in an alternative universe –  a more formal planting.

Little Lime hydrangeasThis mature size is not only friendly to smaller gardens, it looks great in a mass planting. This landscape is situated on a very steep slope, so these Little Limes are responding to the force of gravity. Some gardeners may find their sprawling habit unruly and irritating. Others will find them charming, even beautiful. They certainly endow the late summer garden with their willingness to bloom. All of the pictures in this post but one were taken on days with temperatures above 90 degrees.

hydrangea LimelightMy Limelights are 12 years old, or more.  Some years I prune them down to between 24″ and 30″ inches.  Some years I only remove the old flower heads and 6″ of stem. I always prune them in the spring, when the leaf buds begin to swell. The final result in terms of the flowering and height is fairly uniform, year to year, no matter how I prune. This illustrates the important of choosing shrubs whose mature size will fit the space that is available. I have been watering them twice a week for the past several months, as we have had very little rain.  The group to the far right in this picture get the least water, as they are difficult to reach.  They are shorter than usual, but they have plenty of flowers. How reliable they are to grow and bloom is a very good reason to plant them.

after the rainYesterday morning, after an exceptionally heavy and blustery rain, the water soaked flowers had fallen over in to the path. We’ll see what happens once they dry out. There is no staking hydrangeas at this stage.  If you are bound and determined to keep them upright, very stout and tall tomato cages need to be put in place in the spring. If the flower heads do not spring back up, I will cut some, put them in water, and let them dry indoors.

limelight hydrangeaLimelight hydrangeas can provide an easy going and breezy sense of enclosure. My hydrangeas are planted in a block, not in a single row.  Though the shrubs are very open growing, multiple staggered rows provide a dense green screen which makes my front yard garden quite private.

hedge of limelight hydrangeasGiven enough room, a generous sweep of Limelight hydrangeas can be quite architectural in feeling. Once these hydrangeas are pruned in the spring, they are not pruned again until the following spring.  Few deciduous shrubs can tolerate or perform well having been sheared. Hydrangeas are no exception. Prune to the best of your ability in the spring, and then turn loose of them. Looking for a rule?  The plants will tell you a very detailed story. Very few things bother hydrangeas.  They will bloom in part shade, but not as profusely. The flowers will be smaller, and the leaves will singe on the edges if they get too dry. I mulch them with bark fines in the spring after I prune. I water infrequently, but regularly. Outside of that, I just enjoy them.

limelight hydrangea Limelight is a hybrid of hydrangea paniculata.  Paniculata refers to the fact that the flower heads of these hydrangeas are comprised of hundreds of individual flowers arranged in a cluster around the flower stalk-this flower form is called a panicle. The individual florets will acquire a pink tinge as they age. When the temperatures cool down in the fall, the flowers will age to rose pink. I water the plants more in the early fall than I do in late summer. Truly?  The sure sign of a plant that has gone too dry are flowers that brown before their time. I do everything I can to extend the hydrangea season. I do leave the flower heads on all winter – why not?  Most of them stick tight throughout the winter for me.

August 10,2016 (64)I do not grow hydrangea Little Lime at home, but I have planted plenty of them elsewhere. Their shorter stature means there are flowers at eye level, on top of this retaining wall.  Had I planted the much bigger Limelight in this location, I would be looking in to the stems from the lower level. I recently planted a row of Little Limes in front of an old hedge of Limelights.  This will insure flowers from top to bottom.

August 10,2016 (71)The Little Limes smaller size makes them quite companionable to a host of other perennial and annual plants.

hydrangea BoboHydrangea Bobo is not related to either Limelight or Little Lime, but it is a panicle hydrangea.  Hybridized by Johan Van Huylenbroeck, the same breeder that developed the Pinky Winky hydrangea,  was patented and introduced by Proven Winners. Topping out at 3′ tall by up to 4′ wide, it is beautiful in a mass. Though this group has only been in the ground for 2 inhospitably hot and dry months, they are blooming.  By next year, the chances are good they will completely cover this large sunny area. I can cross this group of Bobo’s off my list of plantings to worry about. They’ll be back.



















  1. Susan Hauser says

    Your work with these beautiful hydrangeas have been such an inspiration to me. I’ve got loads of them – both the limelights and little limes – throughout my property, thanks to you and your gorgeous garden designs.

  2. Murray Buckner says

    These are wonderful and there are many amazing cultivars. We are the largest cut flower Hydrangea
    paniculata grower in the country and plan to have
    a Hydrangea paniculata festival in Charlottesville, Va. starting annually in three years. Silver Lining Flowers

  3. I look forward to each one of your posts and you never disappoint! Limelight and Little Lime have been favorites of mine for a several years. I always get excited when I see the blooms beging to form then anxiously await the great show! I can’t wait to see how those Bobos look next season. Thank you for sharing your vast amounts of knowledge and experience.

  4. Cathy Peterson says

    Another beautiful plant I’ve now learned about. . .thank you!

  5. My personal favorite!!! I have been installing them for clients here in Maine too- they never disappoint. Thank you for sharing your pictures!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Stacey, I am interested to hear that these hydrangeas do well in Maine. Thanks for writing, Deborah

  6. Such inspiring creations!! There’s something about the formality of boxwood with the “free form” nature of hydrangeas that really does it for me – and the limelights have always been my favorite.

    As a transplanted Northerner (Traverse City area), now living in Atlanta, I just devour your shared images – something so magical about the complete transformation of landscapes in the warmer months up there – thank you!!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Brett, thanks so much for your letter. The landscapes do transform here in the summer, don’t they. Thanks for that. best. Deborah

  7. Tiffany Simmons says

    Hi Deborah, I am trying to decide on hydrangeas for two locations. One is full full sun and the other is dappled sun. I really prefer a whiter rather than green flower, but in several of your pics the Limelight look much closer to white than the ones I have seen locally (Kansas City). Is this related to the sun exposure? I have also looked at Alice and Snow Queen because I want to have a large hedge. What are your thoughts on the differences? Thanks for sharing your experience. Tiffany

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Tiffany, you should rely on your own eyes about the color-not any picture. I can’t advise you which plant to choose. But I can advise you that although no plant will be perfectly what you want, you can look at them in bloom at a nursery, or at a local arboretum or university or public garden to see the size, habit of growth and color. Educate yourself as much as possible, and then make a decision. Or you can plant a pair of the 3 kinds you like, grow them for a few years, and then decide. all the best to you, Deborah

      • Deborah, that was a very sensible answer. 🙂 I have seen them in nurseries but you’re right, a botanical garden will give me a much better idea of the full effect. Thanks so much for sharing your work on this blog! You are a favorite. Warmly, Tiffany

  8. Dear Deborah, you made a believer out of me. The mass planting at my place here in Minnesota is in its glory. And every time I look at it, I give thanks for Deborah Silver.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Greg, I am happy to hear that your planting of hydrangeas looks glorious. We have made a relationship over the garden, haven’t we? all the best, Deborah

  9. Your hydrangea photos are spectacular. Planting en mass really makes a beautiful statement.

    I have planted as a focal point, but will consider an en mass planting. Your photos are truly inspirational.

    We are having 90+ degree weather too. It continues to be difficult to keep everything watered with watering bans and wells in trouble. This year, my hydrangeas are not looking their best, due to lack of water.

  10. Ruth Wolery says

    Thanks so much for talking about trimming the Limelight as I wasn’t sure about that. I will try trimming next spring. Mine is on a pretty bright corner of my house and has been there about 10 years after another shrub died. These pictures you are showing here are beautiful. Thank you.

  11. Deborah, l also love the limelights, thinking of planting them for an area for privacy. Could you explain how you plant in a block? My area is about 70 feet long and 15 feet wide along a fence line. Jerry

  12. My little limes have never bloomed and I live in Missouri. They are in full sun and get plenty of water either naturally or through our sprinkler system. They are approx. 4+ years old and I’m about ready to dig them up. They are obviously healthy and have grown a large amount this year moreso than before for some reason. I have never pruned them thinking I would do this at the wrong time. The deer came and at areas out of them last week but that is as close to pruning as I get. Any input would be wonderful! Ilove your pictures! Good for you, very beautiful!

  13. Thanks for sharing these terrific pictures – I love all hydrangeas, but my unsophisticated favorites are those crazy vivid blues, which do beautifully along the Maine coast. No idea what they are called, and I suspect they don’t do as well farther south.


  14. Sam Bennett says

    I’ve just bought one of these a few weeks ago in England. I love it but it didn’t have a name on it when I got it. It’s been bugging me as it’s droopy. This just came up on my Facebook wall. Thank god I feel better about them now I know it’s meant to be like that. It’s in full bloom and looks really nice

  15. Jean Calaci says

    I grow Tardiva and Pinky Winky in New Hampshire, but I will have to find a place for Limelight after reading this. I also grow Little Lamb, which was less than exciting, but I just realized that it’s quite fragrant.
    Your written observations are always such a pleasure to read.

  16. Michael Melese says

    Very well done magnificent, beautiful to see. Thank you.
    Michael Melese
    from Ethiopia (The land of origin)

  17. you have really inspired me

  18. A quick question for you or your readers – I know you have mentioned that Annabelles do well on a slope as it does away with the need for staking. What about limelights and little limelights? I see how the little limelights fall forward so beautifully. Do the standard limelights do the same or remain more upright in your experience? I have a terraced slope and am looking for that ‘falling forward’ effect over a stone wall. Your gardens really are a joy.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Rose, I find that Limelight is fairly upright, but if it is loaded with blooms and we have a heavy rain, it will droop. best, Deborah

  19. Beautiful pictures and thanks for sharing info and ideas. I love all kinds of Hydrangea I started to plant them two years ago. This summer I planted
    a few more lime light hydrangea. I can’t wait to see them grow bigger like yours.


  20. Carolyn Terry says

    These photos are breath taking! I, sadly, did not have this kind of success with Limelights.
    I planted five in a semi-shaded area, only to have to remove all of them. I think the largest cause of failure was the deer, who found them to be quite tasty. I have five different varieties of hydrangeas nearby, and the deer aren’t interested. Something about those Limelights!

  21. Caroline Williams says

    Thank you Deborah for sharing your beautiful shrubs/information….I am in love with these photos. I purchased 2 Limelights last month. They bloomed for about 2 weeks and they turned brown. I am in Louisiana and we have been having temps over 100*. I now realize that I was not watering them enough. Is there any hope that I can prune them back and they will come back next year or are they dead?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Caroline, they will come back. Keep watering. They like regular moisture, especially when they are blooming. best regards, Deborah

  22. I need dwarf shrubs to plant right in front of our front windows. Have tried several varieties of panicle hydrangea but they eventually get too large. I was going to switch to spirea, but would like to try hydrangea one more time. Would 3 Bobos planted in front of our windows look too scappy? Would they become as large and wide as Magical Flame and Mystic Flame hydrangea (which I currently have and they are not very attractive)? Thanks. If I were to switch to spirea I would plant either Double Play Red, or a new variety coming out in 2019 called “Doozie” I believe. Please help.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Linda, I do not know where you garden, nor do I know what the spot looks like. I would take a picture of the spot to a local nursery person for help with choosing the correct plant. Bobo grows 3-4 feet tall, and as wide. best regards, Deborah

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