Peter Dowdall is an hydrangea fan and recommends a number of these stunning blooms for autumn glory.    

They’re all well back to school by now and the freedom that summer offers is beginning to be forgotten as we head towards the last quarter of the year. 

Too early yet though to look at, or talk about the beauty of autumn colour in our gardens. 

I’m still hankering after the long summer evenings and light fresh evening air and to that end, I’m still concentrating on my flowers as there are still so many bringing great early autumn interest.

Bedding displays are still flowering, if well beyond their best by now, but don’t overlook the Hydrangeas and late summer perennials which are still giving of their best now, and will do for the rest of this month.

September’s showy set: Hydrangea paniculata Phantom

Hydrangeas tend to evoke strong feelings amongst gardeners , as people either love them or hate them. 

They are one of those plants without a middle ground. 

I’m on the ‘Love them’ side. How could you not fall for their flouncy charms, their vibrant and luxurious blooms brightening up the greyest of days?

Over the last number of years as Hydrangeas have enjoyed somewhat of an upsurge in popularity, commercial growers have been developing more and more varieties in the hope of luring we gardeners to fall in love all over again.

I like strong colours, in fact I like all colours in the garden and one of my favourites of these new cultivars is called ‘Deep Purple Dance’. Decadent is the only way to describe this colour and it’s velvety looking in texture. 

September’s showy set: Hydrangea paniculata Phantom

Luxuriant mophead flowers are produced on plants that will need an acid soil to maintain the rich, deep colour. 

If your sol is limey or alkaline the flowers will surely fade to a more pink/purple.

Counteract this if you want, by adding Aluminium Sulphate regularly or alternatively grow it in a container or pot where you can control the growing medium and keep the pH right by using an ericaceous compost.

But it’s not actually ‘Deep Purple Dance’ that I want to describe to you, no, it’s the panicuulata type of Hydrangeas that I sat down today to write about, because if you are one of those who claims to hate the traditional mophead type you will simply ignore ‘Deep Purple Dance’ as just another colour of something you don’t like. 

For the record I don’t think anyone can hate them, I think you just haven’t learned to love them yet, I’m sure in time you will, perhaps you just haven’t met the right one.

September’s showy set: Hydrangea paniculata Phantom

Back to Hydrangea paniculata and what I want to tell you about it. Well, this is the right one for the non-lovers to meet. 

Neither a lacecap nor mophead, these are different. 

Referred to as Panicled Hydrangeas, this species is native to South East China and Russia. 

What makes them so spectacular is their pure white blooms. 

Many cultivars are available with many new types bred each year, but do keep an eye out for ‘Candle Light’ and ‘Vanilla Fraise’ both which turn pink from the bottom up as the flower goes into old age during September and October.

‘Phantom’ though, is the one that for me, steals the show. 

Flowers the same size as a big stick of pure white candy floss are produced throughout late summer and early autumn. 

It’s hard to describe this plant and its flowers without looking for more and more superlatives.

September’s showy set: Hydrangea paniculata Phantom

Showy, flouncy, stunning, breathtaking, any or all of these could be used to describe this true beauty of the outdoors at this time of the year. 

It will get big and like most show offs, it will need space and won’t want to be fenced in and contained amongst other plants.

Allow it at least 2.5metres in width for the stems to fall over with their huge blooms. 

No need to stake it though as, unlike ‘Annabelle’ which can all fall over in high winds or after a heavy downpour, its stems are strong and quite rigid. 

Some will lean over but more will stay upright, creating the effect of a nice large rounded shrub.

If you are already converted to Hydrangeas then do try and find space for at least one of the paniculatas, but preferably more, and believe me, you will wonder how you survived Septembers without them before.

If you are not yet one of the believers, then do yourself a favour and acquaint yourself with one of the many cultivars of Panicled Hydrangeas. 

If not one of the ones mentioned then try, ‘Limelight’, ‘Kyushu’, or ‘Early Sensation’ and enjoy late summer like never before.


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