Wednesday, October 8, 2008


It's true that in the north, we don't have as many hydrangea varieties to choose from. Even if we did, Annabelle would be my first choice. So many good points to recommend this shrub. It is very long blooming. Her ivory flowers brighten shady nooks from July through October. Even into the winter, Annabelle holds faded ecru blooms above the barren stalks and stems of last season's garden. She has no pests or disease in my garden. She is reliably hardy with little or no die back even in the cruelest winters. Another bonus, Annabelle produces great flowers for cutting. The blooms last a long time indoors and dry well for additions to autumn arrangements. Her one drawback is her excessive thirst. Since water conservation is high on my priority list, the Annabelles in my garden must make do with rain water and the occasional 5-gallon bucket dipped from the 'rain barrel'.

Annabelle's showy clusters are about 6-inches in diameter. They make a visual impact from quite a distance. Flowers begin in pale green progressing through hues of white, ivory, cream and then ecru with traces of brown.

Carl Sandburg does not seem like the kind of poet that would write about hydrangeas--but he did. Instead of the lovely, ivory summer snowballs I see, Carl Sandburg's hydrangeas are rusting tin soldiers. In this instance, I'm glad I don't see with the eye of a poet. (Sandburg may have been referring to the native hydrangea arborescens; a pretty plant which is very hardy but does not have the substantial flower clusters of Annabelle).


- by Carl Sandburg

Dragoons, I tell you the white hydrangeas

turn rust and go soon.

Already mid September a line of brown runs

over them.

One sunset after another tracks the faces, the


Waiting, they look over the fence for what

way they go.


Rose said...

I've never read this poem by Sandburg; I don't think he was looking at them with the eye of a gardener either.
Marnie, these have been on my wish list for awhile, but first I have to find just the right place to put them. Beckie and I saw so many large Annabelles when we went on a garden walk in June; they are truly lovely hydrangeas.

flydragon said...

Love your Annabelle. I also have hydrangeas, 4 of them, but mine are all pink varying in shades of light to very dark, depending where they are growing. Watering can be time consuming though. If I water nothing else during dry spells, I still water them. You leave the faded blooms on all winter then, and cut them off in the spring?

Gardens by T said...

I love your many beautiful pictures and helpful information..wonderful!!

tina said...

You showcased these so wonderfully. I agree they are awesome! The poem is nice too, I bet he was also referring to the wild hydrangea.

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

I love Annabelle, but so do the slugs in our climate. But a little Safer's slug bait takes care of that problem. She is such a lovely late bloomer.

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Annabelle is a beauty. I wish I could grow them (along with lilacs) here in central Texas. Those blooms are gorgeous.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Rose, you're right, Sandburg wasn't a gardener or a romantic. He isn't my favorite poet but I thought it was interesting he wrote about hydrangea dragoons.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Flydragon. If any blooms escape my collection of dried floral material. I like the looks of them topping the bare branches and rustling in the winds.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Theresa, thank you for the kind words and for stopping to visit. I dropped by your site. I really like that romantic wreath you made.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Tina. It's hard to understand what Sandburg was talking about.

I have two of the native hydrangeas. Very different, the blooms don't last and they aren't as large. They are loved by the pollinators tho.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Jen, slugs don't seem to bother mine. To busy eating my hosta I guess.


Hi Morning Glories. I know, when I lived in Alabama I missed my lilacs so much. I tried several but none ever bloomed. I did grow hydrangea there, but I don't know about Texas.

perennialgardener said...

I've never seen this poem before by Sandburg either. Does sound like he was talking about Annabelle. This might be another great addition to my garden. I don't know if she would be happy in my warmer zone, so I might have to do some research.

The Organic Gardener said...

What gorgeous hydrangeas. We have three hydrangeas bushes on the side of our house. They get really big and are covered with blooms that start out white and at the end of the season turn green. All my neighbors are green with envy, they have even threatened to dig them up and transplant them into their yard!

Gail said...


She is a pretty Hydrangea and a first cousin of arborescens; not the pretty cousin! I haven't Annabelle but 'Ryan Gainey' after the southern gardener. A more compact plant and a bit smaller flowered, but thought to tolerate droughts better.


Jamie and Randy said...

I can hardly wait for the years to pass so we will have enough shade to grow hydrangeas. I love them. One day the garden will be filled with them. :-)

BeadedTail said...

I love hydrangeas and if I didn't have kitties who attack any plant in the house, I'd love to have fresh cut hydrangeas throughout the house.

Dog_geek said...

Interesting - I had never seen that poem by Carl Sandburg, either. And I've never had any hydrangeas - many years ago I had a friend whose dog became extremely ill from chewing on her hydrangea, and even though I seriously doubt my dogs would ever chew on one, and I have other plants that would be just as bad for them to eat, that incident seems to have colored the way I feel about hydrangeas. Silly and illogical, I know.

Kathleen said...

Sounds like a good one Marnie. I only have one hydrangea (an oakleaf) and sometimes I would love to be able to collect my own bouquet of dried heads. Is that a new photo on your blog header or have I just been scrolling past it this whole time?? It's really pretty.

beckie said...

Marnie, Annabelle deserves her own post. The ones I saw this year were so full of big beautiful blooms and no drooping. A plant like her gives such joy to a gardener.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
This is one gorgeous hydrangea! I really wish we had the space for some, but given our small plot here in town, we just don't have the right spot for them. I've always loved them though, so I'll just admire yours from afar. :-)

Honestly, I never got the whole thing about Sandburg (well, other than he was a midwestern poet), and most of his work just leaves me cold. Different tastes, obviously, since I have the whole French lit background, which definitely tends to color my poetic preferences. Still, interesting that he wrote about hydrangeas... I'll give him that much! :-)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

PS, and OOPS... I've been meaning to tell you how much I just love those bird pictures you have in the sidebar! We've been lazy about getting bird pictures of late, so I'll enjoy yours by proxy.

The Birdlady said...

Just beautiful... I have some white hydrangeas that I have moved all around with me - they were grown from cuttings from a bouquet my grandmother brought me when I was 6 and had my tonsils removed...and that was a l-o-n-g time ago!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Perennialgardener, I know not everyone has the spot for every plant that takes their fancy;)


Hi Organic Gardener. I know what you said was tongue-in-cheek but people have been know to do exactly that--dig up and steal shrubs. What next?

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Gail, I'm making a note to research Ryan Gainey. Anything drought tolerant is a huge attraction for me.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Gail, I'm making a note to research Ryan Gainey. Anything drought tolerant is a huge attraction for me.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Jamie and Randy. I feel exactly the same way. When you have just the right spot they are absolutely perfect;)

Roses and Lilacs said...

Good morning Beadedtail. Yes, cats and anything organic you bring iside;) They will chew it and eat it and then barf it up on the very best rug.


Hi DogGeek. I don't blame you. I wouldn't take a chance if I thought my dogs would chew something dangerous.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Kathleen, the dried florals are a big plus. PG is good for dried arrangements too.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Beckie, we had an unusually wet year so Annabelle and her kin are really living it up. Some I've seen that are older than mine have flower clusters the size of basketballs--almost;)

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi IVG, it wouldn't look right unless you had the perfect spot.

I agree about the Sandburg thing. He did more rural, midwest poetry than I knew about but to me he will always be:

HOG Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big shoulders.

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.

Marnie (who gets goose bumps when she reads that peom)

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Birdlady. How wonderful to have a lovely plant that was a gift from your grandmother. I would give a great deal to have a living, blooming memory of my grandmother's garden.

I got a collie puppy when I had my tonsils removed;)

Sara G said...

Thank you very much for the nice comments on my blog! I enjoy your blog and photo's as well.
Take care!!

Cosmo said...

Hi, Marnie--I discover so many new poems when I read your blog! I love Annabelle, too. It can get a little leggy here--maybe the heat? and it needs shade--but I love it, and it's really easy to propogate from cuttings. Your blooms are much prettier than mine right now--matter of fact, mine might be a bit tin soldier-ish.

The Organic Gardener said...

Hey, To answer you question. The pink flower that the black swallowtail butterfly is on, is called a sweet william! Great flower, it is accually a cluster of many flowers on one stalk. They are bi annuals, but just like many bi annuals, they reseed themselves. they also bloom in the spring time and have a wonderful oder!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Cosmos. I've heard others say how easy it is to propagate. I'll save my self some money and take cuttings. LOL, your dragoons must have had a hard summer;)

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Organic Gardener. Thank you very much for the come back on the flower ID. I am woefully ignorant when it comes to many annuals.

Yours is very pretty. It is something I would like to try in my garden. Being attractive to butterflies is a big plus.

walk2write said...

Weren't dragoons the soldiers with short muskets and big attitudes? Maybe Sandburg's fence-row hydrangeas looked like they were bristling at him, ready for a fight. Annabelle could never be accused of bristling. She looks too gentle.

Sherri said...

Love your hydrangeas. I have 2 hydrangea bushes in my yard and I love them!!

Abraham Lincoln said...

I have no luck with the hydrangeas except that they bloom but the blossoms look bad after a week or so. Not sure if it is my fault, or my soil or something else. I planted the new Pinky Winky this spring and it is growing but not as pretty as a regular one.

Meems @HoeandShovel said...

Marnie, Those hydrangeas do make a visual impact! Beautiful Annabelle flowers you've photographed. We can't grow them down here but when I'm in the NC mountains I always find some to cut for fresth flower arrangements.

Is limelight also Annabelle? or just a look alike?

Rambling Woods said...

I am learning about plants and I am happy to do so....

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Walk2write. I didn't know anything about dragoons (except that they were French soldiers). I googled it and found out they were named for dragons. No wonder they have attitude;)

All I can say is that if Annabelle looks threatening to Carl Sandburg, he must have been kind of a wimp;)

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Sherri, I agree, they are great shrubs.

Hi RamblingWoods, isn't if fun to look at all the beautiful things and make up wish lists?

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Abe, good luck with Pinky Winky. I saw pictures in Wayside's catalog. It looks gorgeous.

I don't know why your blooms don't last. Could be high temperatures, high humidity, too much rain. Whatever causes it, it's a shame. The long lasting clusters are one of the best things about the plant.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Meems, That's interesting that Annabelle doesn't do well in Florida or Texas.

Limelight is a beautiful hydrangea. It gets large, we have one at our church that is almost 10-feet tall. It's hardy like Annebelle, but that wouldn't be a concern to you in a much warmer zone. It's on my wish list for a difficult niche on the east side of my house.

yogapaws said...

My favorite.
Hydrangeas remind me of my favorite aunt. She had blues & pinks on the side of her backyard.

I love the photography on your site.....thank you for sharing.

Northern Shade said...

Your Annabelle is so full of blossoms; it's beautiful. Mine is in an extra shady spot,and is still small, so it had a meager offering of blooms this year.

Iowa Gardening Woman said...

I live in Iowa, I never have been able to get that ornery Annabelle to bloom for me :). You have a wonderful talent for photography! Great photos, love your pet photos as well.