My Love Affair with Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas belong to a large and distinguished family. First to garner favor in the eighteenth century, when European and particularly English plant collectors searched the globe for exotic new plants, that hydrangeas first began to appear in garden literature.  The mopheaded varieties of hydrangeas were favored during the Victorian era, when excess in design, whether houses, furniture, clothing or in the garden was de rigeur. The huge, blowzy fullness of hydrangea blooms seemed just right for the over the top affectation of the time.

Long been cultivated for their lush blooms and lasting contributions to the garden, hydrangeas are more popular than ever, as cottage garden styling and richness of old -fashioned mixed borders return with vigor to garden design.  Hydrangeas are appearing not only in garden plans but in textile design, china patterns and lush dried flower bouquets.

I first noticed hydrangeas when I was in my early teens. I remember seeing them in my aunt’s garden in Chatham , Massachusetts. There they were, a big tumble of vivid blue blooms, made all the more vibrant against the weathered gray of her seaside cottage.


Though nature’s dominant flower color is pale pinkish mauve, blue remains the gardener’s favorite hue.  With sky and sea surrounding my seaside  house in Nantucket, Massachusetts , massive blue  ‘Gentian Domes’ hydrangeas circle the house, greeting us every time we come into the property.





The pink tones of hydrangea blooms are reminiscent of cotton candy, your favorite shade of lipstick or sunrise on a summer morning. This charming border garden greets me every morning while I have my coffee in our walled garden.



The entire summer, I make luscious bouquets while in residence, for guests staying the weekend or a simple arrangement for the dinner table. Here is my garden center where I lay out my collection of antique vessels to start tackling the task of flower arranging.  Over the years, I have combed the antique shops, shows and auctions to  acquire one of a kind pieces to be scattered appropriately around the house.  I especially love my blue and white transferware and vintage pressed glass pieces in various shapes to accommodate different arrangements depending on my mood. The vintage spatterware pitcher was a total surprise, found in an antique shop on one of my weekend trips to a local dealer on the island.






I love bringing all the elements together to grace a table. Whether an inpromptu lunch with friends or an Al Fresco dinner outside on the patio.



When starting to scheme a room, more times than not, I get inspiration from a fabric which gives me a creative spark for the space. In this case, I found a charming printed linen fabric from Colefax and Fowler called,” Haselemere”, which characterized the mood of the sunroom.  It was love at first sight!


To enhance my collection of blue and white transferware, I enjoy adding a few quick flower arrangements using my vintage press glass bulb vases, to give my sideboard a verve of color in anticipation of guests arriving .


As summer starts to wind down, we see our beloved  hydrangeas transform after months of sun, salt and easterly winds. At this time, I start gathering the end of the season blooms in delicious shades of greens and blues with touches of deep purple.   Here is an arrangement I recently pulled together of hydrangeas around my property in Connecticut which have started to make the switch from the vibrant blues to autumnal coloring in anticipation of the changing seasons hues.



Over the years, I have had the fortune to work with the very talented Barbara Scott from New York City, who specializes in preserved flowers. She makes the most divine arrangements for my clients as well as for my home in Connecticut.  I will close out with two charming arrangements she did for me using my antique containers. For my breakfast room, she worked with an antique 19th century Canton tureen and matched the colors to perfection working with my collection of blue and white transferware featured on my wall.



Below,  the soft blue hydrangeas tipped with white edges work elegantly with my rare 19th century creamware footbath, which I found in antique store  on one of my many field trips. The arrangement is such a compliment to Bennison’s”  Apple Blossom ” fabric used for the curtains in our master bedroom.



Hydrangeas are truly a beloved flower which we all admire both in our gardens and our homes. May all of us have new and old memories of this venerable flower.

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