Big news in the Back 40: For the first time in five years, there are blooms on the vine! Although this looks like climbing hydrangea, it's actually Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight,' which is close enough in appearance and care requirements to be easily confused with the former. Both like shade, which is a wonder. Both are slowwww-growing and cling to the death. Both are thick and leafy. My true climbing hydrangeas (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) are inching up the brick wall on either side of this one but are expressing only a longterm goal of flowering. Just look at 'Moonlight.' Its has creamy white lacecap blooms on heart-shaped leaves that in the right light look silvery. They can light up the night. Now that all three vines have progressed up the wall, I'm beginning to worry about how far they'll go - over the roof, maybe? Getting there. I have even more of these climbers along a stone wall and in five years, they've gone up the wall, over the top and into the garden, weasling themselves around hostas, ground covers and even stone steps. They can reach 30 feet or so, which would take them right through my front door. Gotta watch these guys.
Or gals. Michael Dirr, author of Hydrangeas for American Gardens (Timber Press, $29.99), calls climbing hydrangea "queen of the twining world." He writes: "Somewhat shy and unassuming in youth, developing rather slowly, she then rockets skyward, never looking back as she climbs and clambers over, along, and next to the structure by which she was placed. This, in a nutshell, is the garden life of climbing hydrangea."
He suggests planting the queen along rock walls, fences, arbors and even at the base of trees. (I fear the latter would create a structure resembling Cousin Itt.) He ascribes a honey fragrance to it. (Have to check that out.) He says the flowers (or rather, the "inflorescences" - please) "stare at the passerby, establishing eye contact." Clearly, I need to work on my relationship with this plant.