Evergreen Hydrangea


"Tell me now in what strange air
The Roman Flora dwells today."

-Andrew Lang


Evergreen HydrangeaSome years ago we saw a beautiful Hydrangea seemani Evergreen Climbing Hydrangea at Heronswood nursery, clinging to a tree, about fifteen feet high. The vines' bark was not as fascinating as that for the deciduous climbing hydrangea, & this evergreen variety would compare leaf-wise more to evergreen clematis than to other hydrangeas; although, I think, it's a little prettier, the hydrangea's shiny leathery leaves not as pointy as the clematis.

It wasn't long before we got one for ourselves. It was only three feet tall. We planted it in front of a seven foot trellis. During the year to follow, it filled the trellis to the top, as shown in the first photo in September 2003. As each year passed, it continued climbing up the garage wall.

Evergreen HydrangeaAlthough it established itself & began increasing in height almost immediately (unlike deciduous climbing hydrangea which takes a couple of years to establish itself) it nevertheless did not bloom for quite some while. Not until 2005 did it set buds, shown nearing maturity in the second May photo.

By the second week of June, the flowers were opening, with many small bright white fertile flowers luckily showy in & of themselves, & a very slight number of large sterile petals.

Evergreen HydrangeaThe third photo shows an ivory white flower with only one of the large sterile petals. There would ordinarily be half a dozen or more of those larger petals, as in the fifth photo below, but so too the occasional bloom has none at all & so looks like a fluff-wad of cotton.

The color is ivory-white, though on some specimens these flowers can be greenish white. As they age they attempt to fall into the lacecap form, but don't quite make it & are frequently a roundish cluster like the blooms shown here.

Reportedly it can remain in flower right up to August or September, but ours has opened all extant buds by July. However, the old flowers dry out into quite a beautiful orange-brown color that hold their shape for the rest of the year, as shown in the fourth photo, from September.

Evergreen HydrangeaHardy in the Puget Sound or London microclimate, it would not be as suitable to areas that have particularly cold winters. It is native to Mexico & was for a long time a rare offering, because no one had yet realized it would do so well in a temperate zone.

It turns out to be one of the best evergreen vines for Zone 8, which is right on the cusp for most evergreen vines becoming semi-evergreen or deciduous, but S. seemani remains strongly evergreen.

Since about the year 2000, & the realization that it will thrive in our area, it has become increasingly available, & formerly high prices have come down to very affordable, here in the Northwest at any rate.

It is self-clinging by aereal roots, & does not harm walls or masonry. It wants moist, well-draining soil. It will do fine in partial shade, but prefers a sunny position when grown in a temperate zone.

In hotter zones closer to its native range, it is more wholly a shade vine, though climbing to treetops to bloom in the sun. In Mexico it grows to thirty feet are larger, but in our zone it might only reach fifteen or so feet. It can alternatively be pruned as a medium-sized upright shrub, as its limbs are definitely thick enough & sturdy to be free-standing, & without a trellis its habit is no less upright rather than creeping.

The species is named for the German-born botanist Berthold Carl Seemann (18251871), who studied botany at Kew Gardens. He was in the Americas in the 1860s studing plants & animals, & travelled to many other places as well, perhaps best known for his work on the flora of Fiji.


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