I am always being asked for shrub recommendations for shade and I nearly always come up with basic evergreen subjects such as Viburnum tinus, Viburnum davidii, Sarcococca confusa, Euonymus fortunei et al. I hardly ever think of hydrangeas for shade; I really don't know why as I have an excellent boder of them completely overshadowed by 'Paul's Himalayan Musk' and a large red malus just outside my conservatory. Funny how we often forget about things that are right on our doorstep.
Anyway the ideal growing conditions for most hydrangeas are a position with some morning sun and afternoon stage. They do not like bone dry soil conditions, so plenty of organic matter and supplementary watering in the ground is drained by trees is the order of the day.
White hydrangeas stay white in shade, rather than blushing pink. Blue hydrandgeas (see yesterday's post on hydrangea colours) are particularly visible in low light and deliver real magic in a shady spot.
I have a fabulous Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Wave' which is one of the stars of the garden. This has slender growth and elegantly pointed leaves flushed with plum purple. The delicate lacecap flowers are gential blue on our slightly acid soil and last for many weeks.
Hydrangea quercifolia, the oak-leaf hydrangea can be a bit disappointingly bony. When it grows well the foliage is impressive and turns russett later in the year when if gets sufficient light. The variety 'Snow Queen' (below)is magnificent in flower and is worth the effort of giving it a little support to enjoy it at its best.
At this time of the year the varieties of Hydrangea paniculata are coming into their own. These have flowerheads that resemble lilac on upright stems, if the have been pruned hard late the previous winter. I like the frothy 'Kyushu' (below) with its lacey flower clusters. If you want to see just how effective these hydraneas are in shade pay a visit to RHS Wisley, Surrey - they are the stars of Battlestone Hill.