Hydrangea arborescens: Wildlife Value of the Smooth Hydrangea

If you have seen the lovely Annabelle Hydrangea, you love her. Hardy, easy to grow, and beautiful in summer, Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' is probably the most versatile hydrangea you can grow in the garden.

Large voluptuous white blooms appear in early summer, despite the severity of your winter or any pruning that might have been done too late, because this hydrangea blooms on new growth. Additionally, Our native hydrangea arborescens, will bloom again in late summer if spent blooms are removed.
Hydrangea arborescens, also known as smooth hydrangea, is native to the Eastern United States. Annabelle is a selection known for its particularly large white blooms that can be up to 10 inches across.

Hydrangea Sphinx Moth
 photo from www.bugguide.net

You might already know the beautiful attributes of Hydrangea arborescens, but did you know Annabelle Hydrangea also has wildlife value? Here at Shady Gardens, we try to do all we can to encourage a diverse population of wildlife. Our garden is a sanctuary for birds, butterflies, insects, and mammals of all kinds. Hydrangea arborescens is a favorite host plant for Darapsa versicolor, which is also known as the Hydrangea Sphinx Moth. This Sphinx Moth pollinates the flowers on Hydrangea arborescens, then lays eggs on the leaves. 

Darapsa versicolor larva photo from www.bugguide.net

The Eggs develop into larvae which then feed on the leaves of the shrub. If you find a green caterpillar like the one shown here on the leaves of your Annabelle Hydrangea, you can count yourself blessed, because Darapsa versicolor is rarely seen.

Pink Annabelle Hydrangea at Shady Gardens Nursery

A pink-blooming form of Annabelle has been developed, so look for it at your local garden center or online.

(Hydrangea Sphinx Moth Photo credits: http://bugguide.net/node/view/411927, Nolie Schneider 2010 and Floyd Williams 2005.).

Groundcovers: An Important Part of a Southern Garden

I love groundcovers. There’s just something about them that makes me want to have every one I see. 

Groundcovers can be an important addition to our Southern gardens. They act as a living mulch, helping to conserve moisture around trees and shrubs.  

Many groundcovers are evergreen, so they add beauty to the garden in every season. There are groundcovers that bloom, and even groundcovers that make berries! 

Groundcovers can be found that thrive in sun, shade, and even the most difficult dry shade. 

Whether your taste for plants leans toward the exotic, like Hellebores and Rohdea, or if you prefer native plants, such as native ferns, consider adding them beneath the shrubs in your garden. 

There are many native groundcovers that are evergreen, and some even produce berries, like Mitchella (Partridgeberry). Groundcovers like creeping phlox can help control erosion. 

Ajuga Bronze Beauty
Good groundcovers for sun include the sedums, ice plant, and rudbeckia (Black eyed Susan.)  Certain rose varieties also make excellent groundcovers. 

Ajuga is a great groundcover for crowding out weeds in shade or partial shade. It is not invasive.

English Ivy Overtakes the Garden
Beware of groundcovers that can take over the garden, seeming to eat other plants alive, crowding out everything else. Instead of invasive English Ivy or the popular Japanese pachysandra, try our native pachysandra, Allegheny Spurge. Or if it’s a vine you’re after, plant Crossvine, Carolina Jasmine, or Red Trumpet Honeysuckle—all native vines that will not overtake your garden.