Snowballs in the Yard

   Written by on July 31, 2015 at 12:28 pm

My girl cousins remember a lot more about the yard around my grandma’s house than I do – the cherry trees, the damson trees, the roses, and the flowering shrubs. One of the shrubs I would like to return to its former place is a white hydrangea, or snowball bush as it is called around here.

logo - walk in gardenThe girls tell me there was one at one end of the front porch and another out in the side yard. Right now, there is a mock orange at that end of the porch, and I would gladly dig that thing up and get rid of it. It’s the only plant I know of besides poison ivy that I’m allergic to.

One of the best things about the snowball bush, or hydrangea arborescens, and hydrangeas in general, is that they prefer morning sun and afternoon shade or dappled shade all day, especially in the south. My grandma knew exactly what she was doing when she selected snowball bushes for this yard ‘cause that’s exactly the sun exposure they would get.

The only problem that I can ascertain about the snowball bush is that sometimes the blooms are so large that they tend to bend to the ground after a rain. In extreme instances, the whole plant could be flattened. Not so pretty. So, the shrub can be planted next to a fence that will support it (or the end of the porch). Plant two or three of them close together, three or four feet apart, so they will hold each other up when mature. Or, and I like this one best, prune to 18” – 24” tall rather than cutting them back to the ground every year. This will allow the stems to thicken a little each year, becoming stronger and more able to stand up when it pours down rain. The down side to this is that the bloom heads will be more plentiful, but smaller, and the slightly smaller heads will be less likely to droop.

Another solution to droopy snowball bushes is to take a lesson from peony growers: put a short wire fence around each plant. If young snowball bushes are surrounded by wire fencing before they put out new branches in the spring, the blooms will be held up off the ground. You can buy short fencing from the garden center for just this purpose, probably about 18” tall. When installed around the base of the snowball bush, it will be totally hidden when the plant leafs out.

One last caution: be sure to buy your snowball bush, or hydrangea arborescens, when it’s blooming. There are some “wild” arborescens out there whose blooms are flat and “fuzzy.” Buy any hydrangea when it is blooming, for that matter, so you always know what you’re getting.

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