This classic hydrangea is known for its stunning display of huge, rounded, creamy white flower clusters borne on compact, vigorous plants in summer. Much showier than the species, ‘Annabelle’ is a form of smooth hydrangea, a deciduous shrub native to woodland areas of the eastern United States. It forms a dense, rounded clump of large, dark green, oval-shaped leaves which taper to a point and have coarsely serrated edges. The globe-like flower clusters appear on the stem tips in early summer, continuing through midsummer. They are composed of mostly sterile flowers with showy tepals (petal-like sepals) which range from pale green to white as they mature, eventually drying to a pale tan at summer’s end. In areas with long summers and pleasant, mild autumn weather, the foliage may turn a pleasing lemon-yellow before reaching winter dormancy.
Grow smooth hydrangea in full sun to part shade in moist, fertile soil rich in organic matter. Where summers are very warm, provide with continual moisture to avoid browning of foliage. Smooth hydrangea flowers on the current season’s growth, and may be safely cut to the ground in late winter without sacrifice of flowers. This helps to keep the plants compact, and may be necessary if top growth is killed back following a harsh winter. Removal of spent flowers may result in a second bloom display in late summer.
This easy, vigorous shrub may be used as a large, mounded groundcover on moist, shaded hillsides or woodland gardens. ‘Annabelle’ is stunning when grown as a low hedge or grouped as part of a foundation planting, and also makes a lovely border specimen. Its billowy blooms make outstanding fresh cut flowers, and are equally popular for use in dried arrangements.
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White, Light Green
Select a site with full sun to light shade and moist, well-drained soil. In regions with hot summers, choose a spot with afternoon shade.
Plant in spring or fall. Space plants 3 to 10 feet apart, depending on the expected mature size of the plant. Dig a hole only as deep as the root ball and 2 to 3 times as wide. If your soil is in very poor condition, amend the soil you’ve removed from the hole with a small amount of compost. Otherwise don’t amend it at all. Carefully remove the plant from the container and set it in the hole. Fill the hole half full with soil, then water it well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Let the water drain, then fill the remainder of hole with soil and water thoroughly.
Apply a layer of compost under the tree each spring, spreading it out to the dripline (the area under the outermost branches). Add a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds, keeping mulch a few inches away from the tree trunk. Hydrangeas like consistently moist soil, so water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.