Many of the plants in my garden have stories attached to them. It’s what makes my garden so completely personal to me. As I walk around my garden I think of those stories and those people. And, when a visitor comes who wants to go on a slow garden walk and hear those stories, well that is the very best.
ANNABELLE HYDRANGEA HAS QUITE A STORY
I have a hedge of Annabelle Hydrangeas which started from one Hydrangea I planted many years ago. My first plant was a passalong gift from my good friend Colletta Kosiba.
Yes, there are newer, less floppy varieties and I love those too and have many of them. But I still love the Annabelle. While I was in England I was surprised to find so many Annabelle’s there too. Here is Annabelle showing off behind a bench in the gardens of Highclere Castle of Downton Abby Fame.
Recently John Chapin of Tree Frog Nursery and Gardens (link) wrote an article about the history of this beautiful hydrangea. Now that I know her story, I love her even more.
The story of the wildly popular ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea, which blooms throughout Central Indiana in early summer, is one of a pass-along plant shared by generations of gardeners before it was “discovered” and made available to the gardening world at large. In 1910, Harriet Kirkpatrick was riding her horse through the woods outside of the southern Illinois town of Anna (link) when she noticed a beautiful native hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) with abnormally large, snowball-like blooms. Together with her sister-in-law, Amy Kirkpatrick, she went back to dig up the native shrub and transplanted it into her yard in town.
Over the years, neighbors and friends admired the showy plant and the Kirkpatrick family shared divisions of the easily transplantable shrub, spreading its progeny throughout the area. Given its wide popularity and easy culture, Mrs. Kirkpatrick contacted the Burpee Seed Company to see if they were interested in developing the new variety commercially. However, a different wild specimen of the native hydrangea had been found near Yellow Springs, Ohio with similar abnormally large, snowball-like flowers, but an earlier bloom time. It was named ‘Snowhill’ and released by Burpee in 1906, so they weren’t interested.
For the next 50 years, ‘Annabelle’ would be an unnamed but locally popular cultivar that was distributed by word of mouth throughout the southern Illinois region, finally reaching Urbana around 1935. J.C. McDaniel, a renowned plant breeder and professor of horticulture at the University of Illinois saw the plant in an Urbana garden in 1960 and somehow traced it back to the southern Illinois farming community of Anna where gardeners grew it all over town. He was able to collect cuttings for propagation, named the cultivar for the two belles from Anna, and released it for commercial production in 1962. In a paper submitted at a horticultural conference that same year, McDaniel recounts the story of ‘Annabelle’, noting it as “the best form of its species yet found.”
From this variety, many new cultivars have been developed, in an assortment of sizes and even with flowers in shades of pink, with stronger stems to avoid flopping. All are very hardy, reliably bloom on new growth, and easy to grow in mostly shade to mostly sun. There is a variety for every garden.
PRESERVING THE OLD…
Have you seen Season 2 of Growing Floret ? It is over the top for rose lovers and/or plant historians. The show is on the Magnolia Network. I have access to the Magnolia through a Discovery+ subscription. But there are other ways to find it too.
On the show Erin Benzakein, the owner of Floret, takes you on her journey to the world of old garden roses. Erin had the pleasure of getting to know one of our rose icons Anne Belovich whose story in itself is over the top fascinating. She also takes us on a tour with Gregg Lowery to see his massive collection and hear about his is passions for the old roses and the work he does with FRIENDS OF VINTAGE ROSES.
Leon Ginenthal and I chatted about Anne and Erin on Rose Chat when we did the podcast on ROSES THAT RAMBLE. Podcast.
PETITE PEACH IN THE NEWS…
Big smiles here — The American Rose Society had a beautiful article on the Award of Excellence that my Petite Peach won. I wrote a post all about the history of the award and the details of the rose a few weeks ago. Here’s that article…
If you are a member of the American Rose Society you know that the magazine is outstanding and comes in paper form as well digitally for members. If you are not a member, you can read all about the organization at Rose.org.
Some of the flowers in the garden are beginning to take on a “ready for a break” time so this week I picked a few buckets of flowers before I let them take a rest!
The annuals that I planted to go strong during those lulls of course have been eaten by the varmint who found them very tasty. Luckily there are flowers they either don’t like or haven’t found! (Varmint post)
Time to gather flowers… (I made several bokays but forgot to take pictures.)
Maybe the tallest Monarda on record – at least here! Obviously I didn’t expect this size of plant for my small herb garden boxes. But the pollinators are over the top happy and I love it too. I do think I will find a more suitable place for it next year. Extra bonus: it works so well in a vase! 🐝 🦋
Sometimes gardening isn’t for the faint of heart … especially late summer – with all the heat and varmints. I always say that few decide to be gardeners in the month of August and August is just around the corner.
BUT… so many amazing things are still to come. Today on my morning walk I went over the moon about the lisianthus and lilies that are coming on strong and tomatoes!! 🍅 🍅 🍅 🍅 🍅 🍅
Until next time… What’s your favorite tomato? And, your favorite way to enjoy fresh tomatoes? For me it’s yummy BLTs!