Thursday, August 05, 2010

Lacecap hydrangeas and garden fashions

click photo to enlarge
Conifer beds in suburban gardens are, it seems, out of fashion. How do I know? Because a writer in a gardening magazine told me so.They are "very 1970s" he opined. Other plants not to be countenanced are laurel (so Victorian), pampas grass (it shouts 1960s and 70s), and monkey puzzle trees (very 1930s but also a touch Victorian). I'm sure there are other plants that must be discounted as out of fashion, but I'm too unfashionable to know them (or to care).

And yet, there is some truth in what the writer says. Flowers, shrubs and trees do experience periods when they are popular, and widely planted. And people do tire of seeing them and they subsequently go out of favour. The Victorians loved ferns and planted them in every dark corner of the garden: today they are eschewed by the masses and remain only as the preserve of the enthusiast. In the 1960s flowering cherries seemed to be lined along the grass verges on each street of every newly created housing estate. Today they are still popular, but I detect that they are becoming less so. In the 1980s and 1990s architects seem to have noticed the architectural qualities of the New Zealand flax and placed them in front of offices and in courtyards, their spiky, angled leaves contrasting with the verticals and horizontals of the buildings. They are still used for this purpose: I recently saw some at the front of a newly completed retirement block.

A few days ago, in Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, I walked past a garden positively brimming with different kinds of lacecap hydrangea. This variety of flowering shrub, more especially in its "mop cap" variation, is to my mind, a plant that was more popular in the past than it is today. I see it most in the gardens of houses built in the first half of the twentieth century, and I'm I'm not aware that it is newly planted very much today (though I could be wrong). And yet it is a useful shrub, offering big blooms and bold colours in the border from mid-summer through into autumn. We have a few pink mop caps that are currently flowering, and a couple of climbing varieties as well. The sight of the blue lacecaps made my wife and I think that we might have to find a place for one of those too - even if they aren't terribly fashionable.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12.8mm (60mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/40
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On