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Develop this hydrangea for its foliage – and its capability to climb


A lively argument (at least at a gathering of reputable gardeners) could be fought over the coronation of the “Queen of the Vines,” although this sobriquet was generally reserved for Her Majesty the Clematis. If this leaves another title open, I will be the first to nominate climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris, zones 4–8). And while I’m at it, the colorful ‘Miranda’ variety deserves its own consideration.

‘Miranda’ is a beautiful two-tone grapevine that attaches itself to rough, solid surfaces such as bricks or wood with small, root-like adhesives. And contrary to what your neighbor might tell you, these fortresses don’t pull the mortar out.

I should point out the other physical qualifications Miranda offers. The foliage is leathery, has a modified heart shape 2 to 4 inches in diameter and a dark green center that is bordered by a generous, contrasting yellow-chartreuse band. It’s pretty noticeable, especially when layered against a darker background. A completely shady location in the north has kept the variety strong for me throughout the season. Exposure to the south or west all day can bleach the contrast.

When it comes to flowers, they are worn in early summer: white, 6 to 8 inches wide, held on the outward-reaching side branches. These are not the traditional rounded hill hydrangea flowers; Instead, they’re flat and surrounded by a ring of larger flowers that surround the more delicate flowers in the center. They supposedly smell nice, but that hasn’t overwhelmed me yet.

While other clinging vines form a flat surface that is perfectly parallel to what they are growing on, climbing hydrangeas is a better thing. As soon as it covers the area that was granted to it, it begins to create vertical side branches. This habit creates depth and shadows that are visually fascinating. It can give your surface an almost trellis-like “shrub” presence. As it ages, the stems of ‘Miranda’ develop a pretty peeling cinnamon bark that is a stunning addition to any winter landscape.

Illustration: Elara Tanguy

‘Miranda’ climbing hydrangea

Name: Hydrangea petiolaris ‘Miranda’

Zones: 4-8

Conditions: Partial to full shade; prefers moist, well-drained, loamy soils

Native range: Japan, South Korea, China

Tony Fulmer is Chief Horticulture Officer at Chalet, a specialty kindergarten in Wilmette, Illinois.


• Broken Arrow Kindergarten, Hamden, CT 203-288-1026; kaputtarrownursery.com

• Joy Creek Nursery, Scappoose, OR 503-543-7474; joycreek.com

More about hydrangeas

The best new hydrangeas

Design with hydrangeas

Let’s Argue About Plants Podcast: Episode 12: Hydrangeas With Good Grades

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Robert Dunfee