Easy to grow, Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' (right) is not fussy about aspect or position and it will tolerate almost any moist, well-drained soil (except chalk). It should be pruned lightly in spring as it flowers on the current season’s growth, but it will tolerate hard pruning if necessary.
Hydrangeas do well at RHS Garden Rosemoor, but this one is particularly striking in the Long Border and in the Spiral Garden. The entrance to the Potager from the Long Border is flanked by ‘Annabelle’ and they form a major part of the cool white planting scheme in the Spiral Garden.
The plant looks good with silver leaved trees and shrubs - we have planted it alongside Pyrus elaeagnifolia in the Spiral Garden and with Elaeagnus 'Quicksilver' in the Long Border. Upright Lychnis coronaria 'Alba' with softly hairy, silver-grey leaves and white flowers contrasts the form of the flower globes of ‘Annabelle’ in the Spiral Garden.
Plants with flat or round flowerheads contrast well against spires or lance shaped leaves to stop them looking too lumpy. In the Long Border, Crocosmia provide the contrast, and in the Spiral Garden, Anemone × hybrida 'Honorine Jobert' and Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light'.
The creamy-white flowers of 'Annabelle' are an excellent foil for dark flowers or foliage. In the Long Border, we have planted it with Penstemon 'Andenken an Friedrich Hahn', which has deep, wine-coloured flowers and dark foliage. It would also go well with Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' or Sambucus nigra f. porphyrophylla 'Eva'.
If you leave the skeletal flower heads on over winter, they will catch the frost and sparkle in the low sun, extending the seasonal value of this lovely hydrangea.
This shrub is a useful addition to any garden and can be bought from theplant centre at RHS Garden Rosemoor. If you do succumb to temptation, ‘Annabelle’ will give you pleasure for years to come.