A Limelight hydrangea hedge is easy to grow and adds beauty and interest to your garden and home all year! Here’s how I did it!
It is a damp and chilly one here on the coast. Definitely a good day to think about and plan for my summer garden!
Some of you might not know that our house is a custom new build. The property as we bought it was definitely a diamond in the rough, with two tiny rundown seasonal cottages and zero landscaping.
I have spent the fours years since we moved into this new house turning it into a home and taming the wild landscape.
You can read more about how I ended up here in Maine in my first blog post Bold Journeys and Second Runs.
Each year I try to complete one major landscaping project.
Our first summer, 2019, we planted the lawns surrounding the house, added the granite front walkway, patios, and steps, and the landscaping on either side of the walkway. That fall we had a low stone wall built out front.
The summer of 2020, we added plantings behind the stone wall and had another stone wall built to separate the wildflower field from the lawn.
Inspired by the talented Loi from @loithai and @ourmainecottage on Instagram, that year I also planted 20 Limelight hydrangea bushes along the back deck. Loi has a spectacular Limelight hedge in front of his summer cottage just up the coast in Castine, Maine.
To me nothing says “coastal garden” like hydrangeas! And Limelight hydrangeas are hardy, easy to grow, and have huge flower heads that put on a show from late July into the winter!
As a note — If you are not familiar with Loi, you should definitely check out his Instagram accounts! (Linked above) His home here in Maine, with its gorgeous water views, is beautiful both inside and out!
Spring is my least favorite season here in Maine. I have to admit I was spoiled coming from the Washington, D.C. area, where spring is resplendent with cherry blossoms, azaleas, daffodils,, and tulips.
Conversely, spring here on our peninsula is marked by chilly temps, mud, bare branches, and fog.
(Should you think I complain too much, Maine definitely makes up for its spring weather the rest of the year!)
Spring is the only season when the Limelights don’t shine. Like the trees, they don’t get their leaves until late May/early June.
Once the growing season begins, though, they really take off!
In summer every living thing here in Maine jolts awake and starts sprinting!
Seemingly overnight our wildflower meadow goes from brown to lush green.
Tall marsh grass shoots up on the shoreline.
And the Limelights quickly grow tall enough to look over the edge of the deck and say “hi”.
In late July green flower heads begin to cover the bushes. Then in August they turn creamy white, the football-sized blossoms weighing down the branches.
I love to go out in my kayak at this time and look back at the house with its base of white.
The Limelight hedge is spectacular in the summer. But I might prefer it in the fall, when the blooms fade to a soft pink and then a deep rose.
There is something about their muted color with the bright fall leaves that I love. The last hurrah of color!
The Limelight flowers will gradually turn brown, with any stragglers succumbing after the first hard frost.
I don’t trim my Limelights in the fall (more on that below), but keep the flower heads to add interest to the garden in December and January.
By the time February rolls around, though, the plants are looking pretty ragged, having lost most of their dried blooms to the winds from winter storms.
It is then time to get them ready for the next growing season!
We have a large covered porch along the back (or front, some would say!) of the house overlooking the water, with a deck that wraps around on one side.
In June of 2020, I planted 20 plants along the base of the porch. I had a bed dug out with new top soil, supplemented with compost.
This past summer, I continued the hedge around the base of the deck with six additional plants.
I spaced the plants about 36 inches center to center. This allows the plants to support each other as they grow into a continuous hedge.
If you need a more compact plant in your landscape, try Little Lime or Bobo Hydrangeas!
I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert gardener. My Limelights, though, have thrived since the day I planted them!
So, I am sharing with you how I care for them, since I seem to be doing something right.
Or maybe they just like the water view!
The hedge faces southeast and receives full morning and early afternoon sun. Limelights can tolerate more sun than some hydrangeas, especially here in Maine where our summers are relatively cool. If you live in a hot climate, you might want to plant them in an area that gets less sun, or only cooler morning sun.
Hydrangeas need plenty of water! I had a drip line installed throughout the bed just to be sure they get enough.
Last summer for the first time I had a terrible problem with Japanese beetles.
I did some reading, and these pests are hard to control. I did hang two traps on the edge of our property, far from the hedge. Some say that the traps do nothing and in fact even attract the bugs to your property. If you do hang traps, DO NOT hang them near your affected plants! You are only inviting more unwanted guests to dine!
The most effective way to trap the beetles is to capture them by hand. Almost every day in the mid morning, I went out with a bucket of soapy water, picked them off the bushes, and flung them into the bucket.
It was oddly satisfying. My sisters even got into it when they were visiting!
This spring I am going to have our lawn care service treat for grubs (Japanese beetle larvae) to try to nip this problem in the bud, so to speak!
All this said, the Japanese beetles nibbled some of the leaves, but did no real damage to the plants or the blooms.
Limelight hydrangeas are prolific growers. If they are not cut back hard each year, they can quickly get out of control.
Additionally, since Limelights bloom on new growth, cutting them back means more blossoms. That’s a good thing!
The plants can be cut back any time after the flowers turn brown in the fall until they start to grow again in the spring. Since I like to keep the blooms for winter interest, I cut them back in late February or early March.
Thursday was a beautiful day here, so I took advantage of the warmish temps to do some cleanup outside and to cut back my Limelights.
You can see from the photos that I cut them back by about 2/3. As the plants have matured, some of the stems have become more woody. I cut these back to where they branch.
I have enjoyed seeing the dried blooms when I look out the windows, but by this time of year they are ready to go.
The hedge looks so tidy now.
All ready for a new season of growth!
I learned from Loi to feed Limelights with Holly-tone sometime in early spring, April or May.
Holly-tone is a slow release organic fertilizer, so it feeds the plant without encouraging excessive green growth and floppy blooms.
I normally don’t like to cut flowers from my plants to bring inside. I prefer to enjoy them outside. They last longer there!
I have tried all the tricks to keep cut hydrangea blooms fresh — cutting the stems on an angle, smashing the stems, dipping the stems in alum, running the stems under hot water… I have found that sometimes they last, but more often they don’t. My Limelights are such prolific bloomers, though, that sometimes I don’t mind sacrificing a few blooms to briefly adorn the home.
However, I prefer to cut the pink blooms in the fall. They dry nicely at this point, and then I can enjoy them for a long time! Just stick the cut stems in a container. No water is needed! They should dry in a couple days.
I cut a huge bouquet of the pink limelights to display in a bucket for a photo shoot at the house last September. I enjoyed them until December!
And then I spray painted some of them and used them in my Christmas decor!
I think it is finally time for me to get rid of them!
An Administrative Note
You probably noticed something different on my blog today. Yes, as part of my growth as a blogger, I have opted to display ads on my site. This is not something I did lightly.
As a blog reader, I find the ads distracting at best, and sometimes downright disruptive to the reading experience.
But I also know, as a content creator, how much goes into publishing a blog post — prepping the content, taking, editing, and formatting photos, and writing. I decided that I deserved some compensation for my time and effort.
I hope you all understand and that you still enjoy your visits to my site.
For my part, I always enjoy when you stop by!
And of course I am always particularly happy when you take the time to say hi!
I hope this post has you dreaming about and planning for your garden this summer!
I highly recommend giving Limelight hydrangeas a try!