Plant of the Week: Hydrangea aspera “Macrophylla”

The big Himalayan lacecap hydrangeas are loving the British weather this summer. They are never happier than when regularly drenched in some damp shady spot, in which conditions they become the most spectacular shrubs of late summer. The classic one is a huge shaggy beast normally known as sargentiana; while the commonest and most versatile of the aspera group is called villosa. Sargentiana needs a damp forest clearing, while villosa will thrive happily against a north-facing wall in the middle of town, provided you water it properly in its first years. Both have mauve-blue flowers even on the limiest soil. But my favourite is the one called “Macrophylla”, which combines big hairy leaves with a manageable habit and the same blue lacecap flowers. Plant it in some shady spot where people can stop and stare at it.
N.B. This hydrangea is aspera  “Macrophylla” . H. macrophylla, the common hortensia, is a different beast altogether.