Hydrangeas – book review and 1 copy to give away


By Naomi Slade

Published by Pavilion Books 9th July

RRP £25.00 hardback 239 pages

Photography: Georgianna Lane

ISBN 978-1-911641-23-0

Photo: my i-phone photo of Hydrangea Bluebird from Naomi Slade’s new book.

Having a beautiful book to read has helped me cope with the Covid Lockdown. Learning about favourite plants, and how to grow them, has given me something positive to focus on. And there is nothing more colourful and wonderfully inspiring than ‘Hydrangeas’ by Naomi Slade.

Photo: Hydrangea Polestar.

Naomi brings the subject of hydrangeas right up to date by focussing on the very latest plant breeding successes. Polestar, for example, only grows to a height of 50cm and is compact enough for a container. It’s one of the earliest to flower, and in my garden it’s in bloom from early June and continues right through to October. Even in winter, the papery, dried flower heads hold interest, as snow and frost settle on them. Truly, if you can have only one hydrangea, this would be the one. It would even fit in a window box or balcony garden.

Photo: Runaway Bride Snow White.

Runaway Bride Snow White, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Plant of the Year in 2018, produces flowers at the tips of the stems, like most other hydrangeas, and also from every leaf node along the stem. Naomi describes it as “airy and graceful, the modest green shrub adorned with pearls and strewn with confetti; a vision of purity that starts off a fresh, green-tinted white, and blushes to pink as maturity takes hold.”

I’ve always wanted to know the background to all these lovely varieties. Naomi selects the best hydrangeas and reveals how they were developed. Runaway Bride is the work of Japanese breeder Ushio Sakazaki who created many bedding plants, including the popular Surfinia petunias. He turned his attention to hydrangeas when he found a remote Asian species in the wild and, seeing its potential, crossed it with common Hydrangea macrophylla. The resulting plant produces wispy ‘lacecap’ flowers from late spring until Autumn. It makes a striking container plant, or would happily cascade over the top of a low wall.

As well as showcasing the latest hydrangeas, Naomi highlights heritage varieties such as the beautiful pale blue Otaksa. This cultivar dates back to the 1820s and was, rather romantically, named by Philipp Franz von Siebold after his Japanese wife. It is suggested the variety might have been naturally occurring and was discovered while Philipp worked as a physician and scientist for the Dutch East India Company in Japan. The couple had a daughter, Kusumoto Ine, who also became a practicing doctor – thought to be the first Japanese woman to have received medical training at this level.

It’s fascinating to learn then, that one of my favourite sky blue hydrangeas, Generale Vicomtesse de Vibraye, is a hybrid of H.m. ‘Otaksa’ crossed with H.m. ‘Rosea.’ Bred by Emile Mouillere in 1909.

The back story of how hydrangeas were discovered, hybridised, and sent to Britain as early as in the 1700s, adds interest to a plant that I’ve always loved, but rather taken for-granted. Naomi’s easy-to-read writing style carries you along and takes you on an international journey from North America, Japan, Korea, China and through Europe. And along the way you’ll learn that in Victorian times, a bunch of hydrangeas left on your doorstep implied the sender thought you a braggart! A rejected suitor might similarly send hydrangeas as a floral slap in the face and accusations of frigidity. Nothing surely would rescue the breakdown in that relationship!

Naomi captures the very essence of hydrangeas and what makes them special. I shall look at my own plants and appreciate them all the more, knowing where they have come from and what work has gone into growing them for today’s gardeners to enjoy.

NOTES: The publishers have one copy to give away. Please leave a comment below to be included in the prize draw. Names will be randomly selected by Pavilion Books.

Naomi Slade is a writer, broadcaster, author, consultant, speaker and photographer. A biologist by training, a naturalist by inclination, and with a lifelong love of plants, she writes regularly for national newspapers, magazines and other gardening media.

Georgianna Lane is a leading floral, garden and travel photographer whose work has been widely published internationally in books, magazines, calendars and greetings cards.

Hydrangeas features 50 of the most beautiful varieties from the elegant and airy to the bold and brilliant. There’s tips on growing in pots, hydrangeas as houseplants, feeding, propagating, pruning, and dealing with pests and diseases.

These are i-phone photos of pages of the book for the purposes of the review and, as such, do not do justice to the quality of the photography. Copyright of original photos: Georgianna Lane.


Naomi has a web book shop where there’s signed copies of all her books. There’s a 20 percent off offer on Hydrangeas at the moment, and books are available ahead of the 9th July publication date : http://www.naomislade.com/shop

33 thoughts on “Hydrangeas – book review and 1 copy to give away

  1. Pingback: Hydrangeas Book Winner….. | Bramble Garden

  2. Pingback: Winners! Thank you for entering the prize draws on this blog. Here are the recent winners’ names: | Bramble Garden

  3. There are so many plants to enjoy that many sit quietly, waiting to be discovered all over again. The further I read into your post the more I realised I need to rediscover hydrangeas! Looks like a gorgeous book. I began to establish a hydrangea walk whilst working at Compton Verney – I’m also now reminded of this and must revisit to see how they’re getting along!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I too, thought I knew about hydrangeas. I knew nothing! The history is absolutely fascinating. The effort that went into breeding new plants. Amazing to see people so passionate about them that they would spend their entire lives crossing plants to create something beautiful. I must go and visit Compton Verney again, when we can. There is something about the gardens, hard to explain. But you feel it when you stand quietly there. I’m sure you know what I mean. That feeling of being in a place so special.


    • Hi Gary, Shirley hasn’t responded, so we’ve done the draw again, and your name has come out of the hat! Can you e mail your address please and the publishers will send a copy. Congratulations, and thanks for reading the blog. Karen

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A fabulous book, well writren and very informative. Photo’s are just stunning. If this book doesn’t inspire you to collect Hydrangeas nothing will.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Polly. Thanks for reading. The photos are fabulous. Such fascinating details from history too. I learned a lot from this book. The give-away runs until Monday evening. Please check back to see who has won a copy. Thanks again.


  5. Thank you for this. I’m gowing a couple in pots and think ti wouold be good to get them in the ground now that we have had some rain. We grew lots at Brehwouse Yard Museum against a old brick walled building where they seemed tomanage perfectly well on the open site. Alas I don’t know any specifics on their type or breeding. I’d love to buy a vaiegated one and see if I could manage some cuttings.


  6. Oh how I love hydrangeas! What a beautiful book and so much fascinating history and detail. I grow a lot of hydrangeas but, like my granny before me, a blue eludes me. No matter – leaf form and texture is also important. And pinks , greens and whites are pretty. Thanks for highlighting this important book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading the blog Sarah, and getting in touch. My grandma use to have a beautiful bright blue mop head hydrangea. It had really huge flowers. I’ve got the white Annabelle in the ground and that does well here. All the others are in large pots. They are really low maintenance and just need watering. I enjoy cutting them for the house. Naomi advises to chose mature flowers so they do not wilt. Thanks again. Enjoy your weekend 🙂


  7. The book looks beautiful. Sadly my garden is not sheltered enough from sun or wind for Hydrangeas. Maybe one day… 😉 Your mention of Japan made me think of a very small park I visited in the middle of Tokyo full of Hydrangeas. It was raining and I was told they are best viewed in the rain as the colours are best then. And it is a memory that will never fade! 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    • How wonderful. There is a section on Japan. I’m just going to reread what it says and get back to you. I should have been in Japan this year. Such a shame everything has been cancelled. Never mind, we are all coping xx

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a beautiful book! ❤ I think I’d have to get a copy regardless. The pictures are beautiful and inspiring for photography. I’d like to do some watercolours of the images and I didn’t realise there were so many varieties! Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have been growing hydrangeas in pots for many years. They’re such reliable plants and come n so many different varieties, I would love to add more to my small garden.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Oh wow, I didn’t know you could get variegated versions. That would really brighten up a shady wall. Let me know how you get on. I took cuttings a few weeks back of the ordinary green one. Amazingly, they have taken already. Hydrangeas seem to get going from cuttings all year round. Enjoy the weekend.


Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. It's nice to know I'm not talking to myself on here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s