Climbing hydrangea will cover any structure adding an interesting element into the landscape. From afar, the two different flower structures can be very attractive. Photo: Tom Butzler
A number of hydrangea species have been discussed here since the inception of the statewide Green Industry on-line letter; Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle', H. paniculata 'Bulk', H. paniculata 'Limelight'; and H. quercifolia. Climbing hydrangea, H. anomala ssp. petiolaris is a bit different than those mentioned previously as it is a vining woody ornamental opposed to a shrub form.
The climbing ability allows it to cover walls and fences to add a vertical element to the landscape, especially in areas with little space (areas that my not to be able to accommodate a tree or shrub). That is not to say it still needs space as H. anomala ssp. petiolaris can reach heights of 60 to 70 feet. A smaller structure will cause the vine to climb but also to spread out at the base and act like a groundcover. Soil should hold some moisture for dry spells but not be tightly bound.
The leaves are an attractive glossy green all season long but do not exhibit any fall color of note. It is the dark green leaves that serve as an attractive backdrop for the flowers. The flower display can cause a bit of confusion with someone not familiar with this hydrangea species. A handful of very showy flowers (sepals) surround the smaller, delicate flowers. To the uninitiated, they may be waiting for the inner flowers to bloom like the outer ring of flowers. This bloom occurs in June and hangs on for a few weeks and eventually leads to a non-showy capsule.
To add winter interest to the landscape, place this near where people pass as the cinnamon colored bark exfoliates. These stems, over time, can really put on weight and a strong support system should be in place (sturdy fence, rock walls, etc).
Close inspection of the flowers shows the display of the large outer sepals (bottom of picture) and the inner, dainty flowers. Photo: Tom Butzler