Help My Hydrangeas

Color was conspicuously absent from my Riverside Park garden. And one of the cardinal rules of tending a plot, set out by the gardening guru Gertrude Jekyll in her 1914 Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden, held that perennials should be massed to achieve continuous “drifts” (her brilliant coinage) of color throughout the growing season. Sadly, my spring bulbs were spent, the lolloping peony blossoms had turned brown and the blue spires of the ajuga were over. To make matters worse, the hydrangeas were looking wan and wimpy because I had failed to feed these “acid lovers” a few weeks back.

A trip to the Gowanus Nursery—yes, in Brooklyn—was in order. I had to be selective, though: The plants had to be disease-resistant, drought-tolerant and have a lengthy bloom time (ideally, starting right now).

I spotted a sweetly fragrant honeysuckle (lonicera “Munster’) with pink-and-creamy-white flowers that was touted to continue blooming until October. I could plant this hardy climber next to a lamppost (visions of vines clambering around it) with its roots in the shade to help its transition from the coddled nursery. Honeysuckle is also a sentimental favorite: As toddlers, my girls were taught how to suck the nectar from the bottom of its trumpet-shaped blossom.

Another nonstop flowering vine, silver lace (polygonum aubertii), also made the cut. This vigorous climber can top out at 30 feet and has tiny white blossoms that create a delicate carpet of spent flowers beneath it. I picked up a few low-maintenance white coneflowers (echinacea “white swan”), too. And finally, for my long-suffering hydrangeas, I bought a bag of Holly-tone, which should jump-start them into a big blue drift of color that Gertrude would love. Fingers crossed.

Visit the Gowanus Nursery at 45 Summit Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn, or Help My Hydrangeas