While we think Hellebores are Christmas Roses, Hydrangeas are commonly known as Christmas Roses in South Africa. They are appreciated as prolific bloomers. While we freeze in the Northern Hemisphere, Christmas is hot in the Southern Hemisphere. Hydrangeas begin blooming in November there and continue flowering into the New Year. Here, the summer’s showy Hydrangea flowers are spent shadows of their former glory until Jack Frost makes them sparkle anew.
Origin and Colours
Hydrangeas are neither indigenous to the UK or South Africa. The popular Hydrangea macrophylla is native to Japan. It has been naturalised in a number countries across the world. The flowers are noted for their colour variations according to soil pH. Hydrangea macrophylla come in shades of blue, red, pink, light purple or dark purple. Acidic soil produces a blue flower, while an alkaline soil tends towards pink.
The Hydrangea genus belongs in the Hydrangeaceae or Hortensia family and Cornales order. There are around 66 species in the genus. The name Hydrangea originates from the Greek words for water (hydor) and a vase/vessel (angeio). It refers to the seed capsules.
Hydrangea flowers have long gone over at Christmas in the UK. The russet-edged flowers can still add interest to the garden. They look particularly interesting in the first frost. The old flowerhead can be gathered, dried and incorporated into Christmas wreaths.
© Karen Andrews
References and Further Reading
- Christenhusz, Maarten J. M. & Fay, Michael F. & Chase, Mark W. (2017): Plants of the World. An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Vascular Plants. Kew. Chicago.
- Claessens, Carina (2019): How to grow hydrangeas (AKA Christmas roses). All4Women. 15 October 2018
- Gardening in South Africa (2020): Hydrangea, Christmas Rose, Krismisrose, Florist Hydrangea, Mophead, Lacecap – Hydrangea macrophylla hybrids.
- Kew Science (2020): Hydrangea macrophylla (Thunb.) Ser. Plants of the World Online.
- Plant Info (2020): Hydrangea species.
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