'Annabelle,' the old-fashioned hydrangea favorite (that has many interesting new relatives), is tougher than you think. It's extremely popular in waterfront communities, where the sun and wind off the water can flatten less hearty types.

Experts always tell us to mass plants, to install more than one of each type of plant, for maximum dramatic oomph. This was along the side of our Bristol, R.I., bed and breakfast. Quite an oomph, I'd say!


Technically known as Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle,' this variety produces heads that measure 10 inches across and, in addition to its stunning good looks, is favored for its tendency to bloom year after year even if it's pruned back severely or subjected to extremely cold winters.

So even if you can't grow the blue mopheads (Bristol is blessed with loads of these, as well), you can try your luck with 'Annabelle.' Or, rather, a whole row of 'Annabelles.'