cape may garden journal

Bring Back the Hydrangea Queen!

Posted 7/08/09
By Jane Kashlak

Cape May, NJ - Cape May, in early July, is filled with hydrangeas. And yes, that is a good thing. Hydrangeas, for those of you in a gardening fog, are those old fashioned flowers you called snowballs when you were a kid.

You'll find the big, puffy pink and blue and white globes along picket fences and under porches everywhere you go in the area.

For the most part, the seashore hydrangeas are the classic "mophead" variety. They can be blue or pink or purple, depending on how acid the soil is.

Cape May has the right combination of climate and soil that make hydrangeas grow like crazy. Maybe that's why, years ago, Cape May had a Hydrangea Festival in July, complete with a real live Hydrangea Queen.

It was Ellie Hanscomb, one of Cape May's pioneering businesswomen, who first told me about the Cape May Hydrangea Queen. Ellie's daughter Petra was Cape May's last Hydrangea Queen in 1968.

There were also Hydrangea Festivals and Hydrangea Queens in other shore towns like Margate, where Margate Parkway was planted with a profusion of hydrangeas, in Ocean City and in Wildwood.

After that, hydrangeas apparently fell out of favor for a time.

But they're back. Oh, are they. And in so many more varieties.

In addition to the old fashioned mopheads of yesteryear, there are delicate lace cap hydrangeas, that need a bit more shade...

And cone shaped Oak Leaf Hydrangeas. These are native to woodlands and bloom white in June, then turn a beautiful pink later on...

And, one of my favorites, the native Annabelle Hydrangea (hydrangea arborescens.) They are the quintessential white snowballs. They almost glow in the dark. The photo of them below was taken at the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Garden, on Central Avenue in North Wildwood.

Hereford Inlet is a spectacular place to see a variety of hydrangeas up close, without stepping on someone's lawn. But go now. August is too late.

So, with all of these beautiful hydrangeas blooming all over southern Cape May County, where's our Hydrangea Festival and our Hydrangea Queen?

I'm starting a movement right now -

Bring Back the Hydrangea Queen!

And let's go one step further. Make it island-wide. Include ALL the municipalities on Cape Island - the Cape Island Hydrangea Festival!

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