You need to see the unusual (but practical) way Martha Stewart uses hydrangeas in her garden

There's a new way to use climbing hortensia – resulting in a novel-inspired woodland that is as functional as it is beautiful

Martha Stewart
(Image credit: GettyImages)

It's easy to understand the enduring appeal of climbing hydrangeas. The abundant combination of foliage and white flowers is often used for covering specific areas of fences and, in some cases, the wall of a house. However, in Martha's case, they are used to cover tree trunks.

'I planted my first climbing hydrangeas on my farm to cover the trunks of the large sugar maples and spruce trees growing near the houses,' the lifestyle mogul says. 'In several years, the trunks were totally concealed, and they now look like what I envision the woodland did in William Henry Hudson's novel Green Mansions.'

This woodland setup looks effortless, but it does, in fact, result from years in the making. After learning how to grow hydrangeas (and prune hydrangeas) correctly, this plant can take up to 5 years before it produces any flowers. This was the case for Martha, who explains the timely process in her blog

'Five years ago, after a hurricane cleared off the tops of six enormous spruces by the entrance to my property, it occurred to me during cleanup that these "stumps" would be ideal climbing stakes. We planted one vine at the base of each,' Martha explains. 

Half a decade later, the vines are growing lushly around the stumps that are  6 to 7 feet wide and 20 feet high. 'All year long, they just look like huge shrubs.' And, of course, the result is beautiful.

We can't all have a yard like the one in Martha's Bedford farm, but these plants have their place (and they have a function) in homes of all sizes – as our gardening expert, Holly Crossley, explains.

headshot of Holly Crossley
Holly Crossley

Holly is a former allotment keeper and professional gardener. She now spends her time tending to her many houseplants, painting her favorite flowers, and writing about gardens and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.

'Hydrangeas are a brilliant shrub for a garden – they provide masses of blooms, they're easy to look after, and most will thrive in shadier spots,' Holly says.

'From climbing plants, such as these climbing hydrangeas at Fast Growing trees, to the classic pink or blue mopheads, like these mopheads at Perfect Plants, there are many types to choose from and one to suit every outdoor space. You can even grow compact varieties in pots.'

Climbing hydrangea

Climbing hydrangeas

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Plus, if you have a small garden or live in an urban setting without a green space, Holly says that you can bring their beauty inside. 'The blooms are excellent cut flowers and look just as beautiful when dried for ever-lasting displays,' she says.

'I have a glass vase of dried mopheads on a shelf in my apartment – I've had it for over a year now, and it still looks gorgeous!' We think they'd pair particularly well alongside these Amazon picks, designed by Martha, naturally. 

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.