Walking through the extensive plantings of the Hydrangea Farm Nursery on Nantucket in July, one feels swept away by an undulating sea of color, awash with deep and subtle blues, subtle pinks, gradations of purple, and brilliant whites. The bushy mopheads and delicate lacecaps sway in the wind with a rhythm that is visually intoxicating.
This year marks the farm’s eleventh in business, and owners Malcolm and Mary Kay Condon have given the word retirement a new definition. Their passion for the shrub doesn’t allow them much down time after leaving behind 14 years as innkeepers of the island’s Stumble Inn. Yet it was in the garden of the inn that they first became enamored with the hardy cultivar. Their love affair with this quintessential Nantucket shrub began with just two plants in pretty poor shape.
The Condons bought the inn in 1985. Mary Kay remembers, “We wanted the inn to look beautiful both inside and out.” Adds Mal, “Innkeeping is a vanity business and so, for the lady guests, I would give them a small rooted cutting to take home. Later, we would receive cards informing us how the plants were doing. That encouraged me to continue to propagate the hydrangeas.”
The couple bought their scrub oak and pine filled two-acre farm property on the island in 1994 and saw their first beautifully mulched hydrangea bed take root in 1999. They began to sell the best of their collection in 2001. The pair now maintain satellite gardens scattered throughout the property and around their home and greenhouses. It is possible for visitors to take a self guided tour, as all the shrubs are labeled.