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Cape Cod’s gorgeous gardens

Hydrangea Festival

Photo courtesy of Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce

“Hydrangeas have endured in these gardens for almost 100 years, ever since my husband’s great grandmother first put a spade into the property’s soil in the early 1920s,” says Dewey. “Every year we do as much maintenance as we can; we cut back the largest dead canes, and try to keep all the different varieties blooming. During tough winters, like the one we endured in 2018, with drastic climatic swings, three nor’easters and more, hydrangeas can really suffer. But it takes a lot to kill a hydrangea. If gardeners take care to pick the right plant for the right place and water well, especially during planting, success should follow.”

Cape nursery professionals, like the ones at Country Garden in Hyannis (which is also a participating sponsor of the 2018 Hydrangea Festival) and Mahoney’s in Falmouth, are very skilled in hydrangea care and maintenance. Country Garden has recently constructed a shade pavilion protecting dozens of hydrangeas, many of which prefer to be out of the hot sun.

A second element of Dewey’s garden tour is her completely organic hoop house, where vegetables and flowers are grown year-round to nourish family members, garden club friends and local farmers’ market customers. “We grow winter-hardy vegetables such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, arugula and other greens with solar power, and the invaluable help of our son Dan, who owns Dewey Gardens, an organic land care company,” Dewey says. “Hydrangea Festival visitors can come to our garden and learn how to grow winter and summer vegetables, including tomatoes, artichokes, leeks, cucumbers, beets and beans, as well as flowers, such as dahlias and zinnias.”

Hands-on gardening tips and in-depth propagation knowledge are showcased in the Osterville Garden Club’s final attraction—a charming, whimsical cottage landscape surrounding Linda Courteau’s home on Centerville’s Tomahawk Drive.

In every corner are horticultural specimens, including hundreds of shade- and sun-loving perennials and annuals, four-season shrubbery, mature trees with interesting bark, and a serene shade garden of winding paths with a comfortable bench for hot summer days. Sunny corners feature pots of fabulous dahlias, a passion of Courteau’s husband, who labored all spring in the couple’s greenhouse to provide festival visitors with some colorful showstoppers.

“We have a garden that reflects two personalities. My husband prefers to propagate dahlias, liking the challenges they present. He also likes to design flower pots, which he spreads throughout the yard,” says Courteau. “I like to propagate all plants. We used to have lots of annuals and perennials, but we have been working on converting our garden to one that senior citizens can maintain.”

Courteau says she and her husband have introduced cottage-size (4 to 5 feet tall) hydrangeas, rhododendron, azaleas and other shrubs to replace many perennials. “One of our favorite hydrangeas is the ‘Sumida No Hanabi’ variety, which translates into ‘fireworks over the Sumida river,’” she notes. “This is a lacecap variety, a beautiful light blue to white, and a late September bloomer because it takes longer to develop the flowers.”

This handful of Cape Cod gardens is a picture-perfect reflection of the splendors awaiting 2018 Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival visitors. As one Osterville Garden Club participant says, “Is there a Cape Cod garden anywhere that doesn’t contain these gorgeous specimens?” Hydrangeas just seem to love coastal New England’s sea breezes, sandy soil and moderate temperatures. There is a happy hydrangea out there for every gardener!

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Susan Alden is a freelance writer, and avid gardener, who lives in Centerville.

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