Practicing My Aitches

When Eliza Doolittle, the Fair Lady herself, needed to practice her aitches, Professor Higgins gave her the exercise, “In Hertford, Hereford, and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen.”

When I need to practice my aitches, I wander my garden. My litany goes something this:

With hydrangea, hollyhocks, and hostas, hibiscus and honeysuckle happen (and heuchera, tooooo).

How did we end up with so many plants that start with the letter “H”? I only have one A (astilbe), two Bs (begonia and bee balm), and 3 Cs (coneflower, catnip, and chokecherry). 

But I have 6 aitches (or Hs, or even haitches, if you prefer). We used to have a seventh until the hops grew out of control and had to go.

These plants share almost nothing, in spite of starting with an aitch–it seems that letter of the alphabet provides plants for every occasion.

The honeysuckle vines grow up, up, up. They cover the pergola and appeal to ‘ummingbirds.

The heuchera, often called coral bells, come in different colors. It’s all about the foliage.

The hostas, in seemingly infinite variety, glow from the shady spots. They grow large and small, and cover the Pantone range of greens.

The hibiscus is almost sexual in its showiness. It has a high need for attention with blooms the size of a dinner plate.

The hollyhocks are old-fashioned and seem very feminine to me–tall spikes with ruffled skirts in unpredictable colors–some deep and saturated, some so subtle.

And the beloved hydrangeas. I think they are sort of out of favor right now among hip gardeners but I’ve never claimed to be hip. We have huge shrubs of different cultivars, as well as an oak leaf hydrangea, a climbing hydrangea vine, and a tree standard. I love them all.

I get confused about my H-plants on a regular basis. I want to refer to the one that grows on the pergola and I say hollyhock or pause a long time before I can come up with honeysuckle. 

Or I just ask my husband to water the one that starts with an aitch and he says, “That’s ‘ardly ‘elpful.”

Does your garden have a preponderance of plants that begin with an aitch? Or a P, per’aps?

61 thoughts on “Practicing My Aitches

  1. What lucky hummingbirds you have! So many lovely flowers to choose from. Absolutely gorgeous photos. I have a climbing hydrangea on the side of the house by the patio. I planted it about 10 years ago and it was very slow to grow for the first couple of years but now it covers the entire side of the house and is about to start crawling across the roof. Got to do something about that. My oakleaf hydrangea is another one of my favorites…covered with creamy blooms now and the foliage is interesting. I have hosta too but not as many varieties as you. Thanks for sharing!

    • With the climbing hydrangeas, they say “the first year, they sleep; the next years they creep; and then they leap!” Ours is still in the creeping stage–it hated where we planted it first but seems happy now. I love them all!

  2. I love all the h’s especially the hydrangeas ~ is that a grapevine hoop in the photo collage with them? Love that…just starting with them 1st year for one 2nd for the other and the saying certainly is true, sleep, creep, leap …enjoyed your post and also took a hop over and read a few of the garden posts from pasts years….gorgeous gardens!

    • You’re always so supportive, Sharon–thanks! The photo with the hoop, an old rim of a wood and metal wheel, is actually a climbing hydrangea–the idea is it will climb along the cedar rail fence. It is just beginning to “leap” (I hope!) and hasn’t bloomed yet. i’ve read that that can take years . . .

  3. My gardening pulse is quickening from all this eye candy. Your gardens are looking beautiful. I have a ton of H’s too including the vintage ones you mention. I LOVE your photo of the hummingbird – gorgeous. They are just wonderful creatures to watch. Thanks for sharing a great photo. 🙂

  4. too funny! I don’t; have enough of a garden to know, yet, though I do have one hollyhock. There are seeds for several more in the ground, but either they got et when they popped up or they didn’t pop up. I will try again and hope they grow enough to survive the winter and become lovely flowers next year.

    • I think I read that hollyhocks are biennial so, if you planted recently, they may not show up until next year. I think I have two different versions in that spot in my garden–i get stalks and blooms every year but I notice differences in what I’m getting.

      • I know they can be biennial, but I did expect to get plants from the seeds, just no flowers. My big plan was to start some this year and next. I can wait and do it next year and the year after if need be.

    • Oh, those pesky deer! We have deer in our area, too, but our property is surrounded by tall cedar hedges on three side and the lake on the other. I guess that discourages the hosta eaters!

  5. Wow, your garden is beautiful, and I just love the hummingbird! I’ve got a couple of hydrangeas, one in particular I bought at Harrogate show about 4 years ago, it was one of those that was greatly admired as I walked round with it, it was so beautiful. It has never flowered since! Don’t know what I’ve done to upset it, but not one single flower, I even bought it special hydrangea food!

    • I read that there are two kinds of hydrangeas–those that bloom on “old” wood and those that bloom on “new” wood. I think that means that the former sets its buds for blossoms in the fall so, if you get a very cold snap, the buds die and you get no blooms. You might try wrapping the shrub with burlap in the worst cold??

  6. Gor blimey, guv’nor, them there’s right luverly pictures, with or without aitches. Maybe some of the rain in Spain could pop across to fall mainly on your garden, thus saving your dear hubby a job!! 🙂

    • You’re speaking my language, Liz! I’ve had that whole sequence from My Fair Lady in my head for days (“How kind of you to let me come . . . Now once again, where does it rain?”)

  7. Dear Kerry, You have me laughing aloud again! I too suffer when referring to my plants that begin with “aitch”. I’ve also been heard saying, “You know, the one that starts with h!”. To add to the confusion, we have these lovely spring plants – Helleborous, Hyacinths, Grape Hyacinths (to which after getting tongue twisted, I refer to as “the little ones that start with h!”, and Hyacinthoides (really isn’t this genus going just a bit too far). Even my spell check couldn’t deal with these flower names. To add to all of this, I dearly desire to grow Heaths and Heathers, however, I fear I’d need to move further north to do so. Thank you for your for increasing my ‘appiness today!

    • Hi, Tammy! It’s been a while–I hope all is well with you! My spring H-plants don’t really flourish–not sure why, but I do love those little grape hyacinths! It’s good to know someone else gets as rattled with all these names as I do!

      • Hi Kerry, sorry to hear your spring plants don’t do as well. The critters around here dig up the bulbs, so we covered them last autumn to deter them, but recently in the heat spell they’ve begun digging bulbs in the spots that are uncovered. Someone nibbles on the leaves, which of course deters the flowers from growing the following year, another vermit eats the flowers right off the stem often leaving the debris on the ground in plain sight. Yes, it’s been a while, life has distracted me in several directions. Hopefully, you’ll see me posting again soon and continuing to delight in your posts as well. ❤

  8. I do enjoy your whimsy posts – this is a delightful start to the day! I always go blank on honeysuckle – I have a quite unenthusiastic one growing (supposedly) over my carport, it’s scarcely added a branch or two in seven years! Maybe its in retaliation for me constantly going blank on its name………. Mmmmm, must do better. My heucheras are all resting, and I have none of your other aitches – though I have grown most of them in other gardens. My flowers are a preponderance of D’s I think. I’ll have to pay attention when they all come back to life 🙂

    • I think I have two different cultivars of honeysuckle, one on each end of the pergola–one is MUCH better at being a honeysuckle than the other! And to remember the name, when I, too, always go blank, I find myself singing the Fats Waller song, Honeysuckle Rose. Not sure why I can remember Fats Waller but I can’t remember honeysuckle!

  9. What a fun post, and how right you are! I, too, love hydrangeas, and I am too old to worry about being hip. Kind of a blessing, really. 😉

    • We have gardens on both sides of the house, lakeside and not-lakeside. Most of the H plants are on the not-lakeside. We choose which side to sit on based on how strong the wind is off the lake and how cold the air is–the not-lakeside is protected from the wind. So, we spend a lot of time with the H plants in the spring and fall and a lot of time with the rest of the alphabet in the summer!

  10. Oh, now Kerry I must hurry up to the nursery and make a list of plants that start with the letter H, I’ll include the latin! Fun post and your gardens look really wonderful.

    • Oh, I hope you do a post with what you find in the nursery–I bet you have tons! Do you have any idea how many cultivars there are of hostas, all told? Must be zillions!

  11. Good heavens, you multi talented woman!! Is there anything you cannot do..Wonder Woman eat your heart out! Beautiful photos, loved the wander through your garden. Cannot answer your question, I usually refer to my plants as “ those yellow/purple/white or pretty ones in the back”. Xo Johanna

  12. Enchanting. Oops, here we go. “Does enchantment pour out of every door? No, it’s just on the street where you live.” My favorite aitches are the hydrangeas and hollyhocks. For some reason, I’ve never liked hostas. I have oodles of C flowers–calendula, catmint, chrysanthemum, coreopsis, clematis, columbine, coneflower, cosmos and probably a few others I’ve missed. Is it as hot over there as it is here in Maine? Yow.

    • All those C flowers! Loverly . . . (wouldn’t it be loverly sittin’ abso-bloomin’-lutely still . . .)

      It is SO hot here!! Awful–but it has given me a chance to dress a loom that’s in the one room we have with AC. So, I guess I am managing–I hope you are, too!

      • Can’t wait to see what you are weaving! I am weaving up a little linen tape from my homegrown flax on my antique tape loom. Very simple, but so exciting for me. Still on Vavstuga waiting list, but but it’s not hopeless yet.

  13. So many beautiful aitches. Your garden looks so lush! I see a lot of desert plants which people have switched to in the So Cal area for water conservation. I was noticing so many houses with sticks on fire (or firestick, a succulent plant) and thought they are very pretty. Then I looked them up and read how easy it is to get painfully burning eyes and a rash when cutting them, so I think I’ll pass!

    • Gardens look very different on our two coasts! It would take me a long time, I think, to get used to the desert look but I think people are awfully smart to be incorporating plants that are native to the area.

  14. Gorgeous pics. My hydrangeas and hostas got smashed to bits by an ‘h for hailstorm’ last night, together with quite a few non ‘H’ plants.
    In France, they don’t pronounce the ‘H’. I’ve had to get used to my surname starting with a ‘U’ instead of an ‘Hu’
    Mind you, my Mum rarely pronounced the ‘H’ either but that was because she was a bit of an Eliza Doolittle herself. I sometimes revert myself after a couple of glasses of wine in like-minded company.

    • I find myself, after a glass or two of wine, reverting to the local French-Canadian accent! Funny how it’s hard to get past that. Will your plants bounce back from the ‘ailstorm?

  15. Oh you do make me giggle. 🙂 Aitches! I was wondering about that title. The one I have the most trouble remembering is the Hellebore. It starts with an aitch too. I didn’t know there was a climbing variety of Hydrangea. I have 3 on my property that came with the house. Your garden is just so lush. I love that “it’s having a moment”. 🙂

    • I don’t actually have any hellebore but I need some! They are so pretty and bloom early and i need more color earlier in the season. Glad to know I gave you a giggle!

    • Thanks, Margaret! I only have a couple of hyacinths, actually. I’m not good at bulbs–I always swear I’m going to plant lots in the autumn but then, when autumn comes, I am sick to death of gardening! So, i have a couple hyacinths, a daffodil or three, and tulips in random places, apparently dropped by squirrels . . .

  16. Not much alliteration in my garden–just the easy-care cone flowers, blazing star, zinnias, mums, irises, phlox–you know, the kind that takes care of itself and spreads if allowed. Love your Eliza voice!

    • We had a hard time finding our oakleaf and, when the winter is really cold, the buds (which set in the fall, I guess) are damaged and we have some years with no flowers at all. I think we need to wrap it in burlap or something. But I do love it!

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