A hydrangea lover and patent holder displays his favorites varieties.
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Retired nurseryman Eddie Aldridge essentially has two gardens. Aldridge Gardens, a 30-acre property in Hoover, Alabama, contains a 6.5-acre lake, miles of trails and thousands of hydrangeas of all kinds. Aldridge had purchased the property in 1966; in 1995 he and his wife Kay gave it to the city of Hoover and set up an endowment to preserve the land as a horticultural park.
Eddie, who along with his father, found and patented Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake', a double-flowering form of oakleaf hydrangea, has a newer garden at his home in Birmingham. Built beside a lake, the house is a larger copy of the original house in Hoover, which now serves as the office for the public garden.
During the latter part of May and the first two weeks of June, Aldridge Gardens is brimming with hydrangeas of all kinds. One of the features of the park is a long line of 'Snowflake' oakleaf hydrangeas that were planted by Eddie and his father. Elsewhere on the property, lacecap and mophead hydrangeas have been planted in huge swaths, along with all sorts of other flowering shrubs and perennials. Walkways and bridges have been built for strolling, and a stream tumbles over rocks and leads down to the placid lake.
At the private gardens, informality rules. 'Snowflake' hydrangeas are planted along a wide, natural path that leads through a woodland at the side of the house. The Aldridges also have a collection of other hydrangeas, including rare specimens from Japan. Lacecap hydrangeas are planted along the edge of the lake, creating beautiful reflections in the water.
The Aldridges have collected several cast-iron garden ornaments made decades ago at some of the many foundries that once dotted the Birmingham area. Two of the benches in the garden came from Eddie's parents' home, and a large fountain was brought from the Aldridge family nursery, the first large garden center in the Birmingham area.
Just below the flower-bedecked terrace is a small hill of 'Harmony' hydrangeas. This is a very double selection of oakleaf hydrangea found at a church in northern Alabama and propagated by Eddie and his father.