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Lessons From A Plant – Hydrangeas

Report From PIA – April 2

I’m giving a talk on Hydrangeas tomorrow, so Cape Cod’s favorite plant is on my mind. We love them because they have big, bold flowers. We also find them irresistible because many are blue, blue, blue, an uncommon color when it comes to flowers. These shrubs are in bloom for a long time, also a rarity in the Northeast, so this captures our hearts as well.

The blue, big-leaf hydrangeas aren’t necessarily dependable in this region, however. If the winter temperatures dip to zero or below, or should the buds swell in March and then get hit with the cold off-ocean winds in April, there will be few to no flowers the following summer. Or if the spouse or landscaper decides to “clean up the sticks” in the fall or spring, and cuts them down, there will be fewer or no blossoms that season.

I don’t believe that this element of uncertainty adds to their allure…I think it just adds to a general level of anxiety. Will they or won’t they bloom this year, or why aren’t they blooming this summer?

In some ways our blue hydrangeas epitomize our desire for beauty and pleasure in life. We rejoice when we have these things in abundance, but recognize that they are not guaranteed. When splendor and delight are plentiful, we can take them for granted, and when they are absent we set about learning what went wrong and if we can correct things in the future.

With hydrangeas and life, we do our best to make things grow and bloom well, and cope with that which is out of our control.

We love how the big leaf hydrangeas change color as the flowers open and age. From purples and greens to blues and pinks...

Some love the lacecap varieties more than the mop heads... in the past I appreciated the mop heads more, but this lacecap has captured my heart. It was planted here when we moved to Poison Ivy Acres, and I don't know what variety it is. This shrub is in flower from late June until October, however, so I love it!

This blue, blue flower is why so many people love this shrub.

5 Responses to “Lessons From A Plant – Hydrangeas”

  1. 1
    Nell Jean:

    I broke a limb on a blue hydrangea once. There was a pot of fresh potting soil nearby, so I just stuck it in the pot. When the cutting rooted and bloomed, it was pink. I planted it out the next year and it returned to blue in the acid soil here.

    I plan to root some pieces this summer to hold over in the greenhouse through the winter and see if I can have pink blooms with the azaleas, with blue to follow at the usual time.

  2. 2
    CL Fornari:

    If the potting soil you’re growing in is alkaline, and most of them are, your hydrangea blossoms will be pink. If it’s acidic, blue. Pretty easy to manipulate, even to the point of part pink and part blue. (Pour liquid lime on two quarters of the pot, sulphur on the other quarters. Magic!)

  3. 3
    Lona:

    What a wonderful posting and on my favorite plant. I know last summer I had only two of my six hydrangeas to bloom and then they only had two blooms. I am hoping this summer will be better for them.

  4. 4
    CL Fornari:

    Last year was a bad year for hydrangea blooms where I am too, Lona. The previous winter got down to -2 below zero, and that zapped many of the flower buds. This past winter was warmer for us, and judging from my hydrangea plants at Poison Ivy Acres, it will be a good year for blossoms in 2010!

  5. 5
    Jenny Mann:

    I love hydrangeas, beautiful images.

    We have lived in our home for about 5 years now and we are still making the yard our own. It’s taking us a long time but we can only do a little at a time.

    The two back corners in our backyard is getting cleaned out so we can put a hydrangea in each corner. But first we have to cut and dig the thorny bushes that are there now.

    We can’t wait to enjoy their beauty, just those I see on my walk to work each day during the summer months.