Hydrangeas

On Monday, in Unusual Floral Arrangements, by lesley

Hydrangeas are common garden flowers – so why mention them on a site about unusual floral arrangements?

Hydrangeas are very beautiful, but they have one other outstanding characteristic; they are among the very few flowers which are naturally blue, so while pink, cream, white and green hydrangeas are prized, the blue hydrangeas, and there are many, stand out as truly different flowers, ideal for unusual floral arrangements.

Hydrangeas are amongst the most rewarding and beautiful of garden plants. Their adaptability to a wide range of climates all over the world, the long season and beauty of their flowers from May to November has endeared them to gardeners. They are the ideal plant for the gardener who has no time to garden, but is still looking for a luxurious, opulent feel in his outdoor surroundings.

And of course as they have become more fashionable, the shops are also full of their artificial counterparts, silk hydrangeas which are also available in a wide variety of colors. One the major features of the silk hydrangea is that it is amongst the most realistic of silk flowers.

Cultivated in British gardens since the first American species was introduced to England in the 1730′s, the hydrangea became very popular throughout the whole of Europe. Botanists and gardeners spent a great deal of time hybridizing and analyzing the plant, this resulted in the wide variety of hybrid species that are available today.

In the 1800′s the French growers began to take notice of ‘macrophyllia’, which resulted in new seedlings being raised and charming the public with the beauty of their large white, pink and blue heads. Today a potted hydrangea is the symbol of Mothers Day in France. Hydrangea macrophyllia has also been grown for many hundreds of years in it’s native land of Japan and has been treasured not only for it’s flowers but as a herb. Interest has also grown over the native American species Arborescens and Quercifolia and new forms of these are appearing each year. These are prized for their beautiful foliage as well as for the flowers.

Due to high volumes of experimentation, there are five main species. The Florists hydrangea has balls of flowers while The Lacecap has a ring of flowers round a central group of tiny lacy flowers. The Mountain, has smaller flowers and leaves than most. The Panicle hydrangea produces white flowers on stalks and The Oakleaf is the only species that also has beautiful leaves that turn a deep red during the fall.

Many people believe that when you plant a type of flower you will get whatever that flower was meant to be. Not so with the hydrangea, you can actually change their color by manipulating the PH of the soil they are planted in, the higher the PH the more purple the color and if the PH is lowered the blooms are pink.

In fact the whole genus Hydrangea is undergoing a revival of interest which is very well deserved.

In the 1700′s a French plant hunter, Philibert Commerson set off on a great expedition to circumnavigate the globe. He took with him an assistant, known to their shipmates as Jean Baret. The assistant was, however actually Jeanne Baret, her identity was revealed when the ship landed in Tahiti. Jeanne endured countless trials and tribulations of extreme cold, near drownings and jungle sores whilst looking for plants, she also carried heavy equipment and was praised for strength and stamina, however her identity was uncovered when the expedition reached Tahiti and, in some versions of the story Jean had to repel the advances of a Tahitian, Jean was found to be Jeanne, a female. She was he first woman to circumnavigate the globe.

When the expedition came to an end Jeanne became Philibert Commersons housekeeper and stayed with him until the day he died. She later changed her name to ‘Hortense’. It is said that Hydrangea Hortensia was named after her.

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