So, I spend a few days a week working at Joy Creek Nursery – one of the premier sources of Hydrangeas in this part of the world. I can tell you from first hand experience that they are damn near impossible to tell apart when in a one gallon pot. The potting soil we use for our cuttings is more alkaline than your average Pacific Northwest soil which is solidly acidic. Therefore, all (except the white hydrangeas) present as pink when they bloom. It’s very hard to imagine what they actually will look like after their color stabilizes. Hydrangeas take about three years to find their true color. Once planted, they extract all available aluminum sulfate out of the soil, and over those three, or so, years, you’ll see it emerge a different color each year, before it finally settles down.
Luckily, there is a nice, big garden at Joy Creek, where all the stock plants grow. Ever so often, I walk a disbelieving customer down to “their” hydrangea to show them what they might reasonably expect once their new baby settles in. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few favorites. Of course, I have room for none of them in my home garden, but with the luxury of the Community Garden plot acquired this spring, I finally had space to indulge myself. I had this idea of making the garden primarily blue and yellow, so my choice fell on a lace cap variety called ‘Rotdrossel’. The name means ‘Redwing’ in German, although in the gardens of Joy Creek, this plant turns the most stunning, electric blue.
Actually, I do believe soils on the European mainland tends toward more alkaline. I bet in Switzerland, where it was first introduced, it sports a rich red. Anyway, I planted my ‘Rotdrossel in the Community Garden in May, and it just put out its first flower. Of course nowhere near the color of the one at Joy Creek, but knowing how they roll, I have hope.
Patience is of the essence with these things but still – I can’t wait for the day when it will (hopefully) take on the electrifying hue of the one at Joy Creek! I checked on the Joy Creek specimen today. It hasn’t quite reached its total blue-ness yet, but is well on its way. The edges of the sepals are currently a bright royal blue, while the centers are a most captivating dark purple. It’s stunning, but the best is yet to come. The blue photo was taken in late July a couple of years ago, when we had the most oppressively hot summer. I wonder if the excessive heat that year had anything to do with the marvelous color…? Or, will it continue changing as the summer progresses? Time will tell.
The moral of this story is that, like chameleons, newly planted Hydrangeas change color with their given circumstances, and it takes us years to see where they will finally land. I promised myself I would try to avoid my usual opinionated, political intimations when writing this post. Apologies ahead of time, but this one is so irresistibly easy. As I was thinking of how to describe the change in this particular hydrangea, it dawned on me what a perfect symbol this flower is for our current political events. Just like our changing demographics, it’s steadily moving toward blue. Just give it time. Once it’s there, the only way to render it red again, is to cheat, by pumping up the alkalinity in the soil. And, we don’t want to do that, do we?