The Hydrangea – Week 3

Hydrangea In Glass Vase

Hydrangea In Glass Vase (Photo by Michael Lant - click on image to enlarge)

The first time I encountered Hydrangea was one Easter when I was first living away from home.  I wanted to give my parents something special and unique as a gift, which meant no Easter Lilies.  I found the perfect item at the local supermarket – a Hydrangea  plant in a brilliant, almost fake shade of blue, presented in a plastic pot enrobed in a garish purple foil wrapping.  For some time that was all I knew of this flower – sold as a potted plant, in fake blue, available only at Easter.

Since then I have met many gardeners and flower lovers who adore their hydrangeas.  My mother in law successfully grew them in Sudbury (Ontario, Canada) for years in spite of the limited growing conditions.  She still grows huge groupings of hydrangeas today in her gardens in the more temperate climate of Collingwood (Ontario, Canada).  Every year she cuts the blooms by the armful and dries them in large vases for everlasting arrangements on the dining room sideboard. A walk around my neighbourhood uncovers gardens filled with pink, white, purple and blue blooms. Even the local Starbucks grows hydrangea bushes en mass on their patio, which are laden in plate size white clusters that flourish for weeks. But my sister in law Susan Armstrong is the person in my life who is most empassioned by her hydrangeas.  So dear to her heart are they that they have a special reference: Geisha Girls.

Susan’s “Geisha Girls” acquired their name from the birth place of the hydrangea plant , Japan, which is also the home to the classically beautiful and delicate Geisha  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geisha ).  Hydrangea grew wild in Japan and were especially abundant during the rainy season (tsuyu) in early summer. When the plague caused many people to die, the hydrangea was often found in temples and burial places and were known as “flowers for lost lives”. For a long time the Japanese associated this flower with death and sadness.  Today the hydrangea is rejoiced each year in early summer during the gloomy rainy season, the season of the ajisai (hydrangea).  Across the country there are splendid ajisai-dera (hydrangea temples) celebrating this brilliantly colourful flower.

Hydrangea were introduced to Europe in the late 18th century and French plant breeders expanded the number of plant varieties. They also expanded the colour range from the blue found in Japan (due to aluminum in the soil making it more acidic) to pinks and purples (due to the more alkaline European soil).

The plant’s name is derived from the Greek “hydro” meaning water and “angeion” meaning cask or jug, and refers to the spherical shape of the open flower head. (http://www.hydrangeaworld.com/html/page/p/38/Origin). Each individual hydrangea flower is relatively small and is clustered in bunches at the ends of woody stems.  These clusters form flower heads which can be up to 25 cm in diameter, making for an eye catching display.

There is some debate over the hydrangea`s symbolism, but after some research, I found the most popular meanings to be “heartfelt” and “gratefulness”.   As the fourth wedding anniversary flower it is believed to possess enduring grace and beauty.

Susan's Hydrangea In Earthy Vase

Susan's Hydrangea In Earthy Vase (Phto by Michael Lant - click on image to enlarge)

Last weekend, to my great pleasure, Susan showed up with an armful of her Geisha Girls in a most fabulous range of pink, fuschia, purple and blue.  Although I have focused on only the fuschia shade for this week’s arrangement, above is an image of a design using all “The Geishas”.  I have simply tightly hand tied a clustering of the bloom heads and set them asymmetrically into a rustic vase accompanied by rolled aspidistra leaves.  When the flowers no longer take up water, I will remove the hydrangea leaves from the stems and drain the water from the vase and let them dry.  They will retain their colour for a few months and will gradually fade over the next year.

Note: As the name implies, hydrangea love water.  They are very thirsty flowers and fade very quickly without a water source, so be sure to keep the vase topped up with fresh, treated water.

Elegant Geisha Girls: Recipe and Instructions

I love this arrangement (image at beginning of this story) because in its simplicity of design, you can really see each individual star shaped bloom.  You also get to appreciate one eye popping jewel toned hue that is unique to the hydrangea.

Ingredients

  • 2 – 3 bloom heads of one shade of hydrangea – the brighter the better. Remove all foliage.
  • 1 2 x 8`clear glass cylinder vase
  • 1 – 2 stems Israeli Rucus
  • 1 large aspidistra leaf
  • Half a pack of flower food

Instructions

  1. Cluster the heads together to form an “umbrella“ shape.  It might take a few tries to get this shape, but it`s worth the effort.
  2. Trim the Israeli Rucus so it sits nicely under the blooms and the emerald green leaves just peak out from under the flowers.
  3. Trim stem lengths so the flowers sit just above the lip of the vase. Wrap the stems tightly with the aspidistra leaf.
  4. Insert carefully into the vase, keeping the aspidistra leaf close to the stems for a tidy look.
  5. Add water treated with flower food

A suggestion for a gorgeous presentation: create this arrangement 3 – 5 times using a different hydrangea colour in each vase.  Line up along a mantle or along the centre of a long dining table.

Quote of the Week: Where flowers bloom, so does hope.  Lady Bird Johnson

Next week I will teach you a little something about the Lily

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6 Comments

  1. Deb Falconer
    Posted August 1, 2010 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    ok Liz, you continue to awe me with your many talents, and your creative juices that flow at all time. I too have the new variety of limelight and although as you know I have had many gardens, I have just recently introduced the hydrangea. It has amazing show in clusters and I am going to refer to them as the geisha girls, I like that, It will remind me of Susan, a great sis in law. Liz this is going to be an interesting, inspiring place to go for info in gardening, arranging etc. You need to feature a picture of the arrangements you created for our 25th party last weekend AMAZING to say the least, and they are still going strong. Thanks for you Liz and all that you do.

  2. Posted July 18, 2010 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Liz,
    What great inspiration! I too love hydrangea. We have a new variety flowering for the first time in our garden. It’s called limelight. It comes out lime green and fades to white and then light pink. It can grow up to 6′ and likes both sun or shade. I look forward to your next blog! Keep up the good work.

  3. susan armstrong
    Posted July 16, 2010 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Liz, you did it again, you made me “look good”!

    Your talents have embellished me with beautiful clothes to wear, stunning pillows to decorate with and breathtaking flower arrangements to admire!

    Thank you for making my Geisha Girls and me SMILE! xo

    • Liz Lant
      Posted July 16, 2010 at 6:24 am | Permalink

      Susan, this comment has made me smile! You have been a most gracious supporter of all my ventures over the years and I am fortunate to have you in my life. Thank you again for sharing your Geisha Girls.

  4. Victoria Lant
    Posted July 16, 2010 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Wow Liz, this was your best blog yet. Maybe you should be a writer as well as a florist. My hydrangeas are amazing this year, must be a good growing season for them. I’m going to try one of your arrangements this weekend. Thanks for all the interesting info.

    • Liz Lant
      Posted July 16, 2010 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      Thank you for this comment Vicki. What else is growing in your garden? I always need inspiration.