What does the name ‘Hydrangea’ conjure up in the reader’s mind?. . . Most readers will have some image for the shrub is widely grown. As a garden plant, however, it is not held in the same esteem as perhaps a rose or a rhododendron, and is undervalued in spite of the long-lasting colour which it gives.

— Toni Lawson-Hall & Brian Rothera, Hydrangeas: A Gardener’s Guide

It’s true that hydrangeas seem to be undervalued by many gardeners, but I am not one of them. These shrubs are undemanding and produce an abundance of colourful blooms even when grown in deep shade. They are impressive when grown in a row along the boundary of a north facing yard.

Hydrangeas thrive in our Pacific Northwestern climate; in fact, hydrangea fossils have been found from “Eocene times (40 – 70 million years ago) in Alaska, California and Oregon; from Oligocene (25 – 40 million years ago) in Colorado, Oregon and California; and from Miocene times (12 – 25 million years ago) in Oregon and Washington States.” (Lawson-Hall and Rothera).

One hot, dry summer, I was responsible for the watering of a number of hydrangea shrubs situated on a west-facing rock outcropping. Thought to be water-loving plants anyway, these poor dears were existing in small pockets of earth trapped in indentations in the rock. It didn’t take long for the roots to start to dry out – the wilting of stems and leaves followed quickly, with the heavy flower heads drooping lower and lower. Although the mauves and purples were lovely against the lichen spotted rock, it certainly wasn’t a good situation for the hydrangeas or for the gardener.

Flowers cut from the hydrangea bush last for a long time in a vase. Their muted colours combine well with many other flowers, and the rounded balls of the blooms make an interesting shape contrast when combined with conical or spiky flowers or those with tall, slender stems. In my mind, one of the best features of the hydrangea is the ease with which the blooms can be dried to make a bouquet of “winter flowers” to cheer us through the long flowerless months. It is an annual event for us to leave the last hydrangeas of the season in the vase until all the water evaporates – that is all it takes to dry the flowers.

The painting “Hydrangeas and Daylilies” is the second in a series. In the first painting, the hydrangeas were very detailed. In fact, it took so long to do the detailing that I could hardly stand to look at the painting by the time it was finished and immediately offered it to a friend. Now, when I see the painting, beautifully framed, at my friend’s house, I like it a good deal, but I prefer the looser interpretation in the second painting.

Hydrangeas and Daylilies 2, watercolour, 22" x 30"


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