“[We] know from experience that the Chinese hydrangea — meaningthereby the one generally cultivated — is so hardy that it may be left out of doors throughout the whole year, without the least risk of injury, excepting it be in the northern parts of the country, where the plants do not have an opportunity of well ripening their wood. The more recently-introduced kinds, which have mostly come from Japan, are of an equal degree of hardiness, and may be cultivated under much the same conditions. Too much stress cannot be laid on their hardy character, in order that owners of gardens… may be made aware of it and come to enjoy the beauty of the flowers….”
“[Hydrangea serrata] likes partial or dappled shade…. The species has lacecap flowers and serrated leaves — hence the name — and does well under trees. A number of cultivars… will go through several colour changes throughout the season — but since they are not susceptible to pH, these are consistent in their inconsistency. The white cultivars will remain white regardless of soil pH, but the other pink and blue cultivars are moderately susceptible, so situations arise where, for example, Bluebird, grown on alkaline soil, will produce flowers that are noticeably pink.”
This and the next two posts feature photos I took in May and June, of the tiny flower structures of several Bluebird Hydrangea plants growing near the base of three large pine trees on the eastern side of my back yard. The blooms were a bit puny this year — owing, I think, to warm January and February temperatures (causing the plants to flower prematurely) followed by a couple of very cold weeks that nipped them in the bud, so to speak. But I still liked aiming a macro lens at them to capture as much of the color and detail as I could — especially on those whose shapes reveal both vertical and horizontal arrangement of the white petals. If you would like to see last year’s versions of the same plants and flowers, click here.
Lately I’ve become fascinated by historical botanical drawings, which I often find in older books about botany or gardening, like the one I quoted at the top of this post. Many books like this — published in the late 1800s or early 1900s — are more likely to contain sketches, drawings, or woodcut prints of plant specimens rather than photographs, since photography and publishing had not yet merged to be as ubiquitous as they are now. If the subject interests you, here are two highly browsable sites filled with information on the history of botanical drawings:
The second site — Plantillustrations.org — has thousands of drawings extracted from historical books and other web sites. It can be searched by either the common or scientific names of plants, or browsed by the names of over 2500 artists. Here, for example, is a delightful illustration of a Bluebird Hydrangea’s relative, originally from a book published in the mid-1800s: Hydrangea serrata. Take a look, it’ll be fun!
“Hydrangea includes some 35 species of small trees, shrubs, or shrubby climbers, found in eastern and southeastern Asia and the Americas. The name comes from the Greek for a water vessel, after the shape of the fruit. Hydrangeas are plants of regions with warm and humid summer climates, the shrubby kinds growing typically in woodland edge habitats, and in Japan, along the coast.
“For gardeners, the distinction between lacecap and mophead is crucial. Plants are naturally lacecaps… with a large number of small fertile florets being surrounded by a corona of larger sterile ones, the latter attracting pollinators. Mutation may result in nearly all the fertile florets being replaced by sterile ones — a turn of events that renders the flowers totally dysfunctional as far as wild plants are concerned but which led to great interest from humanity….“
Let’s wrap up August 2021 with the last of my bluebird hydrangea photos — to be followed in a few days with a selection of my very own beautiful and bulbous mophead hydrangeas; or, as I like to call them: hydrangibles.
“The … flattened clusters of the lacecaps make hydrangea flower morphology easy to see. The bigger, showier florets that tend to dominate or stay to the outer edges are always sterile. The smaller, inner ones are fertile, and with pollination they will produce fat little fruits that lead to chambered seeds. It’s typical to have four or five petals, and between four and ten sepals. Peer closely — the true petals are clearly separate from one another, while the sepals are fused.
“Thus the pollinators, various flies and bees, may have to root around a bit to find the true flowers once they arrive.”
In my previous two posts (see Baby Bluebird … Hydrangeas (1 of 2) and Baby Bluebird … Hydrangeas (2 of 2), I included photographs of some bluebird hydrangeas from my garden shortly after they started their springtime blooming. The images in this post (and the next one) feature some of the same hydrangea plants, photographed a few weeks later as the blooms continued to get larger and more mature. So in the galleries below you’ll see bigger central clusters of tiny flowers, surrounded by the white (or bluish or purplish white) petals that are both larger and more numerous than in the baby bluebirds.